Squeeze-out is actually a good thing. It answers the question: Have you used the right amount of glue? You want a thin bead to come out of the joint—not more, not less.
But squeeze-out is a pain, too. It’s got to come off. Done the hard way, removing squeeze-out can take longer than applying the glue and clamping the wood together. Here are six tips to make the job easier.
Use a Putty Knife
After tightening the last clamp, I usually stop a few moments to catch my breath and grab a cup of tea, then dive into removing the squeeze-out before it hardens.
I figure, if I wait until the squeeze-out is rubbery—the perfect state to remove it—I might get distracted and forget to do it altogether. So I go right at it, even though some of the glue is still runny or soft.
I’ve found that a simple putty knife is the best tool for cleaning up fresh glue. It doesn’t dig into the wood, it’s easy to wipe clean and it won’t rust if you leave it soaking in water.
I’ve got two putty knives: a 2″ for general use and a 1″ for tight spaces.
Wipe on a Damp Rag
I always use a damp cotton rag to wipe fresh glue off my putty knife. I just keep refolding it to expose a fresh area to wipe the glue on.
Believe it or not, I’ve used the same rag for two years. When I’m done wiping glue, I toss the rag in a bucket of water and let it sit.
Overnight, all of the glue in the rag dissolves into the water. Then the glue settles to the bottom of the bucket. Weird, but true.
When I rinse out the bucket the next day, the glue sediment flows out, too. I wring out the rag and drape it over the bucket, ready to re-use.
Check for Glue You Missed
Leaving some glue behind can be a real disaster. When it dries, it turns clear and can be easy to overlook. But when you apply a stain or a finish, OMG.
Stain won’t penetrate a glue film, so you get a splotchy, light-colored area under the glue. Ditto with a topcoat of finish. It’s ugly.
Of course, the trick is to remove all traces of dried glue before you sand or apply a finish. But since the glue is transparent, how are you going to find it?
Here’s the secret: Warm water causes glue to return to its original color. Dried yellow glue turns yellow; white glue turns white. Even after a few weeks.
Warm water also softens the glue. Just wait a few minutes, then remove the glue with a putty knife or scraper. Follow up by wiping hard with a damp cloth.
Around Joints, Clean with a Stick
A pointed hardwood stick is the best tool for removing glue squeeze-out in corners where joints come together.
A putty knife or chisel can accidentally gouge the wood. But a tool made of wood can’t do any harm at all.
Let Paper Soak It Up
Whenever I use a block to hold glued pieces even, I always place a piece of paper underneath the block to absorb the squeeze-out.
The glue soaks into the paper—not the wood around it. This is far better than using wax paper or tape, which won’t absorb glue.
When I remove the block, I tear the paper off the workpiece. Then I apply some warm water to the shreds of paper that remain and wait a minute or two. The paper softens and is easy to remove with a cloth or putty knife.
Tom’s Ultimate Glue Scraper
Sometimes, it’s impossible to remove glue squeeze-out right away. The clamps may get in the way. The object may be too heavy to flip over.
The next day—or next week—when you’ve finally got a clear shot at the glue, it’s as hard as a rock.
If you’re gluing boards that will be jointed or planed, you’ve got to remove that glue. If left behind, it will chip, score or dull your blades.
Faced with this situation, I resort to brute force and pull out a shop-made weapon. It’s like a paint scraper on steroids.
The four-sided blade is as hard and sharp as a chisel—it’ll cut through anything. The blade is thick, too: It won’t chatter.
The handle is a 12″ piece of 3/4″ galvanized pipe. It’s heavy, and weight counts. There’s no vibration when I zip through those hard beads of glue.
Making the scraper—the business end
The blade has a 1/4″ hole pre-drilled through its center, perfect for mounting it with 1/4″ all-thread rod. Use a pair of fender washers, a pair of neoprene washers (they help prevent the blade from chattering) and a nylon-insert locknut. Drill a hole through a short piece of dowel to keep the rod centered in the pipe.
Making the scraper—the tail end
Drill a hole through an end cap for the rod to run through. Thread the end cap onto the pipe, then assemble the scraper, passing the rod through the hole. Cut the rod just long enough to accommodate a cap nut. Tighten the cap nut and stop nut.
Replacement Glue Scraper Blade, #511-004 Woodworker’s Supply
very interesting thank you
When clamping 2 pieces together, perfect joining is just not possible for several reasons. The pieces will shift due to clamping that isn’t exactly perpendicular to the joint and due to even slightly uneven application of the glue. Cross clamping can help, but it can produce marks. If joining boards side by side, perfect alignment is not possible. Some planing or sanding is almost always required.
Glue squeeze-out is necessary or you didn’t use enough glue. It is best removed after a few minutes when it’s no longer runny using a putty knife. PVA glue interferes with staining. Removal with water (and it’s supposed to be water-resistant!), can weaken the joint and spread the glue over a wider area that would create a larger area of abnormal staining. It would be better to wait for the glue to fully harden and then sand it off. In some situations, it’s better to stain first, glue second.
