The 7 Tips Every Woodworker Should Know About Glue

Last Updated:  July 1, 2021

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When we first get into woodworking most of us are surprised to learn that glue makes the world go ’round. We conjure up an image of a flannel-clad, burly man sawing tree trunks and hammering nails.

But no, not all woodworkers are burly men and we don’t use nails so much anymore. But glue….that’s what we buy in bulk. I use gallons and gallons of glue every year. 

Since glue is such an important part of woodworking, here are 7 things every new woodworker (every woodworker, for that matter) should know about glue.

#1 Blue Tape and CA Glue

There are a couple of options when it comes to temporarily attaching two pieces. One is double-sided tape, and while this is the strongest method, it is much more messy and intensive. Good double-sided tape is really tough to get loose and clean up. I still use when I need ultra strong temporary adhesion, but otherwise I use….

Blue tape and CA glue are wonderful materials for temporarily joining two surfaces. It can be used to attach router templates for patterns. I like to use it to attach a piece of sandpaper to a flat surface (usually my table saw) and use it to sand boxes. You can also attach a strip of sandpaper to a block of wood to create a sanding block.

It’s really a simple technique. A piece of masking or painter’s tape is put on each surface, spread a bead of CA glue on one side, and then attach.

I extend the tape beyond the edges to make it easy to align once I flip it over. Otherwise, you won’t be able to see where the tape is on the underside of the piece.

This technique is so effective that I can create my favorite blue-tape-and-CA-glue masterpiece…DOUBLE DRILL! (watch the video to really experience Double Drill).

It’s also strong enough to create an impromptu tool rack. (Note: this is a joke…don’t attach things to the ceiling…they could fall on you).

Joking aside, these silly shenanigans show how strong CA glue and blue tape can be.

#2 Sizing End Grain

If were to look at the end of a piece of wood under a microscope, you would see that they look like a group of straws or a broom. From the end you can see many more gaps than if you look at it from the side.

When you put two pieces of wood together with the end grain of one to the side grain of the other, glue soaks into the gaps of the end grain and starves the joint for glue. To fix this, pack some glue into the end grain and let it dry for about 10-15 minutes. Then, apply more glue and it will sit on top of the partially dried glue that’s acting as a seal of sorts.

This will keep more glue at the joint and make for a much better bond.

#3 Clamp Glued Joints

Glue acts as a bridge, of sorts, that binds to pieces together. The closer you can get the pieces to each other the shorter distance the glue has to bridge and the stronger the joint.

Clamps pull the pieces together and hold them tightly in place while the glue dries. You can also use screws or nails to hold the joint together, but they aren’t quite as effective as a traditional clamp.

#4 Use CA Glue as a Clamp

If you aren’t able to get clamps in an area, but still need to securely attach two pieces of wood, you can use CA glue to quickly dry and hold the pieces while the wood glue dries.

Make sure there is glue on the very ends, but just inside of that leave a gap and then a couple of other gaps in the middle at equal increments. Add CA glue in the open gaps, put the wood in place, and hold for about 30 minutes.

#5 Completely Clean Glue Squeeze-out

Whentwo pieces are clamped properly there will be glue squeeze-out. Since glue does not stain and finish the same as wood fibers the squeeze-out must be cleaned completely.

One way to clean up the glue is to use a wet rag to immediately wipe away as much glue as you can. The problem with this method is that you risk diluting the glue and causing it soak into the wood. Woods like oak with deep open grain are specifically susceptible to this.

The other method is to wait about 30 minutes and then scrape it away.

Before adding any stain or finish use a wet rag to check for glue remnants. If you find any or if you start to apply stain and catch some glue spots, sand until you remove the glue and apply finish.

#6 Secure Cracks and Knots with CA Glue

The style of wooden and DIY furniture today includes a lot of cracks and knots. If you’re going for this look, you still need to secure those imperfections or they’ll just keep opening up over time.

I used to use epoxy tinted with wood shavings, if need be, but that can be messy and more consuming. Now, I’m using this tinted CA glue from Starbond. It’s simple and easy to just go straight from the bottle and fill the cracks and knots.

For lighter woods or to leave more of a reveal in darker woods, I will use clear CA glue.

#7 Purchase the Right Type of Glue (Potentially Save Money)

Wood glues are made with specific characteristics. The red Titebond, for example, isn’t waterproof or water resistant and has a fairly short assembly time. Assembly time is the amount of time you have before the glue starts to dry.

The Titebond Extend has a really long assembly time for those projects that are complex glue-ups. But, if you don’t need a really long assembly time and your project is not going to be outside, buy the cheaper non-waterproof glue…it can be about 30% cheaper.


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