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Wood Glues Uncovered

When it comes to choosing the right wood glue for your project, the choices are distinct. There are a number of chemically different adhesives, varying in shelf life, adhesion, working times, clean up and cost, amongst other traits. This guide should help even the novice woodworker choose which glue is right for his or her application.

Two Part Epoxies

Epoxy is a versatile adhesive since it is a "two part system." Actually, one can add fillers, thickeners and pigments, making it a multi-component system. Epoxy Resin is general composed of either a petroleum or a oily-wood extract. The hardener, which comes in a variety of speeds and viscosities, is an amine component which is mixed in either a volume or a weight ratio with the resin, depending on the system. Fillers can vary from wood based to fiberglass based, and also differ in strength, density and sandability.

  • waterproof when cured (ideal for boatbuilding)
  • versatile
  • long working time
  • high tensile strength
  • heat resistant (up to 175-200 degrees F)
  • good on number of substrates (not just wood)
  • good for oily wood
  • long shelf life

  • Cons:
  • expensive
  • unforgiving to use and when mixing
  • difficult to cleanup
  • long cure time
  • requires more safety equipment than some other wood glues

  • Examples: West System, MAS Epoxies, System Three Resins

    5 Minute Epoxy

    Similar to the general two part epoxies, but with quicker cure time and pot life. Some brands are water proof, some are not. All 5 minute epoxies are a 1:1 mix ratio, by volume. Some lines claim that fillers can be added.

  • quick curing
  • short clamp time
  • easy to mix
  • good on a number of substrates

  • Cons:
  • quick curing
  • less work time
  • not as strong
  • only System Three and MAS are waterproof
  • not good for larger applications

  • Examples: WEST System G-5, Quick Cure, MAS Rapid Cure, Permatex 5 Minute Epoxy

    Urea Formaldehyde Glues

    Urea-Formaldehyde glues comes as either a one part or two part system. It creates a high strength, rigid seal upon curing and is ideal for adhering curved or bent structures. It is a waterproof system when cured, but water-soluable when uncured (making it easy to clean up).

  • easy to use
  • long cure time
  • ideal for veneers
  • cures at room temperature
  • less expensive than epoxy

  • Cons:
  • contains formaldehyde - thus good ventilation, respirators, and gloves are highly suggested
  • long clamp time
  • shorter shelf life than epoxy

  • Examples: Weldwood Plastic Resin Glue (one-part, mixed with water)

    Polyurethane Glues

    A long open time, one-part system, polyurethanes are simple and easy to use. It is ideal for laminations of pourous materials. Polyurethanes are water proof, but moistening the surface before adhering aids in curing.

  • cheaper than epoxies
  • easy to clean up
  • water resistant
  • one-part
  • easy to use

  • Cons:
  • stains skin (gloves suggested)
  • excess glue needs to chiseled out
  • more expensive than "Yellow Glues"
  • requires moist substrates

  • Examples: Gorilla Glue, System Three Glue, Titebond HiPURformer

    PVA Workshop Glues

    Also know as yellow glue. PVAs are ideal for exterior woodworking that doesn't require a "waterproof" bond. Easy to work with, to clean up and to sand.

  • Inexpensive
  • simple wood glue
  • ideal for most furniture making applications
  • quick cure time

  • Cons:
  • Less bond adhesion
  • lower tensile strength
  • water-resistant though not at all waterproof
  • short open time

  • Examples: Titebond II Premium and Titebond III Ultimate

    Penetrating Epoxy Systems

    Not often used for bonding wood, these epoxies are use primarily in sealing wood. They strengthen the wood, and are ideal for treating rotten wood.

    Examples: TotalBopat Penetrating Epoxy, Git Rot, End Rot

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