Understanding Glues: Part II


Prepare your wood, pick the right glue and prevent problems.
By Marc Adams
Pages: 49-55

From the October 2009 issue #178
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Baseball bats, utensils, turned items and small carved objects are usually made from one piece of wood. But most woodworking projects are made under the premise of “some assembly required.” Face it: Most everything we make with wood involves one or more boards joined together. Without something to tie those boards together there is no gain in structural integrity.

There are several ways to secure boards together. The first is with a mechanical fastener such as nails, screws or bolts. Mechanical bonds are point-specific and once the fastener is removed the bond is lost. The second way is worked joints, where interlocking or fitted wood pieces join together. Worked joints include dovetails, mortise-and-tenons, dowel joints and housed joints. The third way to join wood is to use some kind of glue. When properly used, most modern glues are stronger than the wood they are used on. A fourth way to join wood is to combine two or more of these methods.

Glue is the most often used means of joining wood and by far the most misunderstood. Cutting a dovetail is a learned skill. Gluing two boards together is much easier. But in the long run it’s the glue between those dovetails that locks them together and it’s the glue that will continue to hold them together throughout time.

If the glue fails you can bet that the joint will fail. However, if the joint fails it might not mean that the glue has failed as well. I believe that understanding how to glue wood together is an inherited trait – we just know how to use it. Nobody ever teaches us how to put the stuff on or explains how it works.

And the two most common factors of gluing two pieces of wood together are almost never considered: the wood and the glue. Before you grab a bottle of glue for your next project ask yourself these simple questions. How should the wood be prepared? What glue is best for this specific task? What is the correct procedure for applying glue, and how can I avoid gluing problems and correct them if they happen?

Online Extra

To download a PDF file of Marc Adam’s tips for gluing, click here.


From the October 2009 issue #178
Buy this issue now