I used hidden screws and wood glue on the joints of the legs and supports of a table*. When I started to stain the piece of furniture with a very dark stain, it simply would not take on the areas right around joints and a couple spots where wood glue had dribbled, and I had wiped it off before it dried.

To my despair, I realized that I had accidentally purchased wood glue that does not stain (Titebond Original Wood Glue to be precise). The stain "beads up" like water on a hydrophobic surface, and can be just wiped away.

What are my options for fixing this? The several of the "unstained" spots are in very visible areas.

  • Sand/scrape the glue off the surface...
    – keshlam
    Apr 28 '16 at 1:49
  • 1
    @keshlam I always sand down the area with an orbital sander after making a joint once the glue is dry. I did this before staining, so although no glue was actually visible before staining, clearly a light sanding was not enough to remove glue that was absorbed by the wood. How deep do I need to sand to make sure the glue is gone?
    – IQAndreas
    Apr 28 '16 at 1:54

Almost every glue commonly in use won't take stain, and one or two that are said to stain don't stain as well as you'd like (similar story with 'stainable filler' incidentally) so it's good practice generally when glueing to take steps to prevent squeeze-out being left on the surface of the wood.

The main ways people do this include wiping up the glue while it's still liquid, removing the glue when it has partially hardened to a sort of rubbery consistency, waiting for it to fully harden before scraping and/or sanding it off and last but not least taping surfaces to prevent glue getting on them in the first place.

This previous Q&A has more information on this, Glue spots under stain.

What are my options for fixing this? The several of the "unstained" spots are in very visible areas.

Very thorough sanding or scraping are nearly your only options here, although you could also switch to using 'gel stain' which despite its name is not actually a stain in the conventional sense as it sits on the surface of the wood and doesn't colour it by soaking in.

How deep do I need to sand to make sure the glue is gone?

Deep enough is the only guide here.

Glue penetration varies with species and cut of wood, the glue type and how liquid it is, temperature and humidity and perhaps other factors too but even if by some means you could find out the exact level of penetration, e.g. X thousandths of an inch, this wouldn't be of help anyway as there's no way to sand or scrape off exactly that much wood.

So you sand or scrape until testing reveals you've done enough, that's pretty much it.

  • This pretty much covers it. Not much to do aside from that.
    – Matt
    Apr 28 '16 at 13:12

I almost agree with another answer. However I would like to add my two cents as I just had a similar problem.

  1. I have not as well found a glue that is "stainable". Most state they are "paintable" but this is not the same for stain. Perhaps oil base may have a shot but I find this unlikely.

  2. I sanded mine without much scraping and this was wrong as it takes too long. Corners were impossible. I used a utility knife, scraper and chisels. Some joints were badly scraped and others impossible to get at. You will want to try this but it takes a lot of experience.

  3. In the future use wood conditioner. This will reveal glue without the staining.

  4. In the future use an artist brush to apply glue to "both" joints. This is sufficient and less mess.

  5. In the future use a wet rag or tack cloth around all joints. This will at the least keep glue minimal.

  6. After working with the error you can apply multiple layers that will eventually cover the approach you decide. This works to an extent that the glue will look like grain. That is providing you attempted to scrape.

  7. You can use trim to cover its visibilty. You will need some sanding as stained wood will not glue well.

  8. Paint over it instead if all else fails. I choose this if I decide it is too much work.

  9. Traditionally you can choose to make artistic and engraved designs to cover it. This requires skill in art.

Lesson learned. But wood is an imperfect art and will look good however you end your work.

  • 2
    Re. your number 3, 'conditioners' (these are just diluted finish) are only useful on a few species and as they will always limit how dark the stain can get the wood you want to avoid using them where they're not needed. If you just need to reveal glue marks you can wipe down with spirits or water. Water will reveal glue as the PVA on the surface will turn milky. Spirits reveals glue in the same way that 'conditioner' will — wood goes darker except where glue prevents the spirits soaking in. In both cases the advantage is as they both eventually evaporate completely.
    – Graphus
    May 1 '16 at 5:21

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