Guide to Wood Glue Selection

wood glue

Whether you’re just starting your journey as a beginner woodworker or already deeply immersed in the craft, one thing is sure: the glue you use is just as vital as the wood itself. Suitable wood glue can turn a good project into a great one, ensuring durability and longevity.

However, with so many types of wood glue available, it may take time to pick a suitable adhesive for your project. Therefore, we made this guide to enlighten you on everything you need to know about selecting and applying wood glue. This guide will give you the knowledge you need to successfully navigate your next woodworking project.

Basics of Wood Glue

Wood glue creates a strong bond between two pieces of wood. Its strength lies in its ability to seep into the wood’s pores. It does this by permeating the wood fibers, creating a firm bond as it dries through the process referred to as mechanical interlocking’.

However, the effectiveness of wood glue isn’t merely about how well it can penetrate the wood. The bonding strength also depends on the type of wood glue used.

Different Wood Glue Varieties 

Numerous types of wood glue are available on the market, each designed for specific uses. Knowing the different varieties and their unique characteristics can help you select the suitable adhesive for your project.

PVA Glue

Polyvinyl acetate (PVA) glue is the most common type of wood glue. It’s water-based, non-toxic, and has a strong bonding capability. PVA glue is perfect for interior projects as it’s not waterproof.

Epoxy Resin

This is a two-part adhesive you must mix before use. Epoxy resin is solid and waterproof, making it ideal for exterior projects and those requiring high durability.

Hide Glue

Derived from animal collagen, hide glue is a traditional adhesive used in furniture restoration and lutherie. It’s revered for its reversibility and long open time.

Cyanoacrylate Glue

Also known as ‘super glue,’ cyanoacrylate is known for its fast-setting properties. We use it best for minor, quick repairs.

Factors to Consider When Selecting Wood Glue

Carefully considering key factors can simplify this process and ensure you get a suitable adhesive for your woodworking project.

Type of Wood 

First and foremost, the type of wood you’re using plays a critical role in the glue selection process. Different woods have different characteristics, affecting how well they adhere to certain types of glue. For instance, hardwoods like oak or maple bond best with Polyurethane or PVA glues, while softwoods like pine work well with Cyanoacrylate or Epoxy. 

Project Nature 

The nature of your project is another important consideration. A simple PVA glue should suffice if you’re working on an indoor project. However, opt for a waterproof adhesive like polyurethane or resorcinol for outdoor projects exposed to the elements.

Drying Time 

Glues vary when it comes to drying time. Some wood glues dry within minutes, while others might take hours. If you’re working on a project that requires quick bonding, consider using a fast-drying adhesive. However, remember that these glues may give you little flexibility for adjustments.

Color Match 

Different glues dry in different colors. Hence, choose an adhesive that matches the color of your wood for a neat, unnoticeable bond. For example, PVA glues typically dry clear, making them a good choice for light-colored woods.

Strength of the Bond 

Lastly, consider the bond strength that your project requires. Are you making a decorative item or furniture that must withstand weight and use? Epoxy and polyurethane glues are famous for their strong bonding capabilities, making them ideal for heavy-duty projects.

By understanding your project’s needs and the characteristics of your wood, you can select the most suitable adhesive and ensure a successful woodworking endeavor!

Tips and Techniques for Applying Wood Glue

When applying wood glue, the process is more than just spraying some adhesive onto a couple of wooden surfaces. There’s a technique to it, and mastering it is critical to achieving solid, long-lasting bonds. Here are some valuable tips and techniques to guide you through the process:

1. Surface Preparation 

Begin by ensuring your wood surfaces are clean, dry, and free from dust or oils. Rough surfaces can hinder adhesion, so ensure you’ve sanded your surfaces for a smooth finish. If you’re working with resinous wood, wiping the surfaces with acetone to remove any resin is advisable.

2. Use the Correct Amount of Glue 

With wood glue, less is often more. Applying too much adhesive can lead to a messy workspace and unnecessarily long drying times. You’re aiming for a thin, even layer. If the glue squeezes out when you clamp the pieces together, you’ve used too much.

3. Spreading the Glue 

Use a brush or roller to spread the glue evenly across the surface. This ensures maximum adhesion and reduces your bond’s risk of weak spots.

4. Clamping 

clamping wood glue

Once you’ve applied the glue, you must put the pieces together and apply pressure. You typically do this using clamps. Be careful not to overtighten, which can squeeze out too much glue and weaken the bond.

5. Wipe Excess Glue 

Wipe away any excess glue with a damp cloth before it dries. If you wait until after it’s dried, you risk damaging the wood surface when you try to remove it.

6. Drying Time 

Patience is critical when it comes to drying time. While it can be tempting to check the bond strength before the recommended drying time, it can weaken the joint. Always wait for the recommended drying time before testing the bond or applying stress to the joint.

Applying wood glue is more of an art than a science, and it takes some practice to master. However, if you follow these tips and techniques, you’ll be on your way to creating strong, durable wood bonds in no time.

Common Wood Glue Problems and how to solve

1. The glue is not sticking

It’s frustrating when your glue doesn’t stick, but several factors can cause this. The wood surfaces may need to be smoother, oilier, or dirty. The glue could also be too old or not suitable for the type of wood you’re using. 

