In seventh-grade shop class, we were famous for slathering our nail holes with oversized lumps of putty. Even after sanding, the huge glob of putty showed through the finish. Sound familiar?
Here’s the A-plus alternative: Before you nail, apply strips of lightly adhering masking tape, then drive the nails through the tape. After you set the nails, press putty in the holes and let it dry thoroughly. Remove the tape and sand off the putty nubbins. Our thanks to Mike Janney for this slick tip.