Use the best glues in your next workshop project

Essential glues guide for your workshop

By Steve Maxwell

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Many of the advances we enjoy today in the workshop ultimately spring from innovations in glue chemistry. Sheet goods depend on it, biscuit and dowel joinery couldn’t happen without it, and woodworking everywhere is simplified when you can rely on glue to hold parts together forever. Today’s top glues are long-lasting, very strong and comparatively inexpensive. Here’s what you need to know to stock up on the best.

Carpenter’s glue is the king of benchtop adhesives. White glues come from a chemical family abbreviated as PVA (short for polyvinyl acetate). Yellow or brown formulations are usually aliphatic resins. They’re generally easier to sand and somewhat stronger. Either way, you can’t beat ordinary carpenter’s glue for typical wood-to-wood joints on interior applications. It’s strong, cheap, easy to work with, cleans up with water, and is non-toxic, fume-free and available everywhere.

As good as it is, carpenter’s glue doesn’t work well around moisture-its Achilles heel. Manufacturers are fond of describing their wood glues as “water-resistant” but don’t be fooled. All this usually means is the product won’t dissolve immediately after getting wet. If you’re building outdoor projects, you’ll need something more than just water resistance, because prolonged periods of wet weather will turn ordinary PVA and aliphatic resin glues to mush.

The three most practical choices for weatherproof outdoor duty include epoxy, polyurethane glue and, my general-purpose weatherproof favourite, cross-linking PVA. Strictly speaking, most versions of these glues are incapable of standing up to prolonged exposure below the water line. Strength in the face of wet weather is their thing.

Epoxy comes in different formulations that offer curing times from five minutes to 24 hours. It’s strong and completely weatherproof. On the downside, epoxy is relatively expensive and messy. You have to stir two goopy components together to trigger the curing action. Despite these annoyances, I always keep tubes of five-minute epoxy on hand. You can’t beat it for quick repairs on wood and non-porous materials.


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Nov. 16, 2011

12:28 pm

My information on the difference between 5 minute epoxy and regular epoxy says that the 5 minute is not waterPROOF...I may however be to know for sure R.L.

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