43 Gluing Tips and Tricks You Won’t Want to Miss
Glue Bottle Caddy
Here are four good reasons to build this glue caddy for your shop. First, no more hunting for the right type of glue; they’ll all be right at your fingertips. Second, you can store the containers upside down. That keeps the glue near the spout—no more shaking down half-filled bottles. Third, upside-down storage helps polyurethane glues last longer without hardening because it keeps the air out. Last, the caddy is so doggone handsome. Here’s how to make it:
Arrange all your glue bottles in a circle with 1-in. spacing between the bottles. Add 2 in. to the circle diameter and cut out two 3/4-in. plywood discs. Drill 7/8-in. holes in the center of each one. Measure the various bottle diameters and drill storage holes around the top disc a smidgen larger than the bottles. Glue the discs on a 12-in.-long, 7/8-in. dowel, with a 5-in. space between the discs.
Easy Glue Drip Cleanup
Editor Travis Larson says: No more scraping hardened glue off your workbench. Before you set up for gluing, lay a sheet of inexpensive, thin painter’s plastic underneath. Another nifty tip to avoid rockhard glue on your workpiece is to glue it, then wait two hours and scrape off the excess. The glue is still pliable at this stage, so the job is quick and easy.
Quick, Even Glue Application
Here’s a smooth tip for spreading carpenter’s glue from reader Cary McAdams. Slide a piece of 1-in. diameter pipe insulation onto a 4-in. paint roller frame and use it to evenly roll on the glue. When the job’s done, just throw away the insulation. No more wasting store-bought rollers on a one-time job.
Handy Caulk Gun Clamp
Did you know that you can use a caulk gun as a clamp? It’s perfect for gluing up small projects such as a cutting board. Just place a couple of pieces of scrap wood or cardboard at the ends of the caulk gun and then squeeze the trigger to apply pressure.
Glue Dryer Time Saver
Use a hole saw to drill the hole for the hair dryer. If the drilled hole is undersized, use sandpaper or a rasp to make it just large enough for a snug fit. Then screw the 10-in. boards together to make a right angle. — R. B. Himes
Don’t Let Glue Freeze
Many adhesives–wood glue especially–can be ruined by just one freeze/thaw cycle, so it’s a good idea to store them in a heated space during cold months. Even glue just left overnight in a car can freeze and make it unusable.
Great Way to Clamp Miters
This contraption will save you loads of time when gluing up corners.
How Much Glue Should I Use?
With a little experience, you’ll develop a feel for how much glue is just enough. Too little glue creates a “starved joint,” which will be weak. Too much glue makes a mess and wastes glue. With practice, you’ll know just how much to apply. You should see a continuous line of small glue beads. When this perfect glue joint sets a little, you’ll find it easy to scrape off the jelled excess, and you’ll have very little cleanup to do.
Mix Epoxy On a Soda Can
Use an aluminum can for mixing epoxy in a pinch. The smooth metal surface has a concave shape, and it also has a small lip all the way around the edge. Better yet, when you’re done mixing and applying the epoxy to your project, allow it to dry. Then the epoxy can be easily peeled off and you can reuse the can for your next glue-mixing task!
Cool Glue Funnel
If you’re in need an easy to make disposable funnel, we have the perfect solution for you. Simply cut off the handle from a gallon water (or milk) jug, and use this to serve as a disposable funnel. This funnel will help you to drain anything from your left over wood glue to the old oil in your leaf blower.
Free Glue Spreaders
Pick up a few free laminate samples on your next trip to the home center and put them to work as glue spreaders, nailing shields, shims, scrapers and spacers. Use them once and you’ll discover a dozen other ways they can improve shop life. Thanks to Ron Kapala for this tip.
Precise Gluing Tool
Oral syringes are perfect for injecting wood glue into narrow crevices for furniture repairs, according to reader Jim Tennessen. Hot water cleans the syringe in a ﬂash.
