Monday, May 05, 2008

The boxes above, made of curly maple and big leaf maple burl are made by Scott Culver, one of my students from the Wabash Valley Woodworker's Association and are unrelated to a question from another box maker below...

"I thought to myself over the weekend 'Doug Stowe could answer this question; maybe I'll contact him and ask'.

"I'm a blind woodworker and I enjoy making boxes. Because I'm blind, I'm a messy guy with the glue. I'm good with card scrapers though, and am generally able to get everything cleaned-up nicely except for the interior corners of the box. My boxes often have mitered corners, and because of the inherent weakness of the mitered joints, I'm inclined to get a bit heavy-handed with the glue, with squeeze-out settling-in to the corners.On larger boxes, it's easy to get my hand and scraper inside the box to scrape, but on smaller boxes, I just don't have enough room to get the leverage I need. I'm thinking I need to clean-out the corners before the glue fully sets, and I've also thought of switching to Titebond's Hide Glue formulation - I typically use their #1 or #3 products and I'm thinking the hide glue would be more responsive to a bit of clean-up with a damp cloth.

"Because I'm blind, I've never seen your boxes, but I've had many articles from the woodworking magazines about your work read to me. The descriptions of what you've done, how you've done it, and the thought behind it are inspirational to me." -- Dave

Dave, I dislike cleaning corners and pay careful attention in the application of glue to prevent the mess in the first place.

Over years of experience, I've gotten better at judging the proper amount to apply, and for me it really has more to do with the feel of it than what I can see. Miters of course require both surfaces to be glued due to the rapid absorption of the end-grained surface. I always use my fingers to wipe the glue across the surface. That serves two purposes. One is to spread the glue, and the second, equally important is to remove excess, with the finger acting as squeegie. It is extremely difficult to describe the exact qualities we seek in such an operation.

For those of us who are blessed with normal vision, it is easy to describe what we see, and so much more difficult to describe what we sense with our hands. Fortunately, the fingers get smart on their own and a bit of experience goes a long ways.

I have had quite a bit of experience teaching kids, and have noticed that the major culprit in the problem of excess glue is the bottle itself. There are so many challenges getting it to dispense an accurate amount, and then it is hard to know what the required amount is in the first place. With kids, I take the bottle and squeeze a puddle on a piece of scrap wood. They are fussy about getting their fingers in the glue, but I ask them to dip a finger in the puddle and then wipe the glue on the joint.

There are other options less dependent on feel, like using masking tape on the inside edges along the miter applied to each part prior to gluing. That is too fussy for my impulsive nature. Also, your idea of cleaning out the glue with a small chisel before it gets completely hard is a good one that I have used when I've gotten carried away with too much glue.

Anyway, I hope this helps.

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