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I have a cabinet door that broke along one full side at the joint. I glued the joint back together last night, but this morning realized I didn't clamp it to pull the joint in all the way flush (I don't have a bar clamp anyway, probably need one for this). The result is I now have a gap (almost 1/8"), as you can see here:

enter image description here

Not only does it not look great, but it effectively widens the door so that it probably won't fit into the catch quite right.

Here's the full door for reference:

enter image description here

What are my options for removing the gap and doing this over the right way?

(Note: I used Titebond original wood glue.)

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  • 1
    Is that a butt joint or is there a pin, tenon, or biscuit in the joint?
    – David D
    Oct 18 at 15:34
  • Hi, welcome to Woodworking. Ouchie! Hope you can get this apart without too much fuss. I wanted to check something about the door, were you able to see if there was almost no glue residue in there originally? Under normal circumstances joints shouldn't come apart (even with impacts or repeated jarring forces during use) and with commercial furniture it appears that the no. 1 cause of joint failures on pieces that aren't very old is they just didn't apply enough glue in the factory!
    – Graphus
    Oct 18 at 17:50
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    Urgent: before you proceed to reassemble door please ask another question. This frame and panel style is also named floating panel because the panel should be unglued. If you glue it in the frame it cannot 'float' as necessary for wood movement
    – Volfram K
    Oct 19 at 6:19
  • Glad that the suggestions worked well enough for you to get the door apart! Whatever path you take now (and although it wouldn't normally be something that would be done shaving a bit off the right edge of the panel may now be non-optional) prior to re-glueing do a dry run to check the tenons on the rails will seat fully into their mortises. If either won't then it's really important to clean out the mortises so they do. Don't know if you have a narrow enough chisel for this (I'm not sure if I do at the tenon thickness that I'm guessing here!) but chisels are the ideal tool for this [contd]
    – Graphus
    Oct 19 at 7:21
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    Then when you are ready to get the Titebond out again don't glue the right edge of the panel whatever you do. If you glue it you'll have fixed the panel in its frame, restricting its ability to expand and contract during seasonal variations in humidity (which negates the entire purpose of this design). This could result in the frame being broken apart during the periods of highest humidity — when the panel is at its widest — and/or the panel splitting down the middle somewhere when it tries to contract during your driest months.
    – Graphus
    Oct 19 at 7:26
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This is going to be tricky, since glue joints are stronger than the wood. So be prepared for at least some breakage to occur.

If you can get to work immediately there's a chance of working on the glue before it's completely cured, although overnight drying is enough for almost full strength with most glues of this type in most conditions.

You're going to have to either lever this apart (carefully of course1) or use any clamp where a head can be reversed to convert it into a spreader. Many modern bar clamps, F-clamps and speed clamps can do this, after the removal of a retaining pin of some sort. Don't push against the knob!

If you have to lever I'd work primarily from the back and the bottom, where any unavoidable damage will be minimally visible when you're done or could even be filled and painted over if need be.

In either case I wouldn't try to separate this without also doing something else first. The two things to try are heat and moisture.

Heat will soften cured PVAs so I would warm the area well with a heat gun if you can, being careful of the finish needless to say. If you don't have a heat gun but do have a hairdryer use it, it's better than nothing. Heating was Franklin's primary advice to help remove dried Titebond Original and II on their old FAQ page2.

Acetone can also soften these glues, but acetone will attack most paints so it's unlikely you'll be able to make use of it here. Instead you could try just moistening the wood for about 10 minutes ahead of trying to work the stile off. Some users report that vinegar works better for this but I've been unable to find a head-to-head comparison with plain water so this might just be an example of personal voodoo3.

(I don't have a bar clamp anyway, probably need one for this).

Obviously some clamps of sufficient capacity would be very advantageous, and bar clamps are one of the better types to have a stock of when working on large furniture pieces.

Assuming you can get this apart without undue damage and need to progress before you get a clamp large enough you can use an old method to providing squeezing force, a 'Spanish windlass'. This is basically a sort of tourniquet using a length of cord or rope wound tight with a piece of wood. They can exert more force than you might expect.

Because this is an already finished piece you will want to protect the surface with folded pieces of heavy cardboard (e.g. from boxes), or small blocks of soft wood.


1 Levering against something metal to protect the wood if at all possible. A putty or spackle knife is often used for this, but even an old butter knife or spatula could be used if you have nothing else on hand. If you dent the wood deeply with the levering tool there's a better-than-even chance you won't be able to completely steam the dent out.

2 This, and much of the information it contained, appears to no longer be on their site for some reason; however thankfully portions of it were immortalised in various forum posts while it was up.

3 And obviously vinegar is mostly water.

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  • If neither works alone, heat, moisture, and prying applied all at the same time may be necessary to do the trick.
    – FreeMan
    Oct 18 at 19:18
  • That is what my Answer is suggesting, all three.
    – Graphus
    Oct 18 at 21:44
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    A properly carried out glue joint is stronger than the wood itself. And end-grain glue joint that hasn't been clamped can probably be broken quite easily. I'd give it a go with a putty knife to try to pry it apart personally.
    – WhatEvil
    Oct 18 at 22:40
  • @WhatEvil, I was presuming no end-grain adhesion at all actually given that gap! But that the tenon (guesswork) on the end of the rail would be firmly adhered, at least somewhere on its surface.
    – Graphus
    Oct 19 at 7:11
  • I'd hold off on the moisture to start with, except possbliy getting a very little hot water into the join. The wood-based products often used in these doors can swell up much more easily than real wood, and I don't see confirmation that there's any real wood at all. The panel is likely to be MDF, and the frame could be (it certainly is on my very similar IKEA cupboards).
    – Chris H
    Oct 19 at 9:34
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You will most likely be able to cut through the glue with a utility knife (Ofla or similar) using a fresh blade extended so that it's an inch or so longer than the door is thick. Just hold it flush with the wood on one side, angled slightly inwards, and push down hard -- use a slight sawing motion if necessary. You will cut right through the glue, it's strong but quite soft.

Having done this, use the same technique on the other side of the joint, and pick the lump of glue out so that when you reglue it you don't have the same problem. You don't need a bar-clamp for this -- a ratchet tiedown strap or even a piece of clothesline tied around the width of the door should be more than enough, and the glue you are using should be fine. Just wipe the excess that squeezes out with a wet rag before it fully dries -- or scrape it off with your knife once it's dry.

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