Woodworking Blog

5 Types of Wood Glue: What to Know & How to Use Them

When making a woodworking project, you need good joinery and good glue to hold your project together. But when it comes types of wood glue, there are many options out there.

Today we’ll learn about the different types of glue woodworkers use, how to choose a glue that works well for your project, and my overall favorite glue to use, which may be a bit of an unconventional choice.

PVA glues

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1. PVA glue

Polyvinyl acetate (PVA) glue is the most common type of glue out there. It’s so common that if you have a bottle of glue in your house, it’s likely to be PVA glue. White glue, yellow glue, and bottles of “wood glue” are all likely to be PVA glue. Some special formulations of PVA glue such as Titebond III are waterproof. The advantage of PVA glue is that it is readily available at your local store. But after you glue up your project, bits of dried PVA glue can interfere with your finish if you’re not careful to get rid of all of it.

Liquid hide glue

2. Hide glue

Hide glue has been around for centuries, and yes, it comes from animal hides. Hot hide glue is made by heating granules of hide glue in a pot with water. As it heats, the glue liquifies, and as it cools, it becomes solid. Hot hide glue can be applied by dipping a brush in the glue pot and brushing it onto the workpiece.

There is another version of hide glue called liquid hide glue that comes in a bottle, as seen above. You can use it just like PVA glue, and it has the advantage of not interfering with finishes if you don’t get the very last bit of dried hide glue off the wood. As a matter of fact, liquid hide glue is my favorite to use, unless I need a project to be waterproof.

Epoxy

3. Epoxy

Epoxy comes in two parts: a resin and a hardener. Both are liquid, but when mixed together a chemical reaction occurs that causes the epoxy to harden. Epoxy has the advantage of being waterproof and does a good job filling gaps in wood. Most other glues will not hold well if there is a gap between the pieces of wood that you are gluing together. Some epoxy formulas take a while to cure, others will cure in as little as five minutes. In general, the longer it takes for the epoxy to cure, the stronger the bond will be, so patience will be rewarded.

CA glue and accelerant

4. Cyanoacrylate glue

CA glue, or super glue, is well known as a glue to use to join hard pieces together. It can also be used in woodworking. The advantage of CA glue is that it cures in a very short period of time, and if you’re really in a hurry, you can apply an accelerant (seen in the back of the bottle of CA glue in the photo) to make the CA glue set even faster. But the glue joint that is made is very hard, and can fracture under impact.

CA glue can be used as a temporary way of joining two pieces of wood together as a temporary step in making a project. For example, if you are joining two curved pieces of wood together, a glue block can be temporarily attached to the pieces to give your clamps a place to hold onto. CA glue is perfect for this purpose, as it can be used to attach the glue blocks, and once the pieces are glued together, a tap with a hammer or mallet will knock the glue blocks right off.

Polyurethane glue

5. Polyurethane glue

Polyurethane glue is activated by moisture, and swells as it is activated and dries. It dries very hard and quickly, and is waterproof, but dealing with dried polyurethane glue can be problematic for finishes.

In terms of choosing a glue for your project, all of the above options will provide a bond that is strong enough for most purposes, especially for furniture projects. The things to consider when making a choice between glues is whether you need the glue to be waterproof, how long you have to work with the glue before it starts to set up, and whether you need to fill a gap.

As I mentioned above, I’ll use liquid hide glue for just about all woodworking projects. It’s a bit harder to find than PVA glue, but it can be ordered over the internet fairly easily, and the fact that I don’t have to worry about small bits of dried hide glue interfering with finishes gives liquid hide glue an advantage that no other glue can touch. If I’m out of liquid hide glue, and need glue quickly, I’ll get a bottle of PVA glue at the local home center. If I need a waterproof glue joint, I’ll use either epoxy or a waterproof PVA glue.

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52 Comments

David Lashof

Liquid hide glue should not be used for items that will be under tension, for instance when gluing together a violin. Othwise you get creep on the parts, even after several days drying time. And it still should be well cleaned or oil or spirit varnishes have difficulty covering evenly. -Professional Violin Maker and Repairman since 1980

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Bruce Kiefer

David, do you use regular hide glue?

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David Lashod

Yes, sorry. Hot hide glue is fine, but still needs to be cleaned. Cold liquid hide glue contains something that keeps it from curing, I’ve heard its formaldehyde. It also can leave a dark “glue line” that fresh properly prepared hot does not since there is no glue left to leave a line, it has all penetrated into the surface.

