It may sound silly to think of rehearsing the assembly of a piece of furniture, but I do it every time the glue-up is the least bit complicated. I even pretend to spread glue on all the surfaces, getting a feel for how much time everything will take. Rehearsing is the best way to know what to anticipate. Being surprised by a broken part or a clamp that’s too short is not pleasant when you’ve got wet glue everywhere and it is starting to set.
3. DIVIDE AND CONQUER
Some projects, like my three-legged stool, have to be glued up all at once. Because of the angles involved, you have to coax the legs into the seat at the same time you are coaxing the stretcher tenons into the leg mortises.
Thankfully, other projects allow you to glue up in phases. For a table with drawers, you might glue up the drawer supports or runners, let them dry and then install them while assembling the legs and sides. Case pieces rarely have to be glued up all at once. You can’t always divide up the gluing, but it’s helpful when you can.
4. APPLY PRESSURE
During your rehearsal you can determine which kind of clamps you’ll need to use and how many. Be sure not to use too much clamping pressure. When the wood comes together and a bit of glue squeezes out, that’s enough. Using any more pressure can warp your project so that it dries out of square. Use cauls on panels and wide cases to protect the wood and help distribute clamping pressure evenly. The rubber pads of F-style clamps can leave an oily residue that soaks into the wood and becomes difficult to sand out. I either cover the wood with wax paper or use a clamping block. Make sure your clamps are unscrewed all the way so you don’t have to worry about doing that in the middle of a glue-up.
Photo by Jim Dugan via Libby Schrum Design