Apply tape to control glue squeeze-out
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Cleaner, stronger joints
Glue squeeze-out soaks into
the fibers of raw wood, leaving
blemishes when you later apply
the finish. The usual solution
for this is to clean it off with a
wet rag or sponge. But too much
water around the joint can
weaken the bond. It's better to
stick down masking tape along
both edges of the joint before
gluing. The excess glue will
then squeeze out onto the tape
instead of the wood, and you
can just peel the glue away
when it's dry.
Use tape to clamp cracked wood
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Photo 1: Tape one side
Check the fit first, then stick the
ends of transparent sealing tape
to the underside of the larger piece
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Photo 2: Fit pieces together
Apply glue to the smaller piece
and fit it into place. Then wrap
the free ends of the tape tightly
around the piece. Transparent tape
allows you to see the joint so you
can get it perfectly aligned.
It's often tough to repair cracked
cabinets and furniture with
regular clamps. But transparent
tape makes a great substitute.
If the wood is just cracked,
flatten the end of a drinking
straw and blow the glue into the
crack. Then tape it.
If a piece has broken off,
follow Photos 1 and 2. One
drawback: Super-sticky tape
can pull off finishes and paint
when you remove it. Use light-duty
tape or adhere regular tape
lightly. And remove it as soon as
the glue dries.
Clean and clamp when regluing a chair
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Photo 1: Clean dowels
Clean all the old glue off the dowel ends by scraping
with a utility knife. Don't remove any of the wood or
your reglued joint will have gaps and be less strong.
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Photo 2: Ream out sockets
Remove old hardened glue from sockets with a round
wire brush. Scrape old glue from the socket bottom
with a narrow chisel.
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Photo 3: Reglue and clamp
Clamp the joints to ensure a tight bond. Improvise
using a combination of elastic cords, clamps, wood
scraps and other devices to clamp the entire seat/leg
Regluing a chair is challenging because you usually have
to at least partially disassemble the chair and glue the same
joints all over again. One critical step is to clean off every
bit of the old glue. There will be quite a bit of it, since you'll
probably have several loose joints and may have to knock
others apart to disassemble the loose ones. You have to clean
both the dowel end (Photo 1) and the socket (Photo 2). The trick is to do it without digging into the wood. The
more wood you shave away, the larger the gaps that the new
glue will have to fill. Use sandpaper only as a last resort,
because it tends to sand away wood as well as glue.
You'll find the steel brushes for cleaning the sockets
(Photo 2) in the plumbing section of a home center or
hardware store. They're designed to clean the insides of
copper pipe and fittings and are available in several sizes.
Clamping may call for creativity (Photo 3). The trick is
to first dry-fit all the parts you intend to glue at one time. If possible, glue the chair in two stages: the seat and legs
first, and then when they're dry, the backrest section. Test-fit
the clamps to make sure where every clamp will go. Then
you can work swiftly when applying the glue. Even so, use
liquid hide glue rather than yellow glue; hide glue gives a
much longer open time before “grabbing,” so you can get all
the parts and clamps in place.
Add glue blocks
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When the backside of a joint is
out of sight, glue blocks make
great reinforcement. Cut 1/4-in.
x 1/4-in. strips of wood, then
cut the strips into shorter
lengths. Use plenty of glue on
each contact surface, and press
the blocks firmly in place where
they won't interfere with a
drawer's movement. This is one
of the few times you won't need
clamps when gluing, since there's
very little stress on the joint.
Glue and screw whenever possible
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Photo 1: Predrill
Clamp the part in place, then drill a clearance/countersink
hole in the top piece, and a pilot hole in the bottom piece.
With a combination drill/countersink bit, this drilling can be
done in one operation.
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Photo 2: Glue
glue to the
Let the glue sit
for a minute
before you join
the parts, since
the glue soaks
more deeply into
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Photo 3: Drive in screws
screws in the
holes of the top
piece so their
Align the points
with the pilot
holes for proper
drive the screws
tight. Wipe off
Screws are ideal for joints that call for extra strength, or where
accurate positioning of a glued piece would be difficult.