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Brad King

David what is the best way to clean hide glue.

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David Lashof

Brad
Cleanup is done best when the glue has not hardened and with warm water. After it has dried, by scraping or sanding (last resort IMHO).

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Keith

Gel is suppressed by urea, a “natural” substance.

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Wilbur Pan

Hi David,

I did say that I like using liquid hide glue for most woodworking applications. In that context, I’d consider the unique needs of instrument makers to be a bit of a fringe case. For more common woodworking projects (boxes, furniture, shop devices, etc.), liquid hide glue is a great choice.

Many instrument makers believe that liquid hide glue has a disadvantage compared to hot hide glue for parts under tension. Some of that feeling, however, might be dependent on the brand of liquid hide glue being used, and may not be an issue of liquid vs. hot hide glue. See here: https://homegrownlutherie.wordpress.com/2012/09/25/liquid-hide-glues-for-instruments-an-empirical-perspective/

Liquid hide glue traditionally uses urea, not formaldehyde, as the agent that allows the increased open time and ability of liquid hide glue to stay liquid at room temperatures. My bottle of Old Brown Glue that I used to illustrate this article uses urea as well. Titebond liquid hide glue uses ammonium thiocyanate and dicyandiamide, which sound much more scary than they are.

For woodworkers that are really motivated, you can make your own liquid hide glue, and adjust the amount of urea added to suit your needs. If one batch has an open time that is too long and you want more holding power, use less urea. If you need more open time, use more.

I didn’t mean to imply that you don’t have to clean up liquid hide glue squeeze out before finishing. You still do. But liquid hide glue is much more forgiving than PVA glue in terms of problems with finishing.

Bottom line, I think liquid hide glue is a great first choice of glue for most woodworking applications. I really do use it for everything except cases where I need water resistance or gap filling. If you haven’t tried it, give it a try.

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Manfred Schwan

What about fish glue I have use the fish glue long time ago on Caffe table which I build. And is still holding no screw or nail only. Fish glue
Has a psi of 3000lb
Manfred

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Wilbur Pan

Fish glue has many similarities to hide glue in that they are both animal protein-based glues. I haven’t had any personal experience with fish glue, but folks who I know have used it say that it behaves quite similarly to liquid hide glue.

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dan

You forgot to mention CY is great for gluing fingers together. That the other needed accessory, other than accelerator is solvent. :

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Tim pollard-Waldron

Would hot hide glue be appropriate to repair an antique teak accent table. Replacing the old glue, and I don’t want to frustrate the next restorer.

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Wilbur Pan

There’s a theoretic issue with teak and other tropical woods being more difficult to glue because of the oils those woods contain. Wiping the surfaces with a solvent, like lacquer thinner, is one approach that has been used. But given that your table is an antique, there’s a good chance that the oils have all set or dissipated by now.

If you can deal with the relatively short open time of hot hide glue, I would go for it. If not, then liquid hide glue would be a good choice. Make sure that all the old glue is removed. Either way, the next restorer will thank you for it. And the worst case scenario is that the repair doesn’t last as long as you had hoped, in which case using hide glue will have been a great decision because the next person will have an easier time of it.

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William Truesdale

David:
What type of glue should I use for making a butcher block cutting board? Shouldn’t it be considered food grade?

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What’s the Difference in Wood Glue?

[…] Wood glue can be an important tool when creating your crafts, but are you using the right kind? Hide glue is made from animal hide and is best used for gluing wooden items without interfering with wood finishes. Epoxy is best used to fill in gaps in wooden crafts and is waterproof. Knowing what glue to use can help keep your project intact for longer durations. Learn more about the different types of wood glue here:: 5 Types of Wood Glue: What to Know & How to Use Them […]

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A Martin

I am in the process of building a coffee table with black walnut. Would hide glue be a good choice to glue the boards for the top? Also probably not going to use biscuits just the glue.

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Wilbur Pan

Liquid hide glue would be a great choice. Use it just like you would regular glue. The advantage is that liquid hide glue will be transparent to finishes, so you’ll have less problems cleaning up around the glue line in preparing for the finish than with PVA glue. Also, should something go wrong down the line, you can reverse the liquid hide glue with heat and moisture and do whatever repair is needed. Again, this would be more trouble if you used PVA glue.

