Tip 1: Buy good boards
Gluing boards together to make wider panels is a handy woodworking
skill that’s easy to learn. Woodworkers with well-equipped shops
often buy rough lumber and then rip, plane and joint the lumber to
get straight edges for tight-fitting joints. But you can get the same results by
carefully choosing boards from a home center or lumberyard. Look for boards
with similar color and grain patterns. Then sight down the edge of each board
to be sure it’s straight. Finally, make sure the boards are flat and not twisted.
Tip 2: Arrange the boards for the best appearance
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Mark the boards
Arrange boards for their best appearance. Then chalk a “V” across them so you can easily align them later.
For projects like tabletops where one side of the glued-up boards will be more
visible, choose the best-looking side of each board to face up. If the boards
vary in shade, arrange them so differences blend as well as possible. Don’t put
a dark board between two light ones, for example. Finally, flip the boards end
for end and shuffle them until the grain patterns look natural and pleasing.
When you’re happy with the results, draw a “V” (photo) across the boards
with chalk or pencil. If you’re assembling several panels, also number them.
When it’s time to glue the boards together, simply align the marks to make
sure the boards are properly arranged.
Tip 3: Apply an even bead of glue
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Apply wood glue
Apply glue smoothly and evenly along the board edge, using your finger as a guide.
Use white or yellow woodworking glue for interior
projects. For projects exposed to moisture, use
water-resistant glue. Spread a 1/8- to 3/16-in.-
diameter bead of glue along the edge of one board.
For an even bead that’s perfectly centered on the
edge, hold the glue bottle with one hand and the
spout with the other hand. Move the glue bottle
along the board quickly, letting your index finger
ride along the board as a gauge to keep the bead of
glue centered. Use a spring clamp to hold the
board upright while you apply the glue. You only
need to apply glue to one of the two boards being
Tip 4: Don't apply too much glue
Using too much glue won’t adversely affect the
strength of the joint, but it will make a mess
that will require extra time to clean up. The
goal is to apply just enough glue so that when
the boards are clamped there will be an even,
1/16-in.-wide bead of squeezed-out glue along
the length of the joint. Also try to avoid getting
glue on the face of the boards, where it will cause trouble with finishing later.
Tip 5: Slide the glued edges together
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Slide the boards together
Mate the boards and slide their edges together to spread the glue evenly.
Press the two boards together and slide them back
and forth against each other. This is the best way to
spread the glue evenly on the edges of both boards.
Tip: Cover the top of
the clamps with
masking tape to
avoid staining the
boards and to make
Tip 6: Inspect the glue joint before clamping
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Check the glue coverage
Look for spots where the glue is thin or absent. Spread more if necessary.
Separate the boards and inspect the
edges. The goal is to have a thin, even
layer of glue on each edge. If there
are areas where the glue is thin or
missing, apply a little more glue to
these sections before clamping the
Tip 7: Don't skimp on clamps
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Look for glue squeeze-out
Glue should squeeze out along the joint. If not add more clamps.
A good glue joint should have an even bead of
squeezed-out glue along its entire length. Add
clamps to areas where there is no squeezed-out glue.
Tip 8: Align the top surfaces carefully
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Make the boards even
Adjust the boards to align precisely and to simplify finish work later.
You’ll save yourself tons of sanding by making sure the top surfaces are as
close to perfectly flush as you can get them. There are a couple of tricks to
make this easier. First, glue and clamp only one joint at a time. It takes a little
longer, because you’ll have to wait for the glue to set up before removing
the clamps and adding the next board. But it’s much easier to get good
results if you focus on one joint at a time. Second, start clamping at one end
and work your way along the boards, making sure the top surfaces are flush
as you tighten the clamps. Feel the surface with your finger and adjust the
boards up or down until the tops are flush with each other. Then apply
enough clamping pressure to close any gaps and squeeze out about a
1/16- to 1/8-in. glue bead.
Tip 9: Scrape the glue while it's soft
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Scrape soft glue
Scrape off excess glue while it's soft to avoid a bigger sanding job later.
At room temperature and average
humidity, the squeezed-out glue
will be ready to scrape in about 20
minutes. Wait until the glue changes
from liquid to a jelly-like consistency.
Then scrape it off with a chisel
or putty knife. If the clamps are in
the way, you can safely remove them
after about 20 minutes in normal
conditions. Handle the glued-up
panels carefully, though, since the
glue won’t reach maximum
strength for several more hours.
Tip 10: Don't walk away from bowed glue-ups
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Shim bowed boards
Shim or add extra clamps to eliminate bows in your glue-up.
Glue-ups with bows are
impossible to flatten after the
glue sets. Hold a straightedge
across the glued-up boards to
make sure they’re flat. Flatten
them by driving shims
between the boards and the
clamps. If the assembly is
bowed up, add another clamp
on top of the boards.
Tip: Place strips of wood between
the clamps and the boards
to protect the edges of the boards.
Video: Edge Gluing Boards
Ken Collier, an editor at The Family Handyman, will show you how to edge glue boards. This basic woodworking skill will help you in many different woodworking projects. All you need are boards you want to join, clamps, glue and wax paper.