Better Glue Application - Popular Woodworking Magazine

Better Glue Application

 In Feature Articles

For as long as I can remember, I’ve stood on my soapbox to urge woodworkers to use a toothbrush to spread glue when edge joining two pieces of lumber. A toothbrush is plenty wide enough to completely cover the edge of the board and the glue, once spread, is an even film that’s perfect for job. If you want more information about glues, check out “All About Glue: Part Two” by Marc Adams in our October 2009 issue. (Part One ran in issue #177, August 2009. Click here to get a copy of the magazine for $5.99)

I gave up finger painting in the third grade and I shy away from acid brushes , except when I add glue inside a mortise , because the brushes are narrow and I feel as though I am reproducing a Monet with all the strokes needed. So when I noticed Chuck Bender pulling out the glue and a couple acid brushes during my week-long teaching gig at Acanthus Workshops, I was chomping at the bit to challenge his technique.

Chuck isn’t one to take a challenge lightly, so he offered up a race. I thought I had this one in the bag, but I noticed that his setup , glue poured into a disposable cup with a loaded acid brush , looked peculiar. The handle of the brush was larger than those I had worked with.

He grabbed up a dollop of glue and proceeded to wipe along the edge of his board. One swipe covered the edge completely; he didn’t even waste time squeezing the glue from the bottle.

I guess he saw the amazement in my eyes because he kind of laughed. Then he showed me a box of brushes and pointed out that his brushes are 1/2″ wide, not the petite 1/4″-wide size I was used to buying at my local hardware store.

Once again, I learned something new. In fact, I learned a couple things. First, don’t challenge Chuck about his woodworking techniques , he’s had many years to perfect them. And second, it’s OK to use acid brushes for spreading glue, just make sure the brushes are large. I found a good deal at Harbor Freight, click here.

– Glen D. Huey

Recent Posts
Showing 6 comments
  • Chuck Bender

    Since it’s my technique, I’ll throw out some answers to the questions that have been asked.

    First, I do reuse the brushes. I pour a bit of glue into a cup and toss in my acid brush and use it until it stands up on its own. The beauty of the acid brushes is that they are disposable. I use them for a few days and then grab a new one. Hence the gross quantities you saw in Glen’s picture.

    Second, I usually let the squeeze out dry. If I’m having a slow day, I’ll wait half an hour and remove the squeeze out before it fully hardens. It’s easier to get off the surface. If I’m having a normal day, it gets scraped the following day prior to any machining or hand work simply because I don’t have time to run back and get it before it gets hard.

    Lastly, the roller thing is fine if it works for you but I found it to be too time consuming. When I showed Glen how I glue the edge of a board, I loaded up my brush and in one fluid movement covered the edge of a three foot board in one single pass. No fuss, no muss and no cleanup. I’ll try to film it and put it on my blog in the near future.

  • Jeff


    This technique may be an improvement to what you were doing before, but take it up another notch. Grab a small 1" wooden roller from your wall paper hanging kit, the one you use to roll the edges of the paper flat. Make a quick pass with your favorite glue bottle and draw a small bead. Roll the glue out with the roller, being careful not to apply pressure but just using the weight of the roller. After a couple practices, one applying the glue and the other rolling it out makes this process a breeze. It’s fast, you get control and consistency in the level of film you are adding, and you dont need to go back to the pot for more glue.

    Yeah, cleaning the roller takes a second too. I use the scotch dishwashing pads with the green synthetic abbrasive on one side and yellow sponge on the other.

  • John Craig Brown

    Thanks for the tip and I just placed my order. A couple of things, though:
    1. Do you reuse the brushes.
    2. I still am not comfortable with squeeze-out – I see some people using tape and others scraping when the glue just sets up and I know that wiping with water is a no no. So what do you recommend for squeeze out prophylaxis?

  • megan

    Chris, has a selection online – don’t know if they’ve a Canada store or not though.

    And as well – we _think_ they distribute in your neck of the woods…

  • Chris Friesen

    I don’t suppose anyone knows of any cheap sources for large acid brushes in Canada? I haven’t had much luck finding them.

    For wood glue I’m currently using the plastic glue spreaders from Lee Valley. They work fairly well.,110,42967

  • Joe C

    Good day all, I will start with this. It pains me greatly to say this but I have to agree with Glen on this one. I never really had much success with either the small acid brushes or a tooth brush. I just used my trusty old index finger to spread the glue. After witnessing this last week one of my trips today will be to HF to pick up the large brushes.

    Now to really stir the pot though Elmers white glue or yellow wood glue. Glen what did you find out?

    PS as for the hammock the only reason you see Glen in the picture is he tripped me as we were both making the dash for it. He won so he should take the brunt of the abuse!

    Joe C

Start typing and press Enter to search