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harry drabble

Which adhesive is best for rubber=wood joints ?

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Wilbur Pan

I’d use contact cement. Apply contact cement to both the rubber part and the wood, let it tack up, and then press together. I would test this out on scrap pieces first, however.

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Barry

Regards PVA glues-you seem to regard all as one There is certainly a difference between old school and the cross linking varieties (the yellow I’m not really familiar with -Have used -set quicker-but otherwise-don’t know) PVA is cheap and easy (water) clean up. The better Xlink seem to be of adequate strength.- But do they have less movement? There are many glue types available but this is my main request , as I have never had an absolute glue failure as such,- But creep in the joins from earlier projects(mostly old primitive PVA)Has always ercked me. Are the cross linked any better-when it comes to this. Or what is ideal-can deal with colour if needed-but neutral or clear -even better. What I desire is to make -say a table-and to NOT feel the glue movement if I pass my hand over it 10-30 years down the track.
Dunno. Poly, Modern PVA,epoxy, hide?Other??? After the best suggestion (particularly for laminating up tops )

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Heppinstall

Hi, I’m having a debate….the pva glue I use to use at school 20 plus years ago use to dry white…and my wife’s saying her’s use to dry clear? Any advice on this ??????

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Automdx

Idon’t know if Elmers white school glue was pva, but it dried clear. And that was 45 years ago. Didn’t you ever smear some on your palm and let it dry as a kid? After 3 or 4 coats you could make it look like you were peeling off your skin

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david

is there any glue by the name goo glue?

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ukashat shu'ayb bullet

which one that more easire and simplest to produce

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ankit

I need to join wooden boards for my open wind tunnel project ,which type of joining glue should be used ,that not break under tension or vibrational force?

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Armin's Hammer

ankit, you do not say whether the tunnel is small or large, whether it will be mounted inside or outside in the weather, or whether it is to be portable or not. I don’t know the answer for you on the vibrational aspects . I would recommend using dowels or bisquits in the joinery process assuming long term use and cracking along the joints as an inevitability. You might also consider gluing and screwing the boards to some external bracing. The urethane glue mentioned in the article would I think be useful. The only problem would be the squeeze out and refinishing needed to apply a slick finish to the inside of the boards to cut down on drag. If this is a project to be seen by others in a judging contest, appearance of finish might be paramount. Also, I would consider using a belt driven fan with motor not attached to the tunnel to reduce vibration; it would also allow fan speed differential by changing pulley diameters. Hope my input does not insult your intelligence. You probably have considered much of this.

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john

What about for a permanent (or semi-perm.) situation where you want to glue metal to wood, like in a threaded piece of metal into wood?

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Armin's Hammer

John, my choice would be a a 5 minute epoxy. I assume you are talking about threaded inserts which would then accept a screw or bolt for assembly and you want to insure that the insert holds.

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Tracey

Hi.
I’m in South Africa so I need a product available here.
What can I use to glue small twigs together for fairy furniture. Problem is people put it outside, it gets damp/wet and the standard glue stick stuff for glue guns sides not hold permanently.
It also has to bond instantly. Can’t sit holding a twig together for 10 minutes lol.
Thanks in advance.

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Armin's Hammer

Tracey, I assume that “fairy furniture” pieces are miniatures that are decorative in nature. My choice would be slow set super glue (CA) with an accelerant applied as mentioned in the article. My source for that here in the US is hobby shops. It comes in larger quantities than available in most hardware stores and in three different setting speeds: slow, medium and fast, fast being the thinnest. I would use the slow set and spray it with the accelerant. One can also high build with the slow by applying multiple layers. I have used it to build up damaged door jams from breaking-and entering. Also, available now in the US at Rocklers is a CA specifically designed for working with wood. I have not tried it yet.

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Nsamba John

Dear friends,
I want to make paper glue( binding glue)
How can i get the formuler.

