A.Carl Hagstrom responds: When nail holes are filled prior to staining or clear coating, it’s difficult to get a good match. The filler will always absorb stain or finish at a different rate from the wood, and it typically ends up darker. Preparing a test board and filling holes with different blends of filler will help, but it’s a time-consuming process.

A much simpler (and practically foolproof) method is to use a product called Color Putty (Color Putty Co., 121 W. Seventh St., Monroe, WI 53566; 608/325-6033). This linseed-oil-based putty is about the consistency of Play-Doh, and it’s available in more than a dozen wood-tone colors. For best results, first apply any stain and all finish coats...

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