How to separate glue from wood joints

Written by sal marco
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How to separate glue from wood joints
Repair weak wood joints on furniture. (Jupiterimages/Comstock/Getty Images)

Glue holds wood joints together on many types of furniture, ranging from chairs to beds. Adhesive forms a strong bond to hold the pieces together in a tight joint. Many times a glue bond holds the wood tightly in place even if the piece suffers damage. Typically, woodworkers use white or yellow glue to secure wood joints. White glue is easier to separate than yellow wood glue. Using the correct techniques allows both types of glue to release the bond with wood, making repairs to wood joints possible.

Skill level:
Moderately Easy

Things you need

  • Tarp
  • Towels or rags
  • Spray bottle
  • Clothes steamer or steam iron
  • Hand-held hair dryer

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  1. 1

    Lay down a large tarp on the floor or other work surface to protect the finish on the furniture from scratches. Turn the furniture over to gain access to the wood joint.

  2. 2

    Lay towels or rags on the furniture 2 to 3 inches from the wood joint to protect the surface from water marks.

  3. 3

    Fill a spray bottle with hot water. Spray the water around the wood joint. You can also wet a rag with hot water, wring out enough water so the rag is wet but not dripping and wrap the rag around the wood joint. If you have a clothes steamer or steam iron, fill it with water and plug it in to heat it up.

  4. 4

    Direct hot air from a hand-held hair dryer at the wood joint or wet rag. Spray the wood joint often to keep it wet. Continue to spray the wood joint with water while heating it until the glue bond begins to release. If you are using a steam iron or clothing steamer, direct the steam at the wood joint and steam it until the glue softens, which may take 15 to 20 minutes. Steam causes the glue to soften.

  5. 5

    Wiggle the pieces of wood that join together to form the wood joint. Pull the wood apart to separate the joint. Spray water into the gaps of the weakened wood joint and continue to apply heat or steam until the wood joint separates easily. As soon as the glue softens, separate the wood joint. If you do not separate the wood joint quickly, the glue will reset and harden.

Tips and warnings

  • Sand old, dry glue from the wood joint with 100-grit sandpaper before rejoining pieces or installing new wood.
  • Avoid using excessive force to separate the glue-bonded wood joints, as you may shatter or splinter the wood.
  • Water may lift wood veneers; work carefully with as little water as possible to avoid damage.

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