Kind Regards,
Nsamba John

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Jurg van Eeden

@Tracey, I am also located in RSA and found Akfix at Mica which is a nice CA glue with an activator. I have a hunch it will work perfectly for you. Good luck. You can consult http://www.akfix.com or mail info @akfix.com.
It looks to me like a kind of superglue with an activator however it is a thick liquid and not so useless as the <5 ml tubes we buy at the traffic lights. The activator is in an aerosol can that one spray on. Just keep some Cutex remover or acetone handy to unstuck your fingers and wipe off unwanted glue with a damp cloth – damped with the lacquer thinners which contains enough acetone to dissolve the glue.
Let me know the outcome please since I haven't use this Akfix myself yet but am familial with superglue albeit not friendly with is. Standard superglue just result in everything stuck to you fingers and nothing together as is should have been.

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Jurg

@Tracey, I forgot to mention its the Akfix 705 you are looking for, \i just visit their website and found a lot of various glues. Check for 705 and watch the videos.
Jurg

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Michael limbaugh

I need to glue 2 pieces of black plam together to make a recurve bow. Which glue will be best under this kind of tension, and constant bending ?

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David Laurie

Titebond III seems to be a favourite among many bowyers, for laminating wooden bows..

Some also like Smooth On epoxy for similar jobs.

Refer’ to both “The Traditional Bowyers Bible” books, and online videos such as the Bowyers Den series..

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John Huubard

I am looking for the type of glue that works when the joint is exposed to heat. Making a hardwood steering wheel for a car, and the problem with wood steering wheels is the glue joints fail.

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Jen

I want to glue a smallish size birdhouse on the top of my wood trellis. It will be outside in the garden. What glue would hold up best in the weather?

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cameron manning

what would be the best glue for an out door in australia

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Bobo_Greybeard

What glue would you recommend that I use for an Ebony inlay that is approximately 3/16 to a 1/4 inch thick laid into Purple Heart? This will be used as a decorative piece on a knife handle for a bushcraft style knife that I am making someone for their birthday. I doubt if the knife will be used much , but it is being made as a fully functional outdoorsman knife. Also, I am limited on funds.

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Debra M

I am trying to make a head board from wood to fit into cherry wood slots posts, also to permantly place foot board on similar post, which glue would bee best.

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jamie

I am making a cake topper and will need to glue pearls and lace on wood. what will be less visible but will hold for a long time?

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Craig in ABQ

The year-old solid core wood veneer door between my house and my garage has split longwise at the very spot where screws hold the lock end-plate onto the door. (length of crack is less than four inchesand the thickness of the crack is about 1/8 in.) I want to take the door off the hinge, drip glue thoroughly into the crack, clamp the door until dry, then rescrew in the lock plate using a longer screw.

I wonder whether Gorilla glue or another will similar glue will be the right one to use. What do you think?

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jay

Hello! I hope you can help me!! I cannot find an answer anywhere. I have a wooden birdouse (from Michael’s craft store) that I was trying to make into a snowy glittery house. But, it yellowed! Here are the steps I followed:
1. Primed it
2. Painted it (with white acrylic paint)
3. Allowed it to dry overnight
4. Applied a coat of craft glue with a paintbrush
5. Sprinkled Diamond Dust (Glittery snowy stuff) on it

It was beautiful…until the next day where there were some spots that turned yellow! YUCK!

I emailed the manufacturer of both the Diamond Dust and the glue and neither has any idea why this happened. I am holding an event where this is the project and would like to know what I am doing wrong and how to prevent the projects from turning yellow! PLEASE HELP!!

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terry

Which glue to use for laminating lemon wood(belly) to hickory or bamboo(backing). It has to be weather proof no creep and withstand repeated shocks.

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Ian Mune

Anyone know if I can find a black glue? For holding wood together but not under stress.

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I.M Matt

Really useful and has a lot of information that helped in my design and technology theory class! Thanks again!

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Alice

David, is more or less glue better for gluing a pine wood structure?

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Linda

What is the best type of wood glue to bond drawer joints that have separated on a vintage dresser?
I purchased some Gorilla wood glue and not sure it’s the best choice.
Thanks.

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nana dubois

hello i am a wood work student level 5 which glue will be suitable for laminated board suppose you want the end grains to appear on the surface

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Moshe75

Hi Dave,
Could you tell me if PVA glue or fish glue sticks to metal like frets on a guitar or do I need to use CA glue or epoxy?

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Anthony

I have a hunting rifle with a piece of the wooden stock broken from the rest of the stock. I’d like to glue it back, but it could be subject to some wetness, and would need to be sturdy enough to withstand gunshots while braced against my shoulder. Any suggestions?

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