View Full Version : Spreading glue - the unspoken taboo

Pete Howlett
07-19-2014, 09:38 PM
I witness with dismay the regular boast by luthiers that they use the preferred glue spreader - indicating a finger to apply glue. This has to be the only woodworking 'genre' that almost universally eschews the brush unless applying hide glue. I can think of a no more accurate, hygenic and controlled way to apply glue than with a brush or soft seam roller. What do you say?

07-19-2014, 11:22 PM
I find applying glue with a brush is messy due to the fact that the bristles come out (Cheap Brush :)) or dust particals and dryed glue get into the bristles that end up in the joint..Straight from the bottle is my method and spread with a plastic spatula for fretboards and neck joints, or clean finger end to spread around the Kerfed edges ...Never tried the roller..I'm too old to change now.;)...I do use a small artistes round paint brush to clean out the string holes and slots when gluing the bridge on...I usually forget to clean the brushes after use and end up throwing them away:o

07-20-2014, 05:24 AM
Like Ken I use a small plastic spatula and my ....um finger. But I only use my index finger on my right hand :o and it's mostly clean. Sorry Pete

07-20-2014, 06:08 AM
I don't find the applicator as important as the thickness and eveness of the spread, and I do use my finger because it is always there and easy to clean and is the simplest.

07-20-2014, 10:08 AM
I use hide glue. Leaves me out. :cool:

Pete Howlett
07-20-2014, 10:36 AM
Where you got to use a brush, right Allen?

07-20-2014, 11:05 AM
Use little finger to spread glue on small areas. It's generally the cleanest and you can still use the other fingers to grasp/hold/lift.
Use an old credit card to spread on broad surfaces

07-20-2014, 11:42 AM
Depends on what is being glued. Rollers are awesome for quickly and evenly gluing broad surfaces, and also for tasks like gluing rims, as you showed me, Pete. They are fast. But with many things, the roller just isn't what I choose. Fingers work great. Brushes work. I keep a brush stuck in a plastic beverage container at a depth so that the bristles, and part of the ferrule are submerged in water (in the container). Low maintenance, and always ready. A 1/32" skip tooth trowel works great for laminating or veneering. For spreading epoxy to bond a fretboard to a neck, I use the mixing stick to strategically place some blobs, then the 1/32" skip tooth to evenly and thinly spread the epoxy. Very little squeeze out results. This is also how I glue headstock veneers. For bindings, a tiny squeeze bottle and the brush that lives in a water bottle. For bridges and braces, HHG from a squeeze bottle, and my precision glue spreader. In cases where I use my fingers, the glue is applied from a squeeze bottle first.

07-20-2014, 11:46 AM
I use a brush almost always. If glue is on my fingers it will surely end up on the instrument. I get a more accurate application that way, too. Awhile back I wrote an article entitled "Stop Giving your Guitar the Finger." My glue up kit is always an old coffee cup full of water, a wet wash rag, and a selection of brushes. I end up with glue on my fingers eventually, especially when binding, but I never get it on my hands on purpose. All the finger spreaders I know wipe the glue off on some hidden portion of their work bench, and after a few years they have stalactites of hardened glue dripping down. Its hideous, and a waste of glue. Its not like its expensive, but its not cheap, either.

07-20-2014, 11:53 AM
I am not sure that the waste issue is solely due to the use of fingers. Once the glue leaves the applicator bottle, any excess is waste, whether it ends up on the edge of a workbench, a rag, or in the water in the bottom of the brush jar. I like clean fingers too, and do not like making a mess of glue all over them. If they get messy, I stop what I am doing and go wash them. For repetitive tasks, a wet rag nearby saves the workbench, and keeps the fingers cleaner.

Beau Hannam Ukuleles
07-20-2014, 12:29 PM
I use my finger.

Also, i've felt little 'bits' on the surface in the glue when using my finger that I otherwise wouldn't have felt.

07-20-2014, 12:45 PM
Like Ken I use a small plastic spatula and my ....um finger. But I only use my index finger on my right hand :o and it's mostly clean. Sorry Pete

No need for apology, I see no reason not to use finger. It does depend on what exactly you are gluing and coverage.
I've been a carpenter/joiner for 30 years - finger? 'Works for me' ;)

07-20-2014, 01:00 PM
My banjo uke bodies that are block construction have rubbed joints so self spread. Other than that the finger has worked for the last fifty years and will continue to work.

07-20-2014, 03:17 PM
Where you got to use a brush, right Allen?

That's right. I use to use a bottle with a fine tip but the brush is way easier.

Matt Clara
07-22-2014, 12:53 AM
I use a roller, just like you taught me, Pete, but I find for thin bits I'm likely to roll it off the edge, so then I use my finger, BUT, I put on some latex gloves first (sometimes just a single glove), then take them off before handling anything else.

Michael Smith
07-22-2014, 12:12 PM
If I'm doing a lot of gluing like making rope binding I use a roller. Can't beat the evenness of the coating
Sometimes I use a brush, most often for larger projects.
There are times I use an expired credit cart.
Most of the time I end up using my finger. It feels good and I enjoy the tactile aspect of getting right down into the soup.

07-22-2014, 01:50 PM
I used a finger for decades, but when I began building 4-6 guitars at a time the wasted time was impossible to ignore. The brush wins by a long shot. The same amount of time is wasted on a one-off project, you just can't see it. Thirty years of experience doesn't mean jack if you don't learn something from it and move on. A brush also puts down a more even coat of glue. Its also easy to spot detritus. whisk it off with the brush onto a wet glue rag, and keep on moving. For large areas with Titebond, epoxy, or thick super glue I use a chip of rosewood with a true edge (always available in the trash), then just toss it back where it came from. My block rims use a rubbed joint, too, of 5-minute epoxy. I'm happy for all the finger gloppers, I just don't want to share my work space with you. In the long run, neatness counts.

07-24-2014, 07:17 PM
I often feel like I want to give my glue joints "the finger".:rolleyes: