How/When To Remove Excess Glue from Glue-ups

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Forum topic by Todd posted 12-06-2013 05:02 PM 2115 views 0 times favorited 28 replies Add to Favorites Watch
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410 posts in 1882 days

12-06-2013 05:02 PM

Topic tags/keywords: glue clamp joining finishing question

I’ve already done a few projects but I always wonder: how and when should I remove excess glue from glue-ups? I usually wipe off as much excess glue as I can with a damp sponge immediately after I clamp. What I’m wondering is does this force glue into the grain enough to affect staining? I know on some projects it is obvious glue has affected the ability of the wood to absorb the stain in certain places but I’m not sure if it is from me being careless or my technique.

Any opinions would be appreciated because I just bought a huge pile of beautiful Cherry to make a bedside table!

-- Todd, Huntsville, AL

28 replies so far

View chrisstef's profile


17771 posts in 3212 days

#1 posted 12-06-2013 05:05 PM

Lately ive been using a putty knife to clean off the squeeze out about 5 minutes after I tighten up all the clamps. Once its good and dry I use a card scraper to clean off the rest. Good luck with the cherry tables.

-- Its not a crack, its a casting imperfection.

View Loren's profile


10477 posts in 3854 days

#2 posted 12-06-2013 05:11 PM

I don’t wet wipe glue unless the work is going to be planed
or painted. It definitely causes finishing problems.

Part of the trick is learning not to use too much glue and
make a mess. Squeeze out is still inevitable and starved
joints are bad too.

One approach I’ve tried a little is waxing the surfaces,
especially inside corners where it is hard to scrape glue
off. Another is to pre-finish parts with shellac (tape
off the parts where you need to have bare wood
for glue adhesion). The glue won’t stick to the
shellac. Pre-finishing before assembly is my preferred
approach with furniture but it doesn’t suit all situations.

View Smitty_Cabinetshop's profile


15706 posts in 2824 days

#3 posted 12-06-2013 06:18 PM

Todd, I’ve experienced the same effect using the ‘wipe it with a damp something or other’ approach and have changed my ways. Ideally it’s a scraper when the glue is no longer a liquid but still not rock solid. Later than that works too. Bottom line, I resist the urge to mess with fresh glue on otherwise-finished surfaces…

-- Don't anthropomorphize your handplanes. They hate it when you do that. -- OldTools Archive --

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Fred Hargis

5180 posts in 2699 days

#4 posted 12-06-2013 06:35 PM

I use a paint scraper right after the clamps come off, the squeeze out is still a little rubbery at that point and comes right off. I tried the damp rag, and quickly give up on that.

-- Our village hasn't lost it's idiot, he was elected to congress.

View teejk's profile


1215 posts in 2890 days

#5 posted 12-06-2013 07:11 PM

I think it depends on your glue and your wood. I’ve found that softer woods (e.g. pine/poplar) tend to absorb the glue and make it almost impossible to stain properly. There I remove as much as I can immediately. Harder woods don’t seem to have the problem and there I don’t touch it until it is dry. I have moved almost exclusively to Titebond II glue and find that it is much more forgiving in staining than the old yellow glues. It tends to form “dots” on the surface rather than a solid line of glue squeezout.

View lepelerin's profile


495 posts in 2531 days

#6 posted 12-06-2013 07:27 PM

I use a scraper to remove excess glue after a few minutes when the glue is getting more solid, works fine for me.

View a1Jim's profile


117342 posts in 3783 days

#7 posted 12-06-2013 07:34 PM

I like to pre finish were I can and when I can then wiping off wet glue is not a problem. If it’s not possible to pre finish then you can either place low tack masking tape(make sure to remove it before the glue is totally dry) were you will have glue squeeze out or you can wait for the glue to get to a rubbery and use ether a plastic putty knife or use a stick cut to a very sharp edge and scrape corners out (I use a stick 1/4”x1/4” by aprox 8” long). As Loren said after a whileyou will learn to use the right amount of glue to minimise squeeze out.

-- wood crafting & woodworking classes

View GOOD LUCK TO ALL's profile


418 posts in 1934 days

#8 posted 12-06-2013 08:19 PM

I’ve been wet wiping for 20 years without stain problems. I wipe, rinse and wipe again until all the residue is gone.
Can’t vouch for anyone else experiences but it has worked for me.
Also, As with anything it depends what it is. Better if you can give it a good sand job afterwards.

View Marcus's profile


1163 posts in 2226 days

#9 posted 12-06-2013 08:20 PM

I wait about 20 minutes or so and the glue is all but set and it kind of chips/scrapes off without leaving residue. I’ll follow up with a no. 4 plane when the clamps are off.

View Todd's profile


410 posts in 1882 days

#10 posted 12-06-2013 08:39 PM

Thanks for all the replies! I use TBII glue so I think I’ll glue up a couple of scrap cherry boards and experiment with some techniques before I start gluing up my tables. Like someone said, it probably depends on the glue and the type of wood. I guess that’s where experience comes in.

-- Todd, Huntsville, AL

View Loren's profile


10477 posts in 3854 days

#11 posted 12-06-2013 08:43 PM

A plastic flimsy straw with the end cut like a quill pen can
be used to scrape gelled glue out of inside corners. I
usually use a stick though. Then I might use razor
blades, esp. with real fine work like guitars.

I also use super-lame 1/2” chisel from China I bent it
in a vise (easily, that’s how lame it is) and use it as
a glue chisel. The handle is bent out of the way.
I use fine crank-neck chisels too and sometimes invert
a skew paring chisel to get dried glue out of corners.

View ShaneA's profile (online now)


7055 posts in 2804 days

#12 posted 12-06-2013 09:18 PM

I also like to get it at its “gel state” too. That is always a moving target based on temp and amount of glue. But when it is just right you will know it, because it will come off easily and entirely. Could be 5 minutes, could be 30…usually use a beater chisel. Once it is dried, it is way too labor heavy to compared to getting it early enough.

View cabmaker's profile


1740 posts in 3015 days

#13 posted 12-06-2013 09:27 PM

Lol, wow! Like Kevin said ,twenty years and no adverse results.

40 yrs here with no adverse results.

Again, wow ! Just wipe with wet rag and move on., whatever is left will plane, scrape, sand, etc.


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12432 posts in 2586 days

#14 posted 12-06-2013 11:05 PM

More often these days I prefinish or if that isn’t practical then I’ll tape the seams.

-- Rick M,

View Grandpa's profile


3261 posts in 2881 days

#15 posted 12-06-2013 11:19 PM

I was taught to wash it off as soon as possible. Of course glues have change half a dozen times since I was in school. When I let it get firm on the surface I still have a gummy residue under it. Washing with a rag and lots of water doesn’t seem to hurt anything and it cleans off well. I have seen people with giant home made double edged razor (that is what they looked like – 4 inch wide blades) and they would fight with hardened glue for hours. I do use a steel blade putty knife inside a wet rag to get the inside corners. Much like Loren described except I do it wet. I think this can go about like a radial arm saw vs. a compound sliding miter saw. To each his own and use what works best for you.

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