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I'm building a closet and I've just made doors for it. It's red oak wood with a rail & stile construction and raised panels. I was a little careless and some of the wood glue (Titebond) escaped through the joints and are visible outside (see the picture on the right).

Normally, I would just sand it off if it was on a flat surface, but given that they're in the corners (and a little on the sides), it'll be harder to sand without gouging. I plan on staining it and am wondering what would be the best approach to removing the glue so that the wood will absorb the stain without any patchiness.

I was thinking that some cotton wool lightly dipped in mineral spirits should be sufficient to remove the glue, without any effect on the wood. Is this a good approach? Are there alternatives to this?

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up vote 6 down vote accepted

The best time to remove glue that squeezes out is about 30-60 minutes after the glue-up. At this point it's still soft enough that you can easily scrape it off but it's stiff enough that it won't smear and make more of a mess. When it's past that point and you realize you still missed some, the best solution is still to scrape with a card scraper and/or sand it.

Scraping works really well if it has only been a day or less and the glue is not yet rock hard. You should be able to sand by hand if you are worried about overdoing the sanding and gouging the wood. Use a flat sanding block for the flat areas and a foam-backed block for the curved parts. For the corners you can fold your sandpaper and back it with your fingers.

I don't think mineral spirits are likely to remove dried Titebond, and if you get a solvent that can dissolve it, how will you keep from just smearing it around into larger patches? This will be especially a problem on red oak, because of the large pores of the wood that will trap the dissolved glue. If you go this route anyway, I suggest trying it on some scrap before the real project to make sure it works as desired.

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Scraping/careful sanding was what I had planned on doing, but was wondering if there were better alternatives. Your point about large pores in red oak trapping dissolved stuff is very valid. – user2059 Oct 23 '11 at 7:27

Mineral spirits should work. If not, I would use Goof Off (or similiar). There's lots of glue solvents, and wood glue should be pretty easy for any of them to handle. I think it would dissolve right off, but I'd probably test it on any scrap red oak you have just to make sure it doesn't discolor.

enter image description here

Cotton may work, but I wouldn't be afraid to use a fine steel wool here, probably 000 like you would use for finishing polyurethane.

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+1 for testing on scrap first – JayL Oct 22 '11 at 22:07

I have found that acetone works really well and doesn't hurt the wood at all.

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