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Q & A: Removing Old Glue

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Removing Old Glue

Q:

I’ve got some old furniture that’s been reglued too many times. How do I get the old glue off so I can get back to clean wood?

A:

If your furniture was made before World War I, there’s a good chance it was put together with hot hide glue. This glue is easy to identify and remove.

Apply some hot water to the dried glue, wait a minute and touch the surface with your finger. If the glue feels sticky, it’s probably hide glue. Keep applying hot water and wipe off the glue. Antique restorers favor the continued use of hide glue today because it can easily be undone years from now.

If hot water doesn’t work, try a heat gun. Common glues today, like Titebond and Elmer’s, are thermoplastic. At a certain temperature they’ll soften up and peel off the wood. Concentrate the heat on a small area of dried glue. (Don’t heat a finish—shield it with cardboard.) In a minute or so the glue should feel rubbery under the pressure of a chisel. Scrape the stuff off and move on to another area. A chisel sharpened at 90 degrees makes a durable scraper.

This story originally appeared in American Woodworker June 1999, issue #73.

June 1999, issue #73

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