How to Handle Glue Squeeze Out?

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.

Category: Techniques


  1. Justin57 October 5, 2009

    Using a paint scraper after about 20 – 30 minutes is the easiest way to me but if it’s an inside corner (or if the clamp bar is in the way), I’ll use a drinking straw. Gently push the end of the straw into the corner at a slight angle so it takes the shape of the corner and push the straw along the joint. Watch the straw and as soon as the end fills with glue just snip it off with some scissors and keep going. Then wipe the joint carefully with a damp sponge (I keep a plastic bowl of water handy to rinse the sponge often).

    • Jason H October 5, 2009

      Very innovative. I’ll have to give that a shot.

  2. BedrockBob October 5, 2009

    It depends on the project. If it is a jewelry box or piece of furniture for the house I take every precaution I can.
    Tape the joints with blue tape
    Try to use just enough glue so there is just a little squeeze out
    Use a chisel to remove squeeze out, which is not on blue tape, after about 20 min.

    If it is shop furniture, jigs, or something that will go outside I just use the rag with water trick and try and not be too messy. I am more worried about speed than what the finish will look like.

  3. WIWdWrkr October 5, 2009

    Marc, Have you ever tried the straw method? If so, what is your opinion?

      thewoodwhisperer October 5, 2009

      First I’ve heard of it. Sounds interesting though. I’ll have to hang on to my next soda straw and test it out.

  4. Jim Jones October 5, 2009

    I do it Marc’s way.

  5. Chester October 5, 2009

    I have been “trying” to use your scraping method. I have watched you use it in your cutting board video. But I have been frustrated and I think that the reason for that is humidity. Marc says 20-minutes to scrape-off. That is in Arizona. Here in the Midwest with our (much) higher humidity, we need significantly longer. I tried it once at 40-minutes and the glue, although skinned-over, just smeared all over the place. I agree with Marc that the scraping method is probably preferable to a wet rag (for finishing reasons) but would be interested in the time factor that other Midwestern woodworkers are using before attempting a scrape.

      thewoodwhisperer October 5, 2009

      Yeah humidity can make a big difference. My working time with these glues is much less than what you guys have.

  6. Dean October 5, 2009

    Thanks Marc for the Benchcrafted blog site. I really like the scraper.

    Chester, have you tried a hair blow dryer to accelerate the drying of the exposed glue? I know this might be a bit of trial and error and some test joints would probably have to be done. Not to mention the humidity variation between spring/summer and fall/winter.

    I have seen woodworking shows where they wipe off exposed glue right away, wait 20 minutes, wait 30 minutes, and let it completely dry before scraping off.

    I think Marc has the best compromise, but as Chester said, there is an issue with humidity depending on your location.

  7. dylder October 5, 2009

    I only do the Norm method on flat panels that will be going through the planer later anyways. I try to keep things as clean as possilbe and will do the Marc method. If the glue joint is on something like the frame of a raised panel door or a joint as in the 1st photo, I will tape that.


  8. Dean October 5, 2009

    Just an afterthought. This Lee Valley item may be a good scraper for partially dried glue. Doesn’t look as if it will scratch or mar the wood.;p=53612

  9. Aggie83 October 6, 2009

    I recently saw a video about reducing squeeze out. Now I will go back and see if I can find it.

    Anyway, the basic of this techinque ws to use a small, clean brush to capture excess glue as you bring the joint together (the example was gluing a tenon). As the joint was brought together the small brush was used to remove the excess glue that was squeeaed out.

    The key was to go slow and remove the excess as you closed the joint.

  10. Hey Marc, I totally agree with you. When I first started woodworking, I did it exactly the way Norm did, with sometimes good results and sometimes disastrous results. I now let the glue skin over before scraping. Even then you have to be a bit careful because the skin can pop and wet glue can get spread around. More and more I am using the blue tape method because of this.

  11. Claude Stewart October 7, 2009

    I do it both ways. It depends on what it is and finish it going to have. I’ll have to try and remember that straw trick.

  12. CrackPotWoody(Gregg) October 10, 2009

    I’ll have to give that straw trick a try, sounds intresting.

    Now I’m off to get myself a Big Gulp.

  13. les spokany December 11, 2009

    I am slowly learning. You are an asset to us all. Funny informative and non threatening. If I only could band saw a straight edge, route a true edge, sand a perfect surface….

  14. Milo Harrison December 13, 2009

    Hey Mark,
    Thanks for the heads up in the oil and finishes video. After watching it I headed over to Ace and Home Depot and stopped by the stain dept. I now have a much better understanding of all the marketing mumbo jumbo on the labels,I have been a fan from the beginning, and your site has helped build my wood working skills tremendously.
    Thanks, Milo

  15. J Alfsen February 9, 2010

    I just had a guy tell me to gently apply/rub saw dust on the squeeze out. It is so dry that it absorbs the glue and then you can scape it off before it dries. Has anyone ever tried this?

  16. NickG November 19, 2010

    Wow I love this site I have to say I have learned so much from watching all the videos
    And reading the blogs and the iPhone app helps mobility.
    I have always used sawdust to help “gather” the glue, this was a trick my father showed me. I have mixed results, I think it depends on the density of the wood or material Mid to fine is best. The bigger dust doesn’t “gather” much and sometime cause groving. but the fine stuff turns to paste. I have to try the straw trick that is a great idea.
    I belive Norm and Marc are both on to something.

  17. BigWillem July 19, 2011

    I use water but I put some alcohol in it and it works

  18. Nancy September 6, 2012

    Thank you so much for this posting. I just took my first wood working class and the entire class was having huge issues with squeeze out, I have a distinct feeling everyone is going to be painting their chairs because the stain just looks so awful. I will defiantly use your method a shot the next time I am in the shop.


      It’s something that can really bite you in the butt if you aren’t careful. Too bad you didn’t see this before you went to the class. :) You might be ok though if you sand thoroughly in the areas where the squeezout occurred.

  19. christina March 27, 2014

    Could someone make some suggestions as the best thing to do if the glue has dried for a long period of time? I don’t want to scrap off the wood but what is the best way to get it off at this point?

  20. here is what Titebond has to say on the topic. they seems to agree with both Marc and Norm. They also provide some advice for testing the surface before finishing to check for glue problems.

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