Some handy dos and don'ts of wood gluing

September 18, 2015

Gluing boards together to make wider panels is a handy woodworking skill that's easy to learn. Check out these handy dos and don'ts of wood gluing to help you get the best results.

Some handy dos and don'ts of wood gluing

Do arrange boards for the best appearance

  • For tabletops, where one side of the glued-up boards will be more visible, choose the best-looking side of each board to face outwards.
  • Flip the boards end for end and shuffle them until the grain patterns look natural and pleasing.
  • When you're happy with the look, draw a "V" 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, align the marks to make sure the boards are properly arranged.

Do apply an even bead of glue

  • Use white or yellow woodworking glue for interior projects.
  • For projects that will be exposed to moisture, use water-resistant glue.
  • Spread a 0.3 to 0.5 centimetre (1/8 to 3/16 inch) diameter bead of glue along the edge of one board.
  • For an even bead that's perfectly centred 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, keeping the bead of glue centred.
  • 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 joined.

Don't apply too much glue

  • Using too much glue won't weaken 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, 0.2-centimetre-wide (1/16-inch-wide) bead of squeezed-out glue along the length of the joint.
  • Also, glue that's dried on the face of the boards will cause trouble when it comes to applying a finish.

Do slide glued edges together

  • 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.
  • Cover the top of your clamps with masking tape to avoid staining the boards and to make cleanup easier.

Do align the top surfaces carefully

  • If you make sure that the top surfaces are as close to perfectly flush as possible, you'll save yourself from having to do tons of sanding.
  • There are a couple of tricks to getting this practically perfect flushness.
  • First, glue and clamp only one joint at a time.
  • This will take 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 will ensure that each board is flush with those already glued together.
  • Also, start clamping at one end and work your way along the boards, making sure the top surfaces are flush as you tighten the clamps.
  • Use as many clamps as you need to.

Don't walk away from bowed glue-ups

  • 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.
  • If they start to bow, you can drive shims between the boards and the clamps to flatten them.
  • If the assembly of boards is bowed up, add another clamp on top of the boards.

Do scrape glue while it's soft

  • 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.
  • But, be careful while cleaning the squeezed-out glue since the glue won't reach maximum strength for several more hours.

Remember these dos and don'ts of wood gluing to help you get the best results.

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