If using hide glue, the situation is different. It has a very long set-up time and it can take 1-2 days to harden, depending humidity and temperature. But excess hide glue can be wiped away with a damp sponge and it doesn’t interfere as much with staining.
To avoid discoloration due to wet glue on raw wood I coat the pieces with a wash coat of shellac, wait for the glue to firm up (10 min or so) then scrape it off. That keeps both pieces dry & practically everything will bond with shellac.
I have fought glue squeeze out for years. These are wonderful tips. Thanks a bunch!
I still don’t know what is used for the cutter. All I see is that it is a good question and where I can buy a completed cutter. I prefer to make my own.
Almost any hardware or paint store carries solid carbide scraper replacement blades, which I’ve used for decades, on glue as well as paint. But be very slow and easy and careful-a slip can easily gouge the wood badly! Little pressure and several passes is best.
Thanks for the great tips I know they will come in handy
Projects for something to do while in retirement
One option for scraping off glue is the Hongdui scraper. It uses carbide cutters (much like you’d find on a helical head for a planer) and works pretty well.
Another thing I consider to be well worthwhile is to get Waxilit. Apply it to the areas you don’t want glue on and it works very nicely. Glue just doesn’t stick to wax.
Applying painter’s tape to the edges of the joint prior to gluing can also be an option.
Thanks! This comes up a lot (pun intended.)
I’ve heard about using a plastic straw to remove fresh glue from a corner joint.
Very smart thank uses that
Can you use either painters tape or masking tape? Or does it have to be masking tape? I glue stripes together for a wood flag, but always get squeeze out on the face that is pointing down. So I’m unable to get to that area for at least 1-2 hours. Also, the stripes are already stained, but not finished.
Hi Larry. Either one will work fine.
Paul-Woodworkers Guild of America
a straight cut on a small piece of glass is an amazing scraper.
I mostly use a utility knife blade or scraping glue or paint off wood. You can also use the angled back edge at the tip for tight spots, such as corners. For greater leverage, hold the blade with a vice grip. Interestingly, scraping in one direction makes the blade sharper when used in the opposite direction.
If possible, apply first coat of finish to wood before glueing corners. Then the glue won’t stain wood. Also brush finishing is easier on flat wood rather than in a tight corner.
On a piece that you have a lot of work into. I use masking to protect the area where squeezeout will occurs.
My experience with using water to remove undried glue is that the water and rag push the glue into the pores of the wood resulting in a bad finish.Also the water will raise the grain so you’re goign to have to re sand that area…
Instead of using warm water I use a heat gun, it works faster and turns the glue into a soft putty which scraps off easily with a scraper. If you have a jointer you can use it to remove the softened glue providing your piece fits on the table.
For how long after the initial glue up does the heat gun idea work?
You’re making a purty big deal cleaning xcess glue?
Excess glue is a big deal if you are making furniture which you intend to finish. I like Michael Fortune’s solution: Assemble dry joint, wipe a little silicone-free wax (like bowling alley wax) onto the surfaces at, but not in, the joint, and then disassemble and glue normally. Dry or partially dry glue just lifts off, and there is no finishing problem with oil-based finishes.
If your making furniture you should have been knowledgeable in glueing and cleanup long ago.
how much will this cost
now plz tell me
Hi, Jeff. The blade costs $26: http://woodworker.com/fullpres.asp?PARTNUM=511-004
Bought a glue up kit from Rockler. Included a small, rigid draw scraper. Works great. Thanks for the warm water tracer. Great idea. Also will try the baby wipes.
I like the ideas of taking the clue off . The baby wipes looks like a great idea. can a paint scraper also work on getting the clue off .
Thank to all for great ideas
Yes, a paint scraper works great to remove glue squeeze out on flat panels after the glue has set up a bit. Let it cure for 30 – 60 minutes, then it should come off cleanly with a scraper.
Thx for the great tips!!
i use a paint scraper that i sharpen to a fine edge to take off dried
lumps. cheap at the hardware store. just wipe off excessive glue with a
wet rag. this way you wont get what i call ghost glue marks makes when
I use saw dust or clippings from my router table,a hand full and rub it over the area to remove the most of it and then after it clear then I use baby wipes
What I found out is I use baby wipes for glue. It works well, I have use this now for over a year and it hasn’t fail me yet. It doesn’t matter what brand of baby wipes, I tried at least two kinds and both work great. By the way I don’t have any babies at home its just something I use when I go hunting to wash my hands with. Hope it works as great for you as it does me. You have to use it when the glue is still wet.
What is the blade made out of please?
Good question. The author says “The four-sided blade is as hard and sharp as a chisel”. If that’s true, how did he drill a hole in the center of the blade?
The cutter comes with a hole in the center for $23.39 from Woodworker Supply. But item #511-003 is the whole scraper with a nice handle for only $34.99 in case you don’t want to make your own.
Using water to find missed glue is a great tip. Thanks so much!