Dish Soap Glue Bottle
Reuse an empty dish soap container as a refillable glue bottle. The small size and screw-on top with attached cap are perfect for squeezing out wood glue. Be sure to rinse the inside of the container thoroughly (including the lid) and let it dry completely before filling it with glue.
Moldable Clamps For Precise Gluing
Reader Robert Cramer showed us a cushy way to make glue repairs on small or delicate objects without having to hold them together by hand until the glue dries. Flatten out a ball of Play-Doh modeling compound; glue your project and press it into the clay. It’ll hold the pieces together until the glue dries!
Disposable Mixing Cups at the Ready
Load a Dixie Cup Dispenser ($4 at a grocery store) with 3- and 5-oz. paper cups and keep it handy for all kinds of jobs. Mix epoxy, measure liquids for finishes, hold glue, keep track of parts from disassemblies and hold paint for touchup jobs. Thanks to Dan Allmon for this tip.
Scrape Glue While it’s Soft
At room temperature and average humidity, 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. Handle the glued-up panels carefully, though, since the glue won’t reach maximum strength for several more hours.
Protect Your Work Bench With a Tablecloth
A vinyl tablecloth—any size—comes in handy for all kinds of woodworking jobs. Put it under boards you’re gluing together. Any glue drips will easily peel off the plastic surface after they dry. — Kate Gallivan
Build a Project Pedestal
This gluing pedestal makes clamping from all angles a breeze. Buy a 12-in. pipe nipple with pipe flanges on both ends and screw it to a couple of scraps of 3/4-in. plywood. Cut the pedestal top an inch or so bigger than the project to make clamping easier. Now, with the base of the pedestal clamped on your workbench, you can crank on the clamps from every angle. Thanks to Travis Larson for this handy gluing helper.
Craft Sticks to the Rescue
Faithful reader Tammy McBride offers this great idea: Craft sticks and tongue depressors are handy for all kinds of shop tasks. Use them to spread glue, mix stain and epoxy, measure and transfer a cutting width, pad those metal vise jaws (hold them in with carpet tape), push putty into nail holes and hold little brads for nailing. Keep them conveniently stashed around your workshop—you’ll be surprised how often you reach for one. Craft sticks are available at craft stores for next to nothing.
Easy Glue Cleanup
To avoid the hassle of cleaning and scraping dried glue when edge-gluing boards together, press masking tape along both edges of the boards before putting on the glue. This way, the glue will ooze out onto the tape instead of the wood when you tighten the clamps.
Puncture that pesky seal in caulk tubes.
Some brilliant uses for barbecue skewers:
- Puncture that pesky seal in caulk tubes.
- Apply glue in dowel holes or biscuit slots.
- Scrape gunk out of crevices on furniture you’re refinishing.
- Plug stripped-out screw holes on antique furniture so the screws will grip tightly.
No-Mess Board Gluing
Tired of scraping dried glue from your workbench and clamps? Shop teacher John Nelson’s no-mess technique also ensures a flat finished surface when you’re edge gluing boards.
First, cover the clamps with newspaper. Then smooth glue on the board edges and lay them into the clamps without tightening. Fold the newspaper over both ends of the panel and lightly clamp 3/4-in. x 1-1/2 in. wide hardwood batten boards above and below each end with C-clamps. Now alternately tighten all the clamps (all the bar clamps first, then the C-clamps). The batten boards keep the boards from sliding up and down as you tighten the larger clamps, so the boards remain in the same alignment as the glue dries.
After 20 minutes, peel off the partially hardened glue on top of the panel with a paint scraper. The newspaper under the tabletop prevents the metal clamps from staining the wood where they touch glue, and it catches squeezed-out glue so the workbench stays clean.
Make Own Wood Filler
When you need wood filler that matches the color of your project, mix some fine sawdust and glue together until it forms a paste, which you can use to fill small gaps and cracks. For best results, use sawdust from the same species of wood as your project; you can get some from the bag on your electric sander. Just don’t try this trick for large gaps or patches—they’ll stick out like a sore thumb.
