Updated: Aug 21
Every woodworker needs to use glue, and there are many different types of woodworking glues to choose from. Each adhesive has a specific application that its best designed for. Here, I will be sharing with you the types of glue I use in my woodshop including the tips on their applications.
7 Types of Woodworking Glues
Hide Glue - (Restoration Glue)
Cyanoacrylic - (Super Glue)
Spray Adhesive - (Paper Glue)
Epoxy - (Strongest Glue)
Epoxy Putty - (Filler Glue)
Polyurethane - (Lamination Glue)
Let’s start with PVAs aka yellow glue. These are the old-school wood glues and are the most common. Most glues of this type are also water-soluble. In fact, you’ve probably used one in your childhood, Elmer’s glue is a PVA.
This type of adhesive has a strong bond on wood-to-wood but it won’t work well with other materials like metal and plastic. PVAs are water-soluble and bond as they air dry. This takes a long time to dry, but they are more forgiving than other glue. Because it's water-based the bond is more flexible and moves well with the wood's seasonal movement.
Titebond has 3 variations of its product with varying strength and use.
Titebond Original Wood Glue is for wood and can be used with leather. The set time is roughly 15-30min. Fully cured after 8hrs. They all take 24 hours to fully dry.
Titebond II is a faster setting glue, its open time is about 10-15 mins.
Titebond III is waterproof, good for your outdoor projects, and is the strongest of the three.
If you're going to be using a lot of glue, then go by the gallon. I buy the 16-ounce bottle first, then the 32-ounce bottles, and just refill the 16-oz bottles over and over again.
When doing a glue-up with multiple components, for example, a frame and panel, apply the glue to all pieces separately then assemble and clamp them together. The glue bond won't activate until the two wet surfaces touch each other. This gives you a little more open time for assembly.
The oldest type of woodworking glue that I know of is hide glue. The use of hide adhesives dates back to ancient times when it was made out of fish guts. However, it is mostly synthetic these days. Many instruments and antique furniture are made with hide glue. Why you might ask? What’s so unique about hide glue? Because the bond is reversible when heated.
Traditional hide glue can be adjusted to have different degrees of tack using heating and mixing for the right consistency. You have the capability of making it have a longer setting time to facilitate enough time to assemble joints before the drying of the first joints. You can also adjust it to act the opposite way, a faster setting pace.
Another great advantage of hide glue is that it’s possible to reactivate it. For furniture restoration, great woodworkers are able to reactivate hide adhesive using heating and moisture. When I worked for a furniture restoration we had a heated bucket that kept the glue soft and liquid while applying it.
Stick to yellow, these days there's no real need for Hyde glue unless you're doing a restoration project or building an instrument.
3. Cyanoacrylate aka Super Glue
There are two main reasons why you should use
CA Glue. It bonds to any surface and it works instantly. Cyanoacrylates or CA glues are strong fast-acting adhesives. These have widespread use including household, woodworking, industrial, and even medical purposes.
These are fast-acting, ranging from 10 seconds to 1 minute of curing time. The fast adhesive action also means cyanoacrylates don’t require clamping. The consistency of super glue also varies widely from as runny as water to gel form.
CA also sticks with other glue since it doesn’t require porous substances to work. For woodworking, it’s perfect for filling a crack or instant repair. Sawdust can be added in holes when filling it with CA to match the wood’s grain color.
Often I use CA Accelerators. Why would I do this? Easy. It reduces the risk of displacing or misalignment. Basically, it's so quick that it instantly cures. Accelerators also boost the super glue’s bond on wood by helping it creep into its pores.
I only work with one type of accelerator. I’ve used most of the other alternatives but the liquid spray Accelerator is the best. The aerosol ones set quickly but oftentimes fail the integrity of the glue, peeling off in a clump. If you’ve never used accelerators in your life, you will never look back, they are a game-changer.
Bob’s Glues have multiple thicknesses and consistency. The thin glue has the consistency of water. The others are slightly thicker and take a few seconds longer to cure. The thinner the CA, the easier for it to dry. It makes it easier for it to creep into porous objects. The thicker ones are stronger but all are great for filling cracks. I tend to use the medium: Thick the most but my advice is to get all these 3, they're inexpensive and you never know
I always have these 3 stocked in my workshop.
Pro Tip: CA Glue
When filling small cracks in wood, use the Medium: Thick CA and add sawdust making a slurry. Repeat the process until completely filled. For larger cracks use epoxy.
4. Spray Adhesive
Spray adhesive is mainly used for adhering paper down to a substrate. For example, bonding technical drawings down to plywood to make a template. I find 3M Hi strength to have the best bond. Other generic sprays can be ok but make sure you're using hi-strength. There's nothing more frustrating than cutting into a form and having the paper slip off or have it get sucked into the machine.
This is the same spray from above, just larger. You can also buy it on a pack of 4 if you want to stock and use it more often.
