Gluing And Clamping

The boards have been chosen for grain and color, the edges are cut square, and I'm ready to glue them together. Again . . . patience. I get everything ready, just as if I were going to apply the glue and clamp them up. Then I set the glue aside. But I go ahead and clamp the boards together — a dry run to check things out.

When clamping. I use pipe clamps (bar clamps tend to bend too much). You need enough clamps so they're spaced no more than 6" to 8" apart. Also, they should be alternated, one on top, next on the bottom, etc. This tends to equalize the warping (cupping) caused by the clamps themselves.

Tighten the clamps until the gap between the boards disappears. Not too tight, not too loose. Now, lay a long steel ruler or a framing square over the width of the top. You may find the top is cupped. This problem should be solved before the glue goes on.

If you're sure the edges are square, then the problem is usually with the pipe clamps. Loosen and tighten them trying to get the boards level. If this doesn't work I usually fasten Jorgenson hand screws across the ends of the boards. This will get rid of the warp, as well as pull the boards flush (in line across the top).

When the boards are finally flush and the top is free of warp, I loosen all the clamps and I'm ready to glue. For almost all gluing I use Franklin Titebond or Elmer's Carpenter's Glue (both of these are "yellow" glues). I spread the glue on one edge of each board with a small C/2") paint brush. The glue should go on in an even coat. It should look kind of glossy all along the edge. If the glue appears dull in a spot or two, it means it has soaked in. Apply a little bit more.

As I'm putting the pipe clamps back on, I place strips of waxed paper over the joints to make sure the pipe doesn't touch any of the glue. If the pipe does touch some glue, there will be a chemical reaction forming a black splotch on the wood.

As the clamps are tightened, an even line of glue should seep up between the boards. (This may be a line of beads of glue.) That's good. You know there's enough glue in the joint so it's not starved.

but not so much that it's slopping all over the place.

Should you wipe off this excess glue with a damp cloth?

The instructions on the glue bottles recommend that you do. I don't. I think that wiping at this point dilutes the glut? and forces it into the wood — making it very difficult to sand out later.

I leave the boards clamped up just the way they are for at least an hour, but usually overnight. Then I use a paint scraper (the kind used for scraping paint off the side of a house) to scrape away the dried glue. Then you're ready to smooth the boards, making them a table top.

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