Thursday, October 20, 2011

Mad Gluing Skills

Did I ever tell you that I have mad gluing skills? Seriously, I could win a competition, if one was ever held for glue spreading. Sort of like those grocery-bagger competitions, only much cooler.

On a slightly unrelated note - the G key on my laptop is broken, so typing this blog post about Glue is a little tough. Anyone know how to fix a stiff key on the keyboard? I may have spilled something (not glue) on it.

I talk to a lot of woodworkers - ones who stop by my shop, friends, peers, members of the Sin City woodworking group, and everyone has a different technique for spreading glue. Some use their fingers, some use rollers, or special glue applicators. Me?

Give me a simple popsicle stick and I'm off to the races.

The warm weather here in Las Vegas might have played a part in honing my skills - in the summer, glue skins over in seconds. Speed is important if you want to get something glued together before the glue dries.

It all starts, however, with the proper glue color. This is really important for beginners, who often don't prep their wood adequately. If the two (or three or four or whatever) pieces of wood don't have flat edges that mate together nicely, you'll end up with a glue line that shows up in between each wood. Glue lines can ruin the look of a nice piece of furniture, so running the wood over the jointer to achieve flat surfaces is important.

That said - you can have flat surfaces and some people still can't avoid a glue line. Maybe it is poor clamp placement, or just a technical mistake, like not tightening the clamps enough.

Practice. Get better. It's not rocket science.

But - if you can't avoid the dreaded glue line when you laminate a panel together, at least choose a glue that will disappear on your panel. In my shop, we use two colors - a yellow glue, and a brown glue. For your gluing pleasure, as I like to tell my students.

They're both Titebond adhesives; the brown one is tinted.

If you're working with darker woods, by all means, lessen the chance for problems and grab the bottle of the dark glue.

Remember - work fast. When spreading glue on multiple pieces, leave the boards flat so the glue doesn't run off them until you're ready to put all of the pieces together. When all the glue is spread, then flip all the boards over and push them together in your clamps.

Make sure your first and your last clamp are very close to the ends of the board - maybe within the last inch or so. This will ensure good clamping pressure all the way to the end of your glueline - so that you won't end up with a gap on the ends. That's a huge rookie mistake.

Notice that I alternated the clamps - some on top, some on the bottom? That equalizes the pressure on your panel and ensures a flatter glue-up. Placement is important too - I put a clamp every 6-8", so there are no gaps in the pressure.

Tighten the top clamps first, so the wood is pressed downward against the flat surface. See - gluing wood together is like squeezing a watermelon seed between your fingers - they both want to pop out with a little pressure. So tightening those top clamps presses the wood flat against whatever the boards are touching - in this case, it's my cart.

Becoming a better woodworker takes practice. People tend to forget that, so they think that if they've done something once or twice, they'll be fine. It's not true - to develop some proficiency with anything - repetition helps. Trust me on this.

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