Glued-up strips of wood like to drift as you tighten clamps. Now you can lightly snug a handscrew parallel across the edges as shown (don’t forget the wax paper) and then tighten the other two clamps for a perfectly aligned glue-up.
Seal Outdoor Furniture Feet
Keep wood outdoor furniture kicking for as long as possible by protecting the surfaces that come in contact with the ground—especially end-grain pieces. Mix up a batch of epoxy and spread it evenly along the feet of, in this case, a wood bench. Allow the epoxy to dry completely, forming a weather-resistant seal, before placing the bench outdoors.
Fix Cracks with Floss
It’s easy to coat narrow crevices with glue when you’re repairing a cracked board or tenon on a project. Pour a little carpenter’s glue on a scrap of wood, drag the unwaxed floss back and forth through the puddle, and floss the glue into the crack. Now clamp the crack closed and let it dry. Thanks to Phil Milhelich for this tip.
Tiny Dowel Trick
Round toothpicks work great for locking the mitered corners of picture frames. When each corner is cut and glued, drill pilot holes (the same diameter as the toothpick) from each side of the corner. Apply glue to the toothpick and tap it into the hole. When the glue sets, cut the excess toothpick flush with the frame, and then stain or paint it to match for a nearly invisible fastening job.
On-board Glue Spreader
For years I used my finger to spread glue beads on the edges of boards. Then, in sweaty haste, I’d wipe my fingers on my pants and another pair of nice jeans would become ‘work-only’ attire. To make the job less messy, all you need is an old credit card (or new, your choice), a 3/4-in.two-hole EMT conduit strap (about 50? at a home center) and two 1/8-in.nuts and bolts. Crook the conduit strap in a vise to level the conduit strap wings with the bottle cap. This way the credit card stays flat when you bolt it on. Drill a couple of window holes in the middle of the credit card so you can monitor the size of the glue bead, then drill bolt holes in the end of the card, snap the conduit strap onto the bottle cap and bolt on the card. Practice applying glue on a scrap board and in a few minutes you’ll get it down (pun intended). Be sure to use fresh glue—the lightly bending card will spread it like butter. Want to get really good at edge-gluing boards? This video and these 10 tips teach you everything you need to know.
Use Masking Tape as a Clamp
There’s no better way to clamp wood edging strips to plywood shelves than with pieces of masking tape. Just apply your glue to the backside of the strip and secure it with pieces of tape every 3 in. or so. Always cut your edging an inch longer to save the hassle of trying to align the ends perfectly. The excess length is easy to trim off later with a fine-tooth handsaw.
Always-Full Glue Bottle
Is your glue bottle half full or half empty? Now no matter how much glue is in the bottle, it seems like it’s full because when you store the bottle upside down in this handy stand. To make it, take a 3 x 3-in. block of wood and drill a 1-1/4 in. hole in the middle a little deeper than the wide part of the cap. Next, drill a 5/8-in. hole for the neck as shown. Thanks to Bruce Kieffer for this timesaving tip.
Spread Glue With a Notched Trowel
When you’re gluing large surfaces, an inexpensive notched plastic trowel works great for spreading the glue. To find one, look in the flooring or tile section of the hardware store or home center. If you’re fortunate enough to have a pair of “pinking” shears in the family sewing basket, you can make our own spreader from an expired credit card.
Better Glue Bottle Cap
Screw the ﬂip-up, 1-in. inner dia. cap from your shampoo or liquid cleanser bottle onto your glue bottle. The 1-in. cap ﬁts on every glue bottle we tried. Now:
- You can’t lose the little cap.
- Glue stays fresher because the cap snaps shut.
- The cap’s small round hole makes it easier to control the size of the glue bead.
- Glue doesn’t harden in the cap and require clearing before use.
