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My new apartment has a wooden floor laid in it, but there are a number of places where the larger knots have been filled in with some kind of filler that is black. The timber is tallowwood (quite pale) so these are pretty eye-catching. Luckily there are only a handful of planks with knots in, so it's not all over the floor.

Is it possible to change this filler to something lighter or replace these particular planks without having to replace the entire floor? Want to know how big a job this is.

Thanks in advance

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    Do you have any spare of the planks? If yes, the best possible patch is a precisely cut inlay. (Not trivial to do, but comment back and I'm happy to describe it.) Lighter wood filler is always an option, but because it's uniform in colour, it'll still jump out at you. (Though not as dramatically as the black.) – Aloysius Defenestrate Feb 6 '15 at 3:10
  • I think I can get spares, yes. Would the black have to be chipped out, and would the whole floor have to be sanded down to get a uniform finish? – gpr Feb 6 '15 at 3:21
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Google "bowtie inlay" for details on what's possible. You can do the work either with chisels or a router (or both). And, for what it's worth, bowtie isn't the only shape out there... it's just reasonably charming and has straight lines that make it more manageable for chisel work. (Sharp chisels are always good, but particularly good in this instance.)

Anyway, the black would be chiseled or router-ed out; a small replacement piece would be glued in; then you'd have to sand it flush and apply a local finish similar to the existing. You wouldn't have to refinish the whole floor.

Almost all cutting tools are dangerous. If you don't have experience with a router, please read up on what can go wrong and practice on scrap.

The not-very-nice-in-my-opinion alternate is to chip out the black and use a lighter coloured wood filler. The really bad thing about this is that your wood's pores might (depending on the finish) collect traces of filler that'll make the whole repair look messy. And, as mentioned, the colour of filler is uniform, so it'll jump out at you as well.

  • Thanks! the bowties look great. Out of interest, is this black filler approach normal or is it a cheap alternative? I was a bit surprised to find the developer had left it this way. – gpr Feb 6 '15 at 4:25
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    I wouldn't say it's "normal", but maybe they just figured that regular filler would look like carp, and thought they'd go for it and make it a "feature". Why they chose to use those boards when they probably had alternatives is another question... – Aloysius Defenestrate Feb 6 '15 at 5:11

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