Removing a Decoration from a Drawer Front

Advice on softening the adhesive or glue and on techniques for gentle prying. February 12, 2010

I'm refinishing a kitchen, and there's a wood ornament on one of the cabinet faces. It appears to be glued on. What would be the best way to remove this without causing too much damage to the cabinet door itself? I'm tempted to just pry it off with a putty knife, but I wonder if maybe using a little lacquer thinner to soak the exposed gaps for a minute or so might make it easier to remove. Any other ideas?

Forum Responses
(Finishing Forum)
From contributor K:
I use DNA for glue removal, but remember that what's left underneath will be lighter in colour.

From contributor R:
Try vinegar; acetic acid will soften most woodworking glues. Warm to hot water will work sometimes too. Be patient - it can take an hour sometimes. Stripper works sometimes. Be prepared to do some glazing right in the middle of the door... Yikes!

From contributor S:
Depends on the type of glue. White and yellow glue will respond to vinegar and stripper. Epoxy to stripper only. Hide glue to hot water. Gelled vinegar works better than free form, because it stays put. I've never used it because I make my own, but I think the product Goo Gone is a gelled vinegar.

White and yellow glues always fail over time. Especially if the ornament was glued to the coating rather than wood to wood, the piece may just pop off. So, before you break out the goos, you could try inserting a chisel into the gap and give a strong rap to the end of the handle with a hammer or mallet. Place a shim between the handle and the door so you don't mar the wood.

From contributor J:
Before attempting to melt glue, we reach for a flexible putty knife that we filed and sanded into a slow taper ending at slightly less than a razor edge and rounded the corners a bit. We then slide and rock this under the trim/veneer/applique. Not too much force. For tight areas we did the same with a modeler's spatula.

From the original questioner:
Thanks for the tips! I ended up using xylene to soften the glue on the trim piece, then used a flexible putty knife to carefully pry the piece away from the cabinet face. Worked like an absolute charm! Cheers!