So I have a situation that comes up all the time working with furniture. a beam cracks and needs to be replaced. What is holding it in place is a joint secured by a few staples. Pulling those staples out is usually a lost cause because they are long and the joint is small (the one in the picture is 1.5 inches by 1 inch with 1/2 an inch of wood left under). Any serious pulling will do too much damage to wood before you get them out.

So I cut them off with a multitool. Take a small hammer to get them deep enough that the surface is flat (ish) and use epoxy to compensate for whatever uneven surface this produces to secure a new beam in it's place.

Today I was thinking is there an actual decent way to sand this part down? I do have access to a multitool, dremel, and a few sanders. If you had to smooth it out to glue in a new beam how would you approach it?

I do have a grinder but I don't think it's a good approach here especially given how little clearance there is.

Thank you.

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  • Sorry, you are referring to nails right? I think I see some staples in the photo, but only along the left side of the 'beam' where it looks like they secured one edge of the cambric.
    – Graphus
    May 21 '21 at 7:43
  • Those do look like nails, but in the red circle there are staples put through from the bottom up (like 3-4 of them at an angle) so those heads are actually cut off ends of staples although they really look like nails. May 21 '21 at 7:47
  • Wow, beefy staples! I think it's possible to get much better at extracting staples (I've become very dedicated at doing it with a high success rate when I'm trying to salvage old wood from furniture) but for what you need you're already using a very efficient and perfectly acceptable method — knock flush or below flush with a nail set. Incidentally if you'll be doing this kind of work a lot I think it would be worth getting a carbide scraper, they're much more efficient at getting old glue of a joint surface. It can also help to heat the exposed glue with a heat gun.
    – Graphus
    May 21 '21 at 8:06
  • Nail set is where it is at. Get a variety of sizes and use them to create a divot in the fastener and get them under the surface. @Graphus should turn that into an answer!
    – jdv
    May 21 '21 at 13:19
  • Oh that's great. I always used a small hammer but it's not precise enough. I found this leevalley.com/en-ca/shop/tools/hand-tools/punches/… probably not the most practical since it's only in one size but looks satisfactory to use ). I'll get it along with a regular set. May 21 '21 at 18:10

There are different ways of approaching the problem of remaining staples and where feasible, and where it doesn't do further damage to the wood, it is often worth taking the time to prise or carefully lever them out1. With some recent practice doing this quite a bit (while reclaiming wood from old furniture) I can say you do get much better at it with some practice and experience, however, it isn't always necessary or desirable to do so and there's never a guarantee you'll get staples out in one piece.

Where speed or necessity dictate that the staple (or a nail for that matter) remain in place it's probably best to do basically what you're already doing: tap them flush with a hammer, or a little below flush using a nail set, and just keep going.

If you had to smooth it out to glue in a new beam how would you approach it?

  • Use a carbide scraper rather than sanding as the primary means to remove most or all of the glue residue. A chisel or two dedicated to this purpose can also be very useful for chipping or paring off old glue2.
  • Try heating the glue residue with a heat gun to see if this helps make removal easier; sometimes it is just easier to chip away and scrape hard, crystalline glue residue than if it's gummy/rubbery after heating, but one needs to test it to see.
  • Use construction adhesive or epoxy to glue the joint, saving a step by not having to do any filling of gaps or irregularities.

1 Although it seems like an abuse of the tool slot-head screwdrivers make excellent levering tools for this since they're typically tempered soft enough that they won't break; just dedicate a couple to this job. A further good trick here is to lever against the blade of a putty knife or over a card scraper, so there's no chance of denting the wood.

2 Some woodworkers and furniture restorers keep 'beater' chisels around for this type of job, so it's no big deal if (when LOL) you run them into a bit of metal and chip or fold over the edge.

  • Thank you for the answer. I was going to ask you what you use to lever staples out but the end notes made it clear. Is the advantage of a carbide scraper that it doesn't dull as easily? May 21 '21 at 18:13
  • As I mention in the Comment, these scrapers are much more efficient at removing old glue, with perhaps 5 seconds of scraping equalling or exceeding what you can achieve in 30 seconds or a minute of sanding. The yes carbide scrapers keep their edge really well; carbides typically have 10+ the abrasion resistance of even a very tough steel like HSS. Scraping is better than sanding in so many contexts, and if you need to do any amount of finish removal as part of furniture repairs/restorations it's well worth delving in this area (alongside chemical strippers and heat stripping).
    – Graphus
    May 22 '21 at 6:58
  • I have seen large flat-head screwdrivers with little notches cut into them for this exact purpose. A good way to repurpose some of those yard sale finds.
    – jdv
    May 22 '21 at 13:13
  • "A good way to repurpose some of those yard sale finds." Yup, exactly! All of my beater chisels and screwdrivers are from sources similar to that.
    – Graphus
    May 22 '21 at 17:22
  • I've just got some old screwdrivers that fall out of use when newer ones are purchased (gifted). I've also got a couple that have been found at the side of the road. If they're Craftsman, they get turned in for brand new ones - if they're not, they're thrown in the junk drawer and used for hard labor like prying and chiseling.
    – FreeMan
    May 24 '21 at 16:29

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