  • Solution: Ensure your wood surfaces are clean and slightly rough. If necessary, use sandpaper to roughen them. Use fresh glue and ensure it suits your specific wood type.

2. Glue Dries Too Fast 

When your glue dries too quickly, it may not create a strong bond. This issue could arise due to a hot environment, insufficient glue, or glue designed to dry quickly.

  • Solution: Try to work in a more relaxed environment. Use enough glue to cover the entire surface. If necessary, switch to a glue that dries less quickly.

3. Glue Dries Too Slowly 

On the other hand, if your glue takes less time to dry, it could disrupt your project timeline. This could be due to a cold environment, too much glue, or a glue type designed to dry slowly.

  • Solution: Consider working in a warmer environment. Apply just enough glue to cover the surface, but not too much. If necessary, switch to a faster-drying glue.

4. Glue Leaves Residue 

Sometimes, the glue leaves a residue on the wood surface, which can affect the finish of your project. This could be due to using an excessive amount of glue or not cleaning off excess glue before it dries.

  • Solution: Use just enough glue for your project. Wipe off excess glue with a damp cloth before it dries. If the glue has already dried, you may need to sand it off.

Troubleshooting these common wood glue problems helps you improve the quality of your woodworking projects. Remember, practice makes perfect, so keep going if you encounter these issues. Keep learning and improving, and you’ll soon be a master at applying wood glue.

Storing and Preserving Wood Glue

Proper storage and preservation of your wood glue can significantly extend its usability and effectiveness. These simple steps can help you avoid many potential issues and ensure your glue is always ready.

Storing Wood Glue 

Always store wood glue in a cool, dry place away from direct sunlight. High temperatures or direct sunlight can affect the consistency and performance of the glue, making it less effective. The ideal storage temperature for wood glue is between 59°F and 79°F. Also, ensure the cap or lid is tightly closed after each use to prevent the glue from drying out.

Preserving Wood Glue 

With time and improper storage, wood glue can thicken or solidify, rendering it unusable. To prevent this, always clean the cap and nozzle after every use. This prevents old glue from drying and blocking the nozzle, smoothing your next application.

Furthermore, never put unused glue back into the container, as it might contaminate the rest of the glue, affecting its quality and lifespan. It’s also important to regularly check the glue’s consistency and smell. If it’s too thick, has separated, or has a foul odor, it’s likely gone wrong and should be discarded. 

Remember, while these storage and preservation tips can help extend the life of your wood glue, it’s not meant to last indefinitely. Always take note of the manufacturer’s expiration date and avoid using expired glue for best results.

Disposing of Old Wood Glue 

When it comes time to dispose of your old or expired wood glue, it’s essential to do so responsibly. Most wood glues are non-toxic and can be safely thrown in the regular trash after completely drying. However, always check the manufacturer’s instructions for safe disposal practices.


What is the best type of wood glue for furniture? 

For most furniture projects, PVA (Polyvinyl Acetate) glues, specifically yellow glue, also known as carpenter’s or woodworker’s glue, are typically the best choice due to their strong bonding ability, easy application, and water-resistant nature. 

Is wood glue stronger than screws? 

While screws offer mechanical strength, wood glue creates a bond that, when applied correctly, can often be stronger than the wood itself. However, for maximum strength and stability, many woodworkers prefer using screws and wood glue in their projects. 

Can wood glue be sanded? 

Yes, once fully cured, you can easily sand wood glue down. However, wiping off any excess glue before it dries is best to avoid unsightly patches. 

Does wood glue work on all types of wood? 

Most wood glues work effectively on a wide range of woods. However, some types of wood, particularly oily or high-resin species, may require a specific type of glue or pretreatment for optimal adhesion.

How long does wood glue take to dry? 

Drying time varies depending on the type of glue, the wood species, and the environmental conditions. Generally, it takes 10 to 30 minutes.
However, always distinguish drying time from curing time. Drying time is faster than curing, which often takes more time. We always recommend allowing at least 24 hours for the glue to reach its maximum strength.

Can I paint over wood glue? 

Yes, most wood glues can be painted over once fully cured. However, some types of glue might not accept the paint or the wood, leading to uneven color. To avoid this, wiping off any excess glue before it dries is recommended.


Choosing the right glue can significantly impact the quality and longevity of your wooden creations. By understanding the different types of wood glue available, aligning the glue with the nature of your project, and applying the glue correctly, you’re setting yourself up for ultimate success. 

Remember, every type of wood and project has its own specific glue. Take your time with the glue drying process, and always take the time to prepare your surfaces. Also, storing and preserving your wood glue well will ensure its effectiveness for future projects. Finally, be ready to troubleshoot common issues like the glue not sticking or drying too fast. 


I'm a seasoned woodworking professional with a lifelong love for wood. With years of hands-on experience crafting exquisite wooden pieces, I've honed my skills to bring you the finest woodworking artistry. Beyond the workshop, I channel my passion into creating insightful articles. Through my writings, I aim to share the technical aspects of woodworking and the stories, techniques, and inspirations that make this craft a proper art form. Join me as we explore the world of woodworking together, one article at a time.

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