Pro Tip: For Spray Adhesive
Spraying one side and applying right away while the adhesives wet will give a weaker bond. For best bonds spray both sides (paper and plywood) wait 10-15 seconds for it to get tacky, then press them firmly together.
Epoxy is such a versatile glue for the woodworker. It can be used as an adhesive, wood stabilizer, finish, and gap filler. It comes in two parts, resin, and hardener. The bond is super strong and goes as hard as a rock. Depending on the application, the finish can be customized to your delight. You can go clear, colored, or a matching wood finish by adding dyes. The cons? Epoxy is expensive. I mainly use it when gluing plastic or metal to wood.
The cheaper epoxy is Incredible Solutions: Table Top Epoxy. For when you need a lot, like doing an epoxy live edge table.
1 Gallon Table Top & Bar Top Epoxy Resin, Ultra Clear Finish, Self Leveling, Perfect for DIY Epoxy Counter Tops, Tabletops & Bars
On the more expensive side, but by far the best epoxy system is West System Epoxy Resin. This glue is often used in the marine industry and used on boats to waterproof them. The bundle is what I use because it has its own pumps for less messy and easy accurate measurement. The West Epoxy system comes in various drying times too. You can buy each product according to your use and proficiency with your work. Its base resin 105B is compatible with all of its curing agent variants ranging from a quick 12-minute cure to a long 62-minute cure! This glue is a staple in the shop because it will bond anything together.
West System 105-B Epoxy Resin Bundle with 206-B Slow Epoxy Hardener and 300 Mini Pumps Epoxy Metering Pump Set
Get the pumps! The accurate measuring not only makes your process easier and cleaner but will save you money in the long run.
A great compliment to the West System Epoxy bundle is this high-density filler. It works with the West System 105 Resin/Hardener combination, G/flex Epoxy 650, or G/5 Five-Minute Adhesive. The 404 variant is the most versatile option from the West System filler line. This has the tightest bond of all the fillers.
For reinforcing joints, I use the System Three T-88 Kit. It's made for tough conditions. T-88 can be used on any material. Wood, Metal, Plastic etc. It's a simple 1:1 mixing ratio and very strong. The open time for it will depend on the temperature but I find that it ranges from 20-45 minutes. Use it only for select conditions because it's the most expensive per ounce versus the other 2 options I mentioned. However, it works like magic and is essential in any workshop.
Pro Tip: T88 Epoxy
Because this type of glue is a heated chemical reaction it can be put in the freezer, which instantly stops the glue bond from reacting. You can then take it out of the freezer the next day.
For cheap no-nonsense filler, the Epoxy Putty Stick can come in handy. It comes in the form of a stick and gets activated by cutting a piece and then kneading it. No need for special equipment. You can use your hand to mix it and then use your fingers to push and fill in the cracks. It bonds with plastic, fiberglass, brass, nylon, aluminum, glass, and wood and comes in different colors but I use the walnut and mahogany variants most of the time.
Polyurethane Glue is what is used in most plywood. This type of glue also works well with non-porous materials like plastics, metal, ceramics, and stone. Unlike water-based glues, it doesn’t air dry
but dries by a heated chemical reaction. The adhesive has a liquid consistency but will fill in the voids on wood (or other surfaces) creating a very strong bond. Polyurethane Glue works best for wood-bent laminations because it is inexpensive, fills voids, and has a long open time of 45min.
Since Polyurethane Glue has a longer open time than PVA adhesives. That’s more time for you to fix the joints with your clamps. Make sure the layers are “perfect” because once this sets, the bond will be stronger than the wood itself. When it dries, it’ll be extremely hard to remove it. There are no solvents that will reverse Polyurethane Glue.
Pro Tips: with Polyurethane Glue
If you're using a vacuum bag the drying process can be accelerated by throwing a heated blanket on top of it. I usually put vinyl tape down as protection underneath the joint to make sure it doesn't adhere to the form. Use denatured alcohol to wipe off excess completely.
Here's a quick summary of each type of wood adhesive.
Polyvinyl Acetate (PVA)
- Versatile in wood
- Only bonds wood together
- Tack can be adjusted
- Great for furniture restoration and instruments
- Can be reactivated
- Takes some time to experiment with and get used to.
Cyanoacrylate or Super Glue
- Dries quickly
-Come in various thickness
- Can be brittle
- Bond not as strong as epoxy
- Versatile, works on many materials
- Long Open time
- Rock strong
- Can be used as a waterproof Finish
- Long Open time
- Very strong bond
- Best for complex laminations
- Long curing time
- Hard to remove when dry
What's your go-to woodworking glue and why? Share your insights down below.
Disclosure: I only recommend products that I have used myself. All opinions expressed here are my own. This post may contain affiliate links that may earn a small commission, at no extra cost to you.