Finishing Problem - When Excess Glue Interferes with Stain

Residual glue squeeze-out on a door causes problems with stain absorption, and finishers offer fixes. March 25, 2007

I had RP hard maple doors made for a project and it appears that the fellow who made the doors was a mad man when it came to applying the glue. I was told that the doors had been sanded to 220, however I noticed some scratches (maybe caused in transport) and some tearout, etc. which required the doors to be resanded. I started at 120 and went up to 180. I wiped the doors with denatured alcohol.

In order to have the doors match the plywood pieces, I first sprayed on a Transtint dye in water. Looked good, although the problem may have been there, just unnoticed. Next day I sprayed on a coat of dewaxed shellac. Later that day I applied an oil based ML Campbell Windsong wiping stain, and much to my horror, I noticed many places where the stain didn't take, typically in those places where you would expect to find glue squeeze out.

My test pieces came out looking great (but I had not put glue on them). The sanding should have removed the glue, no? The shellac should have covered the glue stains, no? Maybe not a heavy enough coat? I am halfway through the project and the next part needs to be perfect. So, any suggestions?

Forum Responses
(Finishing Forum)
From contributor W:
Sanding should have taken care of it. If you know it's there, resand the glue spots out - hopefully just the glue spots and not the whole door. Hopefully they are solid and not veneer. Veneer totally sucks when it comes to that kind of surgery.

From contributor T:
If I'm not mistaken, Wood Song is a lacquer based stain which will burn into (and through) shellac. Sanding will remove glue, but only if you sand deeper than the glue has penetrated. If you want to remove the glue, scrub with xylene and scotch brite. Otherwise switch to a varnish or water based stain over your barrier coat. Most WB stains contain glycol ether which will also dissolve PVA glue. Just scrub the stain into the glue spot. The glue will dissolve and the stain will take, but you need to do that before your barrier coat.

From contributor R:

I think the glue spots can be touched up somewhere during your finishing process. If not, your other option is to start over with new doors and drawer fronts or completely redo the doors and drawers you have on hand. Glue residue can be a pain, but if treated right, it's hardly noticeable when all is said and done.

From contributor G:
One of those tiny Red Devil scrapers is useful for removing glue, as is a small sharp chisel. Another option may be to wet some sandpaper with stain and try wet-sanding the glue out.

From contributor W:
Take the door back to wood to restain. If the door is solid, sand it. If not, sorry. M.E.K. to strip. You know, if one just used a pre-catalyzed lacquer from Rudd, their job would be 75% more easier.

From contributor A:
Glue sucks! Touch up the glue areas with an artist brush and color before your final coats. No amount of sanding will cure glue spots. Sand too hard and you go through veneer or have low spots where you spot sand.

From the original questioner:
Thanks for the advice. I mixed up some dye with the topcoat and used an artist's brush to touch up the spots. After several applications the doors are passable.