Hardwood Hints: Filling Gaps with Slivers

By Todd McDonald

For large, abnormal, or permanent gaps, it’s sometimes a nice alternative to use wood to fill them with rather than using filler. Make a variety of different sizes of wood slivers (sometimes referred to as Dutchmen) to use for these gaps. 

To do this, all you need is matching wood, some wood glue, a hammer, and a block plane or a scraper. When selecting the wood to make slivers, it should be of the same species, color, and grain pattern to ensure they flow seamlessly with the floor. 

When cutting slivers on the tablesaw, you’ll need to use a zero-clearance blade guard, and set the blade to about a 7° angle (this will get you the “wedge” cut that you will need). The slivers should only be about ¼” thick to account for the tongue on the installed flooring. Precut them to length, and apply the wood glue onto one side of the sliver (do not glue both sides to avoid adhering adjoining boards together). Then tap the Dutchmen in nice and easy. If it’s flush, leave it be. If it’s not flush, take a utility knife and run across it, score it, and break it off with a hammer. Then use the block plane or scraper to smooth it out before sanding. In some cases, it looks better than using a pre-manufactured filler, and it’s more apt to keep your customer happy in the long run. 

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