I often find myself repairing wood. Maybe it is broken. Maybe someone else tried to fix it. The first is always an easier fix than the latter.
To remove old glue, a heat gun is a handy tool to have around. It won't, necessarily, get all the glue off, but it helps. You just have to be careful not to scorch the wood.
The two broken pieces here, were gorilla glued onto the main piece, but were crooked. (Regular gorilla glue, although it works on wood, is not ideal.) A little heat separated them nicely.
One of the hardest things about woodworking is patience. When fixing an item like this, I'll have to work in sections. I'll work on attaching the smaller carved piece to the larger carved piece first.
I did a rough sanding over everything, trying to get the old glue off first. And, what I couldn't get off, I just roughed up.
If a piece of wood breaks like this, and it hasn't been "fixed" like in my situation, it's best not to sand. Leave it be. It should perfectly match up to the other side, so when you apply the glue, it'll clamp together nicely.
Get a good wood glue. Any kind will do. I like using little brushes as it helps me be more precise and not get glue on my jeans. Thoroughly coat the area.
Clamps are a woodworkers best friend. If you don't have any, ask a neighbor! If they don't, you can use rubber bands and weights. Just make sure everything is level and back together as it should be.
If someone tells you that you can stain wood glue, they are lying. Once clamped, get a wet rag and wash that stuff off!
Handy tip: For getting glue in to small, hard to reach places, a syringe works great! This one is re-purposed from my toddler's Tylenol bottle. (Don't get me started on teething!)
Gloves are good, too. I tend to use my fingers a lot to wipe glue here and there. This way, my skin is protected.
Here is where patience comes in. You have to wait for the glue to dry.
Ugh. I know.
You can work on something else in the meantime. And, once it's dry, then you can come back and do the next step.
When I reattached the carving, it ended up with 3 clamps, a rubber band, and a weight on it! In the end, just do whatever you have to do to get them to stay together evenly.
The best part about wood glue is that once an area is broken, and fixed, it's unlikely it'll ever break again. Okay, okay, it's unlikely the wood will ever break on that particular grain line again. That's because the glue bond is stronger than the grain bond.
Another BFF of the woodworker is wood filler. This helps seal gaps in the wood, and give a nice smooth finish overall.
I'm not a huge fan of wood filler, because I've yet to find one I really like. I tried a fourth this weekend, that was pretty expensive, but I have to admit it did a really great job.
Note: If you're going to be staining the wood afterward, you'll need to make sure the wood filler is stainable. If it isn't, there is no way, in the world, the wood filler is ever going to tint.
This piece had some work done already.
The can will tell you to apply, and let the filler dry. The above is what happens when you do that. Gloppy. Mess. And, filler isn't easy to sand, either. Especially on something that's carved.
I tend to apply, let sit for a couple seconds, and then immediately sand it off. This does two things. One, it gets all the excess filler off really quickly and easily. Two, it adds dust from the wood, created by the sandpaper, in with the filler. This, I've found, helps it stain better later. (I've also used this "sanding right away" technique while glue is drying, when I won't need a filler, and it works pretty well!)
For the gloppy piece, a little piece of coarse sandpaper will do the trick. I've found hand-sanding is always better in these situations. Power tools can get out of control really quickly, sanding way too much away.
So, when it's all done, glued, wood filled, and sanded, the pieces are once again renewed and alive, and ready for staining!
There's rarely a need to throw perfectly good things away. They just, sometimes, need a little TLC.