Woodworking Glues

With all of the gluing products on the market today, choosing the right type for your needs, and using it correctly, can get tricky. For help, we turned ot the WOOD Magazine staffers who design and build the projects featured in our publication. We'll tel

Choosing the right glue

First, choose the glue that's right for the job

The first time you glued two pieces of wood together, you probably reached for your bottle of good o'' yellow woodworker's glue. It worked, so you stuck with it. But if you've ever wondered if there's a better glue for a particular job, check our What's in Woodworking Glue Chart, and be confident in your choice. Make a copy of this chart and post it near where you store your glues, and you'll never again scratch your head over which glue to use.

Our pros' best gluing tips
One sure way to gauge the expertise of a woodworker is to examine the joints on his or her projects. Are they free of glue squeeze-out and rock-solid, even after many years of use? If so, they probably learned (the hard way, in some cases) many of the tips we'll share here. You'll learn how to use each of the eight glues in the chart, but because yellow, white, and water-resistant glues are similar in the way you apply, work, and clamp them, we'll discuss them together.

Good glue techniques

Yellow, white, and water-resistant glues: the old standbys
You probably use one or more of these three similar glues more often than any other type with good reason. They are versatile, easy-to-use, and affordable, and they provide strong bonds. The next time you reach for one of these glues, consider trying the following tips:

  • For the strongest bond, make sure your pieces fit together well. Then cover both joining surfaces with a thin layer of glue. You can spread it with a brush, a paint roller, or Jim's favorite the plastic core of a disposable foam paintbrush as shown.
  • Clamp with even pressure all along the joint, but not too hard or you'll squeeze all the glue out and make a weak joint.
  • For small areas, mask the wood adjacent to the joint with masking tape to prevent the squeeze-out from getting on your work. For longer joints, remove the squeeze-out with a damp cloth while it's still wet, "rolling" the cloth as you go to keep from smearing the excess glue on the adjacent surfaces.


  • To minimize squeeze-out on the face side of your projects, Chuck suggests you bring the two pieces together at a slight angle, joining the face edges first, as shown at left. As you lay the pieces flat to clamp them, most of the squeeze-out will be on the back side.


Here are a couple of tips that apply only to water-resistant glue:

  • It tends to separate, so mix it well before each use.
  • Wear your shop apron when using water-resistant glue it doesn't wash out of clothing.

Polyurethane glue

Polyurethane glue: the promising newcomer

Before this glue debuted on the market a few years ago, you had to mix two components together to create a waterproof glue. Not any longer. For your outdoor projects, give this glue a try, and you'll like it. Just keep the following points in mind:


  • This product needs a little moisture to make a strong bond. So before applying polyurethane glue to dry woods, wipe the area to be joined with a damp cloth.
  • After clamping, the squeeze-out will appear as a brownish foam. Chuck says, "Resist the temptation to wipe it off when it's wet, or you'll end up with a sticky mess." After this foam hardens, it can be cleaned up by slicing it off with a sharp chisel, bevel side down, working the edge across the joint.
  • Buy only as much as you'll use in a year because humidity can cause this glue to prematurely turn to a useless gel. Extend the shelf life by keeping the glue bottle closed as much as possible.

Why not hide glue?
Antique furniture restoration experts and some woodworking purists may wonder why we don't use hide glue in our shop. Historical considerations aside, hide glue's chief advantage its extremely long open time is also its chief disadvantage. Jan says, "We just never use it. White and yellow glues allow enough open time for virtually any assembly you're likely to run across, and you won't need to wait overnight for every joint you clamp. Also, unlike joints made with hide glue, joints made with these glues won't weaken overtime."

If you like this project, please check out more than 1,000 shop-proven paper and downloadable woodworking project plans in the WOOD Store.

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