Choose Your Glue Wisely – Woodworking Glue Basics

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glueIt’s a sticky business this glue stuff. Glue is, after all, just a bond. There’s the glue that holds your marriage together, and there’s the glue that holds your wood together. If you don’t know which glue is more important than the other, may God help you.

There are only around 8 billion different types of glues and adhesives to choose from. From Elmer’s white glue to Gorilla Glue and all that’s in between…. which one is right for you? For the record, rubber cement is not a glue. It is, however, a medium in which certain artists of a certain age can express certain nuances… whatever.

Learn Which Glue Works For Which Situation

Just the types of glue are mind-boggling, not to mention the variations on each theme. There’s two part glue, hide glue made from animals, glue activated from a spray bottle, and of course the always ubiquitous Super Glue. (Super Glue used in prank situations will not be covered here, as the author has no knowledge of said pranks…)

The Best Glues for Woodworking

Most woodworkers use an aliphatic based glue that can come in various forms.  Aliphatic refers to a group of organic chemical compounds in which the carbon atoms are linked in open chains.  I’m pretty sure this has nothing to do with the bond in marriage but I’m certainly not dumb enough to ask.  Fast setting, delayed setting, short open time, long open time – like I said before, the possibilities even for variations on one type of glue are endless.

Titebond makes a glue that is moisture resistant and also makes a version that is waterproof. Sold under the name of Titebond II, the yellow, water resistant kind dries clear, and has got to be one of the most popular glues around. It has decent open time so you can get your clamping done without too much yelling.  Their version of waterproof glue is called Titebond III and is brownish in color and works great. If you’re doing a project that can even remotely be exposed to moisture, this is the one to use.  Why take the chance on using a glue that will break down with long exposure to water? Spend the extra dough and use Titebond III and CYA!!!

Specialty Glues for Molding

There is also Liquid Nails Molding Adhesive on the market, which dries really fast.  Let’s say you have a tricky outside miter with some crown molding. With this glue you can hold it in place, let it dry, and then come back with a pin or micro nail and secure the joint, all in the span of a few minutes. Works wonders when there’s no one to help hold while you nail. Plus sometimes, the pieces are so small you can’t get a nail gun in there anyway!

Other Special-Feature Glues

Some glues say they take stain, others say they don’t shrink (like if they did they would tell you?).  Double stick tape could even be called a glue with a special application.  More to come on this.

To be honest, in all my woodworking projects, most often I just pick out Titebond II or III.  They do the job in almost all woodworking situations.

Want to take a test on your glue knowledge?  Here’s a 28-question quiz – I kid you not.  Post your score here!

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About Brad

Brad Baker is Vice President of Operations at Miller Woodworking in the Los Angeles area, designers and builders of custom cabinetry and interior millwork for the rich and famous. They make the impossible, and their work has been featured in fancy schmantsy architectural glossies more than a few times. All that high end creative stuff aside, he maintains a strong spiritual belief that the real sign of a good woodworker is all 10 fingers. He and his wife Ann Baker co-write for HomeFixated. Ann is CEO of Publicity Pros, a firm that provides “All Things Publicity” services and training for small businesses. She’s a hopeless nerd who revels in anything and everything having to do with the technology of attracting attention. And, no joke, she loves to bake.

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1 thought on “Choose Your Glue Wisely – Woodworking Glue Basics”

  1. You’re right about the wide varieties of glues out there. I too tend to turn to Titebond II and III most often. Gorilla glue is another option but I have become so used to using Titebond and can pretty well predict how much “open time” I’ll need and can adjust accordingly. Thanks for the article.


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