wood glue

Someone asked me recently about the type of wood glue I use in my shop. I actually use several different types, so I thought I'd make a quick list.

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PVA (polyvinyl acetate) glue

This is what people usually mean when they refer to wood glue. It's also called yellow glue. Common brands are ®Elmers and ®Titebond.

This is the glue I use most often. It has good wood to wood bonding and cleans up with water. There are several types on the market, some of which are water resistant. They also have different "open times" (the amount of time you can move things around without disturbing the glue strength).

PVA glue requires clamping so check the label for how long to clamp. It doesn't take stain, so make sure you clean up any excess. When wet wipe up excess with a damp rag, otherwise scrape or sand it off.

polyurethane glue

Sometimes referred to as gorilla glue, however ®Gorilla Glue is a brand name not a type of glue (they have other types of glue as well). Polyurethane glue is waterproof and it expands (up to three times it's volume) as it dries. Some people swear by it, but I don't use it often, mainly because of the expansion.

While it makes it good for filling gaps, it also makes a real mess. It's sticky when wet and doesn't wash off easily. If you get it on your skin you pretty much have to wait for it to wear off over time. However, it's strong and good for bonding dissimilar materials as well as wood.

hide glue

This is one of the the oldest wood glues known. It's strong and the bond lasts at least 3000 years (examples from ancient Egyptians, Babylonians, and other cultures are still holding.)

Liquid hide glue has a short shelf life. You can buy liquid hide glue (check the date on the bottle), or you can mix your own by adding flakes or granules to hot water. Hide glue is sticky and messy, although it cleans up with water.

Hide glue's strength and weakness is that it is reactivated with moisture. It's not good for use in wet conditions, however, it's great for veneering. If you need to move the veneer, get rid of a bubble, or otherwise shift things, just spritz the veneer lightly with water. Then run a household iron on low heat over the veneer and it will lift off. (Best to buy your own iron. You really don't want to iron a silk blouse after using the iron for hide glue!)

I like hide glue, but find it difficult to use. I want to experiment more with the ready mixed liquid glue. I'll get back to you once I have.

hot melt glue

Hot melt glue requires a glue gun to melt the glue sticks. It is easy to use and sets nearly instantly. It comes in a wide variety of strengths, from professional grade to crafts use. I use it mainly for gluing fabric to wood (liners in the bottom of jewelry boxes, for instance). Be careful, the glue gets hot!


Epoxy is a two part plastic resin and hardener that chemically react when mixed. It makes a strong bond on most surfaces. Until it is mixed it has a long shelf life. It sets hard and has good gap filling properties. It also set quickly - check the label, different glues have different set times.

cyanoacrylate (CA)

Also known as super glue, this is a quick, nearly instantaneous setting glue. Again, not specifically a wood glue, it is good on plastic and ceramic, etc. I use it for gluing pen tubes to the wood.

It's also great if you have a piece of wood that chipped off, or a loose knot that you want to keep in place. Just put on a drop of glue and hold the wood in place for 30-60 seconds (again, check the label for that specific glue). Don't get it on you. It bonds skin to skin beautifully. How embarrassing to have to visit the doc because you glued your fingers together.

in summary: wood glues

Those are the glues that I tend to keep on hand. I always date the bottle when I get it. I toss yellow glue, CA glue and polyurethane glue after one year. Hide glue that I mix I use within a week or so. Check the manufacturer for liquid hide glue's shelf life. Epoxy and hot melt last for years.

Finally, I recommend that you read the labels and stick with the guidelines, especially regarding clamping time. Keep in mind that temperature will effect the clamping time.

Happy gluing.......

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