Insert glue biscuits to double joint strength
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Photo 1: Cut slots
Cut oval slots with a biscuit joiner. Use a guide to
carefully align the slots to match the slots in the
pieces to be joined.
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Photo 2: Glue
Apply glue to all surfaces of the slots on both
pieces. Insert the special biscuits in one side.
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Photo 3: Clamp
Slide the joining pieces over the biscuits, square up your
project and clamp all joints firmly.
They may not be good to eat, but glue biscuits are the do-it-yourself
cabinetmaker's best friend. A biscuit joiner (Photo 1) is very user friendly and simple to
operate. It cuts precise oval slots in the ends and the surfaces
of wood parts that enable you to position the parts for
clamping and gluing quickly and accurately. The glued-in-place
biscuits provide broad gluing surfaces that make for a strong
joint. A special glue bottle (Photo 2), available from woodworking
suppliers, speeds up the application
of glue and distributes it evenly in the slots. Don't delay during
glue-up! Biscuits swell after gluing (which adds to their
strength), so you don't have much time for assembly.
Preassemble with dry biscuits to check fits—you won't get a
Spread glue evenly on large areas
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Use a glue spreader
While a notched glue spreader is the most effective and
neatest tool for spreading glue on a flat surface, you can
use an old credit card in a pinch. Draw it lightly over the
glue to leave a thin film. For spreading glue on smaller
or curved surfaces, you can buy stiff-bristled 1/4-in.
throw-away brushes in the home center plumbing
department. Or use the time-honored finger; just make
sure you wipe your finger clean before you mess up
that masterpiece you're building.
Reminders for strong glue joints
- Make sure your gluing
surfaces are clean and smooth
but not too glossy. Rough surfaces
don't allow enough glue contact.
Glossy surfaces prevent the glue
from penetrating the fibers and
getting a good grip. You can sand
lightly to smooth roughness or
remove gloss, but don't try to
actually shape a joint by sanding;
it's impossible to get a good mating
fit that way. If you're sanding,
use a block and be careful not to
round over sharp edges.
- Clamp all glued joints.
Pressure is necessary to form a
tight, gap-free bond, and to help
force glue into the wood fibers.
Clamping also prevents movement
while the glue is hardening.
In situations where you can't use
clamps, use screws, elastic cords
- Do a dry run with clamps
before you apply any glue. This
not only allows you to check for a
good fit but also ensures that you
will have your clamps adjusted to
proper length, and all other necessary
tools at the ready. It's important
to complete a glue-up fairly
quickly; even though it takes
about an hour for most wood
glues to set and 24 hours to cure,
the initial “grab” takes place in two
or three minutes, and clamping
should be completed by then.
- Get a good fit between the
two glued surfaces. Wood glues
(except for epoxy) won't bridge
gaps, so any joint with gaps will
be weak. The parts should fit
together snugly. If you can't
reshape the part with a router or
table saw, try gluing thin wood
curls in place to fill the gaps.
(You can cut curls from a scrap
board using a wood plane.)
Choose the best type of glue
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Yellow exterior glue (sometimes gray)
Use it for outdoor
projects, but not continuous
Will be labeled “water
resistant” or “exterior.”
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White and yellow interior glue
most common “workhorse”
wood glue. Not
for outdoor use.
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Liquid hide glue
for furniture repair; very
long open time for assembl—up to 30 minutes.
Requires a long curing
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Use it when you need
a completely waterproof
glue. Also glues
metal and some plastics.
Long open time
for assembly—up to
15 minutes; curing
time: up to five hours.
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when you need to
fill gaps and for
Comes in two
parts that must be
mixed just before
using. Epoxy will
glue most materials, and it's waterproof.
Won't wash off your skin—or anything else.