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How do I temporarily attach two pieces of wood together, face to face, in a way that's strong enough that I can, say, run it through a saw, but that doesn't leave marks on the wood or get in the way of the tool?

For example, let's say I have a piece of wood with jagged edges and I want to temporarily stick it on another piece of wood with a straight edge so I can guide it along a table saw or router fence.

  • Clamps get in the way of the table, and are sometimes hard to position accurately.
  • Wood glue is permanent.
  • Screws and nails leave holes.
  • Two sided tape is thick and squishy (has some play, no good esp. on a router), leaves residue.

How can I do this? I have this struggle a lot.

  • From the sounds of it are you are trying to use a table saw to create parallel edges on wood planks/boards? – Matt Nov 10 '15 at 13:01
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    @matt That is one of many use cases. Or like I joined a bunch of panels then cut a rectangle out at an angle to the grain (edges were just a chaotic group of board corners). Another one is routing straight lines not parallel to a board's edge. The thing I'm working on right now involves a bunch of wood "tiles" and is more complex and harder to explain but also involves a need for temporarily attaching wood together. It is just a thing that I need to do for lots of different reasons. – Jason C Nov 10 '15 at 13:53
  • Hide glue is reversible with heat and humidity. – Monte Glover Sep 30 '19 at 0:44
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As sketchy as it sounds masking tape and superglue (cyano or CA) can work very well for this type of thing. Many people have relied on types of double-sided tape, carpet tape being particularly favoured for its strong hold, for this sort of job for many years, but the hold can tend to creep with continual strain especially during warmer weather. And as you also mention it can leave a bothersome residue on the wood. Masking tape and superglue almost completely resolve both issues.

What you do is put tape on both pieces and simply superglue the tape together. Shown better than I can describe it in words in this YouTube video from Crimson Custom Guitars.

Masking tape is of course purpose-made not to leave residue and the thinner glue layer means it's less subject to creep. And the hold of the superglue is very strong and rigid, but despite this you can pop the two pieces apart with minimal prying. The masking tape then peels from the wood with ease.

Wood glue is permanent.

Something to help with this is to glue a piece of paper in between the two pieces of wood. This is often done with corner blocks to allow conventional clamping of mitres for example. I'm not actually a big fan of this method overall (works best if using hide glue for one thing) but I thought I'd mention the tip.

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    I can finally put all this painter's tape that's been taking up shelf space for so long to work. – Jason C Nov 10 '15 at 14:05
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    @JasonC, ditto. Gotta have four, five rolls of masking tape around the house for "just in case" (I actually barely use the stuff) but this is totally a reason to have some. – Graphus Nov 10 '15 at 14:53
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    I have shown like 5 different people the glue and tape thing, and thus 5 more minds have been blown. This is such an awesome technique. I have found that for attaching large surfaces it is sometimes easier to only put tape and glue on a few spots instead of a long strip, because sometimes it can still be very hard to pry apart and you don't want to damage your pieces with a pry bar. If you can leave a bit of tape hanging off an edge too that also makes removal much easier. I've had good results and < 5 second set times with gorilla super glue (not the gel). – Jason C Nov 18 '15 at 18:52
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As much as I hate a non-DIY solution for this, a great option is toggle clamps:

Toggle clamps from Google Images

Although these are more suitable for more permanent jigs, they provide good clamping with minimal interference with the tools you are using to shape the wood.

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  • Whoa I gotta get me some of these. I also see a few companies that make them with t track mounts. – Jason C Nov 10 '15 at 14:00
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23 gauge pin nailer! I know it sounds bad and wrong, but it actually works.

Next best is hot melt glue, which doesn't squirm like tape and is readily removable.

For your example of a waney edge through a tablesaw, there are sled designs that use toggle clamps.

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I do guitar joinery,and I'll give you a method that's proven invaluable, and it starts with regular original Titebond glue in the red label. (I don't endorse them or anything, I suppose because they've never endorsed me, either.)

Anyway, besides some clamps, the only other necessary element in pulling off this old circus trick is the planning ahead. You'll use minute amounts the size of a pencil eraser or so, applied with a slightly dampened q-tip or an artist's brush, painting these glue dots on one side of the surfaces to be temporarily joined, about a 1/4-inch to a 1/2-inch or so from the seam where the faces meet.

You'll only need clamps to apply sufficient pressure for the recommended safe curing time. You get to decide where you can apply enough of those glue dots, perhaps adjusting the locations of some where wood is to be removed. this is to assure that, once cured, they'll hold the two pieces together safely for machining or shaping or carving or whatever.

You can complete those operations, and then pry the two pieces apart with any old thin blade, heated in boiling water if you like. Gently push & rock the blade into each (marked) glue spot, and you're home free.

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  • "I don't endorse them or anything, I suppose because they've never endorsed me, either." 😂 – Jason C Sep 29 '19 at 0:20
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Turners tape. It is the same thickness as masking tape, and holds very securely. I use the stuff from Woodcraft. It is fairly expensive, but holds extremely well. Rockler sells something similar. Leaves no residue if removed in a reasonable time frame (I seldom leave it on for more than a day).

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