Need advice on Old Glue Seeping out of wood

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Forum topic by CuriousTinkerer posted 06-14-2019 05:08 PM 269 views 0 times favorited 9 replies Add to Favorites Watch
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3 posts in 35 days

06-14-2019 05:08 PM

Topic tags/keywords: box staining sanding old antique glue questions refurbishing finishing arts and crafts

Never really done any woodwork before but I am trying to refinish an old wooden box camera. It had leather on it that I peeled away. Then there was old glue under it that I sanded off. My end goal is to sand away the old stains and hopefully use a wood stain to make this camera look as cool as I think it is.

But I noticed that as my hand sweats holding a sanded side it gets sticky and the glue seems to come back. I got a damp paper towel and wiped around and the glue seems to show up again. Is there anyone who know about glue seeping out of old wood or if it would affect staining in the end?

Side note: I got some aluminum oxide sandpaper and just noticed (after 30 mins of sanding) a diagram with protective gear. Do I need a mask and stuff for this sand paper?

Thanks in advance!

9 replies so far

View HokieKen's profile


9950 posts in 1557 days

#1 posted 06-14-2019 05:21 PM

Any glue residue will absolutely affect staining.

You should wear a respirator (and probably safety glasses) anytime you sand. Not saying that most of us do when we hand sand, but I imagine the manufacturer prints it anyway for liability issues.

For something that old, you probably should wear safety gear, including gloves. Who knows what might have been in the glue they used back then…

-- Kenny, SW VA, Go Hokies!!!

View CuriousTinkerer's profile


3 posts in 35 days

#2 posted 06-14-2019 05:48 PM

Thanks for the quick response! I will pick up a respirator this weekend, fortunately I have gloves and googles already. Any idea how to remove the glue from the wood? It feels like smooth wood until it comes into contact with moisture. When I rubbed the damp paper towel on it it began to bubble/foam slightly (for lack of a better description).

View HokieKen's profile


9950 posts in 1557 days

#3 posted 06-14-2019 05:58 PM

It depends on what kind of glue it is. If it were me, I’d probably just stick with sanding away at it until it’s gone. If you wipe your piece down with some mineral spirits periodically, it should show you areas where glue residue is still present. FWIW, a wipe down with MS will also give you a good idea of how even your stain will be when applied and give you a good indication of areas that need a little more sanding done.

Good luck with it!

-- Kenny, SW VA, Go Hokies!!!

View anneb3's profile


63 posts in 1973 days

#4 posted 06-14-2019 06:23 PM

It depends on what kind of glue it is. .

Wonder if he was using Gorilla glue. If it gets damp it will swell everyware

For leather rubber cement works a lot better.

Good luck with it!

- HokieKen

View HokieKen's profile


9950 posts in 1557 days

#5 posted 06-14-2019 07:59 PM

I doubt it anne. It was an antique camera. I would guess it was most likely some kind of organic glue. Hide glue perhaps. I agree, I’ve attached leather to wood several times and contact cement is the most effective method that I’ve found.

-- Kenny, SW VA, Go Hokies!!!

View Firewood's profile


846 posts in 2053 days

#6 posted 06-14-2019 08:50 PM

If I had to guess, I’d say they used hide glue to affix the leather. Hide glue is not waterproof and will soften with heat or moisture (as you already found out). Maybe try scrubbing the surface with a cloth and hot water to help leach more of the glue out of the wood. If that seems like it may damage the camera, then sand as best you can and try sealing with dewaxed shellac. That should form a barrier that can still be stained, but may not be as dark. Any oil or water based finish can be applied over the dewaxed shellac.

-- Mike - Waukesha, WI

View shipwright's profile


8320 posts in 3217 days

#7 posted 06-14-2019 11:47 PM

The leather was absolutely attached with animal protein glue, more likely fish glue than hide but the fix is the same.

You don’t have glue seeping out of the wood. It is residue on the surface. The best way to remove it is with cold water and a Scotchbrite pad. You can use warm but you risk damaging the glue joints in the box. There is no need to sand the glue and it will destroy any patina you may have if you do.

If it were me, I would replace the leather to make it as nearly original as possible but if you must stain it, just scrub it with cold water until you can see no shiny spots. There will be no blocking of the stain.

-- Paul M ..............the early bird may get the worm but it’s the second mouse that gets the cheese!

View CuriousTinkerer's profile


3 posts in 35 days

#8 posted 06-17-2019 04:18 PM

Thanks so much for all of the responses! My project got delayed so I will work on it in bits this week and hopefully finish it next weekend. I did try out a damp paper towel with cold water and that does seem to work the glue up. Hopefully I can get it and the rest of the leather up and stain this weekend. Also I have never stained anything before… any tips?

View Lazyman's profile


3539 posts in 1806 days

#9 posted 06-17-2019 04:43 PM

I’ve found that synthetic steel wool pad can help, along with the water, remove hide glue more quickly (never worked with fish glue). You can usually find them at Home Depot along with the the sandpaper and real steel wool (don’t use real steel wool). I think that the ones I use are rated as a #000. As the pad gets loaded with glue, just rinse it out in some warm water.

It is a little hard to give advice on staining, especially without seeing it. Even then you may get 20 different answers from 19 people. My best advice is to try it on some scrap wood of the same kind just to see how it works but since you are working with an old piece it will probably look different than the scrap.

-- Nathan, TX -- Hire the lazy man. He may not do as much work but that's because he will find a better way.

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