How to Handle Glue Squeeze Out?

Added on October 4, 2009

Nick wrote in to ask about glue squeeze out:

Hey Marc…Found your site while looking for a good cutting board “how-to”. Went through the site and watched all the videos to catch up and they are great. Anyway, my question is this: I watch New Yankee Workshop and every time Norm has a squeeze out of glue, he cleans it instantly saying it could affect the finishing. I see glue squeeze out of your work and looks like you let it dry and scrap it out. Does that not affect the finish? Keep up the good work and love the site.

And this was my reply:
Thanks for the kind words Nick. Well, here’s the deal on squeeze out. I hate to say it but this is one area where I have to disagree to some extent with His Normness. Wiping the glue away, especially with a wet rag, could very well increase your odds of having a finishing problem. Since the glue is water-based, the water in the rag dilutes the glue as you rub it into the wood grain. This could easily lead to an area near the joint that is partially sealed, and as a result won’t accept stain as well as the rest of the piece. Now if you wipe thoroughly enough and sand afterward, chances are you’ll get enough of the glue off the surface that it won’t be a major problem. This is why Norm probably doesn’t have issues with this (that we know of). But personally, I would rather not take the chance. So instead of wiping with a wet rag right away, I let the glue droplets set up for a little while (about 20 minutes). At this point, the glue has skinned over and you can easily scrape the droplets away with a card scraper or some other type of scraping tool. You’ll know you are scraping too soon if the little glue bubbles start bursting easily. And you’ll know you waited too long if the glue is hard to remove and starts pulling out wood fibers. Once the bulk of the squeeze out is gone, I will clean off the scraper and take one final pass. Once the area is pretty clean, then and only then will I take a damp rag to the area and do a final cleaning. Any glue that was left on the surface will now be wiped away, or simply diluted so much that it makes no difference.

Ultimately, both methods will work. But scraping while the glue is just skinned over is less messy, and in my opinion, the safer bet. And of course, tape your joints off whenever possible to prevent squeeze out from being an issue in the first place.

This is just the way I like to handle squeezeout. I’d love to hear how everyone else deals with it?

The first picture above was taken from a Popular Woodworking article, “Prevent, Remove, and Disguise Glue Splotches” by Bob Flexner. The second image was taken from the Benchcrafted Blog.


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