Removing Old Glue
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?
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
This story originally appeared in American Woodworker June 1999, issue #73.