Lee Valley Tools    Woodworking Newsletter
   Vol. 5, Issue 5
   May 2011
   Gluing Wisdom: Strategies and Techniques

Editor's Note: The following is the first article in a series of two. Look for the next installment on clamping in an upcoming woodworking newsletter.

For many woodworkers, glue-up and assembly can be unnecessarily stressful. There are several reasons for this. First, time is not on the gluer's side. Common yellow glue has approximately five minutes of open assembly time, leaving little leeway to think and act once the glue is wiped on. Second, glue-up is often irreversible. There are some exceptions, but for the most part it's a one-shot deal. Third, freshly applied glue is slippery and joints and parts can easily slide out of alignment. Fourth, when glue squeeze-out cures, it can be difficult to remove. And when cured squeeze-out goes undetected, it's a potential finish wrecker. Finally, because wood never stops moving, improper glue placement that doesn't allow for seasonal wood movement is an invitation for cracks and splits to happen.

Plan First
  Dry fitting
  The gluing process should start with dry fitting all of the parts.
It's important to have a glue-up strategy. I begin with dry fitting. I lay down all the project parts in their proper order and visualize where the glue will go and what clamping tools and accessories I will need. After labelling the parts (using lines or numbers) in their proper orientation, I decide if the assembly should be glued in small sections (subassemblies) first. I proceed with dry clamping to identify any problem areas or tool shortages.

Gather Your Glue Supplies
For general woodworking purposes, PVA glue is the common choice. When using it, there are two ways to gain open time to work on the assembly. The first is to use a product that sets slowly. Hide glue, white glue and 2002 GF glue are some examples. Each leaves an open time of approximately 15 minutes. Alternatively, you can extend the glue's open time by diluting it according to the manufacturer's guidelines. For example, if you thin Titebond® yellow glue by 5% (1 part water to 20 parts glue), you'll have about 50% more open time.

In terms of applicators, there's an array of choices that includes the tip of the glue bottle, brushes, finishing nails, cotton swabs, credit cards, paint rollers, toothbrushes, your finger, etc.

Gluing is a messy job, so I keep a bucket of water and some rags handy. I also installed a retractable vinyl window shade on my workbench to protect the work surface.
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