8 Wood Glue Squeeze-Out Tips

glued wood strips - chadmagiera CC In preparation for gluing up some joints, I decided to see what the general consensus was on dealing with the "squeeze-out" that can ruin the final finish if not handled correctly.

After checking out a number of woodworking forums and web sites, I  boiled it down to this list of 8 tips, including 2 that really stand out from the crowd.

What To Avoid

#1. Wipe off glue immediately with a damp cloth

– Nearly every forum discussion and professional woodworker indicated this isn’t the way to go. It dilutes the glue, spreads it around and seals the grain, which causes blotching when you apply your finish.

I’ve been there, and done that many times before, and it takes sheer determination (and a lot of sanding) to come out with a good finish at the end. Save this one for Emergency Use Only.

The Top 4 Squeeze-Out Tips

These next 4 methods showed up consistently in my research. The all have their pros & cons, but most experienced woodworkers regularly use these methods successfully.

#2.  Use blue painters tape to protect the surface

– just like masking when you’re painting. Apply the tape at the edge of the joint so the glue will go on the tape, not the wood. In some situations, the pros dry-clamp the pieces, apply the tape across the joint and slit it with an x-acto knife. Then they disassemble it to apply the glue.

#3. Pre-finish before gluing

– glue is less likely to affect the finish if the finish is applied first. Some people will use just a sealer before glue up, and leave final finishing until later. I’m a big fan of finishing individual pieces before assembly. Just remember not to apply finish to glue surfaces.

 #4. Let it dry 20 – 30 minutes and remove with a sharp chisel

– timing is the key to time method. Once the glue has firmed up to a rubbery consistency, it can be scraped off flat surfaces with a chisel or scraper without leaving much residue. For angled joints, press the chisel into the excess glue from each face to cut it out cleanly.

#5. Cut grooves to catch the excess glue

– in some situations, you may be able to cut a couple of shallow grooves near the edge of a piece that will be glued to a flat surface. Apply glue only between the grooves and the excess will go into the grooves instead of squeezing out the side.


Two Unique Solutions

These next two tips don’t seem to be as well-known, but they struck me as very practical and easy to do.

glue-sawdust#6. Use sawdust to absorb excess glue

– This tip was passed on to Engineer, Matthias Wandel by his father. Rub sawdust from a saw or sander along the joint to absorb the excess glue. Use a chisel to clean out the sawdust at the joint before it dries.

Check out the full details (and a whole bunch of other neat stuff) at woodgears.ca – An engineer’s approach to Woodworking.


Bob Van Dyke video screenshot #7. Preventing glue squeeze-out

– Bob Van Dyke, Founder of The Connecticut Valley School of Woodworking has a great video available through finewoodworking.com.

He demonstrates a simple and effective technique to prevent squeeze-out on mortise and tenon joints by removing the excess glue with a dry brush before closing the joint.

You really must see this video.

Check for Glue Residue Before Finishing

This last tip will help when you do end up in a mess and need to check to see where the glue is so you can deal with it.

#8.Wipe with mineral spirits 

– simply wipe down the work with a cloth dampened with mineral spirits. You’ll see where the glue is affecting the surface and additional sanding will be required. The mineral spirits will quickly dry without damaging the surface.


Photos: chadmagiera ; woodgears.ca ; finewoodworking.com

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