All the magazine articles, and most woodworking books (every one I can recall) summarize one of the basic, but very key, steps in a project with something like, “glue it up.” But the gluing up step can be the most stressful in a project. I know one very accomplished woodworker who said he had to stop having his wife help with glue-ups because of that.
It seems a bit ironic that most of our glues work well as a lubricant for the first several minutes out of the bottle – right when we’re trying to get each piece of wood into it’s final resting position.
The key to at least a lower-stress glue-up, I learned during my class out at Inside Passage. Even though the whole week of my class we made only practice pieces, we had to do a dry run – full clamp-up without glue – preceding every glue-up, and I do that still. Going through the motions without glue lets you find out which parts are going to need more finessing to get lined up or square, and makes sure all the clamps are close by and open to the right size so you don’t waste time hunting down clamps while the glue is drying. Once all the kinks are worked out it’s a much more calm process to unclamp everything, add the lubricant, and clamp it up for good.
In the photo is two-thirds of a panel for the pine dry-sink I’m working on, fully clamped up without the glue. I tipped it up and turned out all but one light to see if my butt joint was tight. The joint was good. But the keen observer will have seen that I wasn’t done with my board prep. I don’t recall how I rationalized going to this stage with the boards not completely flattened or all planed to the same thickness. But having done that, and now having undone it, I’m pretty sure I won’t do it again.