How do I best fill the holes in the top of this marvelous old table?

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I want to rescue this old table but need some input regarding filling holes. The table was used in an older gentleman's workshop. He drilled holes in the table to attach some equipment and use as a work bench. The larger holes are about the size of a dime. In the past I have tried a few "stainable" wood fillers but have yet to find one that really works. My first choice would be to stain the top but that may not be possible. It is all going to depend on how the hole filling goes. Help and suggestions please!
how do i best fill the holes in the top of this marvelous old table, painted furniture, woodworking projects
how do i best fill the holes in the top of this marvelous old table, painted furniture, woodworking projects
how do i best fill the holes in the top of this marvelous old table, painted furniture, woodworking projects
  13 answers
  • Donna Byram Donna Byram on May 10, 2014
    Plug your holes with dowel rods. Buy a size that fits snug in the holes, even if tamping the down with a hammer is required and glue with wood glue. Just be sure and wipe any excess wood glue off the table after tamping them down. Think I would rather see the wood circles than wood filler. On the edge you may have to do some hand sanding to make the ridge, but it will be well worth the time and effort.

  • Colleen Colleen on May 10, 2014
    Determine what kind of wood is the table top, then purchase a board of that kind, then drill your own plugs ( a special bit available at your local hardware). After plugging the holes then stain/finish. Good luck.

  • R.V.R. Farris R.V.R. Farris on May 10, 2014
    Curiosity has gotten the better of me, does your table of five legs? And if so, why?

    • See 3 previous
    • Cindy Cindy on May 13, 2014
      @DebLynn I bought some of the stainable wood filler and was not happy with the results.

  • Debbie Harris Debbie Harris on May 11, 2014
    You can fill the holes with a dowel piece that is slightly smaller than the hole, and slightly shorter or not quite to the top of the hole. Sand the table really well and save the saw dust to make a stainable matching filler paste (use stainable wood glue with the saw dust) for the top of each hole. fill untill it slightly overflows and let it dry then sand it down smooth. It should be ready for staining or painting whichever you choose. Good luck.

  • K K on May 11, 2014
    I wouldn't worry about the final look either. We have an early 1800's farm table that at some point had the same problem, but had been repaired at some point. It looks like some of the knots in the wood fell through and they plugged them with whatever shape fell out. It gives it alot of character!

  • Sco314625 Sco314625 on May 12, 2014
    After the dowel rods, use bondo. It hardens and is made to take stain and paint.

    • Cindy Cindy on May 14, 2014
      @Scot Bondo certainly never entered my mind. Going to get some to have on hand for other projects. Thanks

  • Barbara Turner Barbara Turner on May 12, 2014
    I'd follow the first writer's tip and try and find a dowel rod, cut to depth, if there are depressions left, take some wood putty and mix with just a smidgen of wood glue, press in where needed, sand smooth & yes- determine what type of wood you're dealing with and either tung oil it or stain it and poly and you're done! Looks like someone drilled holes for some type of caddy apparatus. Definitely strange. OR if u can, take a leg or a table leaf to the Home Depot, Lowe's or a local craftsman and get their opinion, if you do use dowel rods, because most are Balsam wood, it may not stain up true to the table's finish and again you may have to cut them enough shorter like a 1/16" depth in order to wood-putty fill-in and sand and stain. Once you determine the "combination" of what's needed, that's half the battle. The rest should be easy. Just remember, NO DUST when you poly.

  • Sharon Fullen Sharon Fullen on May 14, 2014
    Bondo works great on this type of repair. Yep the stuff you fix cars with - you can even find it in the paint section at Home Depot.

  • Cindy Cindy on May 14, 2014
    I NEVER would have thought of Bondo. I think I'll get some next time I'm at Home Depot just to have on hand! Thanks.

    • Barbara Turner Barbara Turner on May 15, 2014
      @Cindy LOL - me neither! Good idea! I'm gonna get some too! For all those nagging little cracks and stuff we hate! LOL

  • Sharon Fullen Sharon Fullen on May 15, 2014
    Bondo works great as it never shrinks and can work with wood, metal and MDF.

    • Cindy Cindy on May 15, 2014
      @Sharon Fullen Thanks. I have had several Bondo suggestions. I'm kinda new at this and Bondo was not something I would have ever thought of.

  • Jean Kiehl Kloska Jean Kiehl Kloska on May 16, 2014
    One more idea for other projects is if you have sawdust...you can mix it wtih a bit of wood glue and that will do the trick for some things. These particular holes would be to large, but if you had a countersunk screw you wanted to cover or a crack to fill, it will do the trick as well ~ ! (Love your table.)

    • Cindy Cindy on May 16, 2014
      @Jean Kiehl Kloska Thanks for the info. I did try the wood glue and sawdust and wasn't pleased with the results. I've decided that some pieces just aren't "stain worthy". This one is going to end up with an antique map decoupage top.

  • Cindy Cindy on May 31, 2014
    Thanks for all of the input on this old table project. Here is what I did...

  • Barbara Turner Barbara Turner on Jun 01, 2014
    Ah, so you used cork. Can't tell it, you did a nice job with the decoupage! I would never have thought of that! Like what you did with the rest of it!