Worm Blower Glue Injector
Reader P. J. Mullanney has a novel use for a Worm Blower (a small plastic bottle with a syringe tip used to inﬂate an earthworm so it ﬂoats and attracts ﬁsh). Use a Worm Blower to inject glue when repairing splits and cracks in projects. The air-powered needle tip shoots glue deep into the crack for a long-lasting repair. Just be sure to clean the glue from the syringe tip by squirting hot water through it when you’re ﬁnished.
Big Clamp Stabilizers
These grooved blocks will hold the bar clamps upright so they won’t ﬂop over when you tighten the boards in the clamps.
To make them, use your table saw to cut a 3/4-in. deep slot midway along the face of a 2×4. You want a snug ﬁt for the bar, so stop and test-ﬁt it in the slot as you widen the slot with additional passes. Now crosscut the slotted 2×4 into 4-in. long blocks, press the bars into the slots, and glue that tabletop without the maddening clamp ﬂops! P.S. Slotted blocks work well to hold round pipe clamps, too, as long as you cut extra-snug slots.
E-Z Bottle Caps
A medium-duty E-Z Ancor is the best glue bottle cap we’ve found. The narrow rectangular tip seals the opening of every glue bottle we tried. And the E-Z Ancor is much larger than the cap—so it’s that much harder to lose.
Cauls Keep Glue-Ups Flat and Flush
As you squeeze boards together with pipe clamps, they sometimes arch or slip out of alignment. Pairs of upper and lower cauls are the solution. I lightly squeeze the cauls with bar clamps, then tighten the pipe clamps, then tighten the cauls a bit more… I continue this back-and-forth process until the boards are joined flush and flat.
My favorite cauls are made from 2x4s. I carefully select ones that have a slight bend or ‘crown’ along the 1-1/2-in. edge, but no twist or warp. The crown is an advantage because it creates extra pressure in the middle of the caul. I label all my cauls with an arrow marking the direction of the crown and the length of the caul.
Flux Brush Applicators
Keep a few plumber’s flux brushes ready for spreading glue on your projects. You can get the brushes in the plumbing department at home centers. (Or buy 12 glue brushes, part No. 875233, for about $4 from Woodworker’s Supply. They’re perfect for brushing on just the right thickness of glue. Bend the handles into U-shapes so you can hang the brushes on the edge of a jar half-filled with water to keep them from drying out. No cleaning needed. Just wipe off the excess water with a paper towel before use. Thanks to furniture maker Bruce Kieffer for brushing us up on this great gluing technique.
Tie-down Strap clamping
Octagonal, hexagonal and even square pedestal bases for tables can be aligned perfectly for gluing with heavy-duty plastic sealing tape. Cut your bevels on the workpiece edge and lay them with the inside face down and one end butted to a straightedge. Align the bevels so they touch along their entire length and tape them securely. Next, carefully flip them over and apply glue to the joints. Then stand them up, fold them together, tape the final joint and pull the shape together with tie-down straps.
Quick Covers for Handscrews
Handscrews are the pros’ choice for clamping face-glued boards and laminates. The only drawback is that the handscrew jaws can load up with glue, and if you’re not careful, they could become a permanent part of the project! Here’s the solution, courtesy of reader Merle Kilburg:
- Wrap duct tape or clear packaging tape around the handscrew jaws to keep glue from penetrating and adhering to the clamps.
- Remove the clamps once the glue is set but still pliable. Use a moist rag to clean the glue off the taped handscrews, or strip off the tape and apply new tape before your next messy job.
Toothbrush Glue Spreader
Old toothbrushes are great for gluing and avoiding a mess. When your toothbrush wears out, put it back into service as a glue spreader. I always use a toothbrush to apply glue to boards for edge-glueing. No more spreading glue with my fingers or chips of wood. The soft-but-not-mushy bristles of an old toothbrush apply glue evenly and quickly. One swipe along the edge usually does the trick, coating the surface smoothly and evenly. Store the brush in a glass of water.