Home > Woodworking > Glue-ups – a slippery stituation!

Glue-ups – a slippery stituation!

I assume that I am like all beginners, I find just about everything I attempt requires more skill than anticipated. Gluing two pieces of wood together is no exception. I wanted to document some of the things I have already experienced in my first half-dozen glue-up attempts.

The Challenge

Glue makes the surfaces of the wood slippery, therefore nothing is going to stay in place for you as you attempt to clamp it. Ur dah … as we used to say as children. This fact needs to be addressed and beginners like me, have to pay attention and learn what can be done to improve our glue-up attempts.

Gluing Techniques

  1. If you are gluing up long grain to long grain as in laminating two panels together, I saw a trick that looks like it could help. After applying glue to the bottom panel, sprinkle a few grains of medium coarse sand over the surface. This adds just enough slip resistance without significantly interfering with the glue joint. Seems pretty slick but how would I know, I’ve yet to actually try it.
  2. Of course you can also use splines, biscuits, tenons or dowels to align your joint prior to glue-up. This requires more time and effort to prepare the surface but seems to me quite necessary when gluing up boards for table tops. Would really be an advantage to prevent them from bowing upward when clamping pressure is applied and getting them in the previously selected sequence. Of course I see there are other tips for preventing this as well.
  3. Learn to apply the correct amount of glue and how to spread it so that the joint isn’t “starved” for glue yet the squeeze out isn’t atrocious and wasteful. I don’t mean wasteful with respect to the cost of the glue, rather I mean a waste of your time for unnecessary clean up.
  4. Speaking of clean-up: I’ve read that you should keep a clean wet rag around to quickly wipe off glue squeeze up when clamping. I think this does make sense however I’ve read an additional tip that points out, smearing glue on your project (even glue that is diluted with water) will make the wood impervious to your finish. Obviously, this is not good. The better option is to let the squeeze out bead firm up by letting it set for 30 minutes undisturbed, then after it gets rubbery but before it hardens, take your glue chisel and scrape it off and away from your project. I tried this technique and I really felt like it was good advice. I also ignored both options and let the squeeze out harden overnight. I was able to somewhat recover from this madness after about 2.5 hours of very careful chisel work. It was a shameful waste of my precious shop time but a great learning experience.
  5. Glue and screw. Definitely a very effective way to “clamp” your work is to use wood screws while gluing. But if you haven’t planned ahead that can even be tricky. Pushing on the screw head to drive it will allow you slippery work to dance all over the place. Propping, clamping or temporarily pinning can be a huge help.
  6. Rabates and dados not only add to the strength of your joint but they aid greatly in holding the joining members in place during the glue up. I don’t have this capability yet but this will come soon enough.
  7. “Size” the end grain. OK I can impress you all with the term I learned yesterday.  End grain is of course, very porous and therefore can absorb a lot of glue. This fits with advice I saw using pocket hole screws where one fellow says he doesn’t even bother to glue end grain, the screw joint is strong enough and the glue doesn’t help anyway. Delving deeper into end grain glue-ups, I see where it is recommended that you add glue to the end grain and let it set up a bit before you do the glue up. The first application of glue will seal the end grain enough to accept the second application forming the joint. A similar concept to using a pore sealer before your topcoat.
  8. Be care when applying glue. Don’t use so much glue that it is going everywhere, rather apply generously but cautiously then carefully spread it with a card, brush or stick. I’ve located a useless deck of playing cards that I plan to use for spreading glue over panel surfaces. I like the idea of the reusable silicon brushes but haven’t tried them yet.
  9. Let the glue get tacky before joining. So the last tip that comes to mind is to let the glue set up slightly before joining the two surfaces. The glue will be less slippery yet still workable enough to maneuver.

There are so many great glue-up tips out there I just wanted to document what I’ve learned to date.

Here are a few more glue tips from Woodsmith eTips: http://woodworkingtips.com/etips/etip23.html


Categories: Woodworking
  1. Brenda
    March 15, 2013 at 10:16 am

    Art…I think there is a wood glue that allows for staining. Loving your blog! Keep at it.

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