Yellow Glue & its Weird Superpowers
What could be better?
“It’s glue and super-high clamp pressure,” the cabinetmaker said. If you apply enough pressure, he said, the joint will be so strong that the wood will fail before the glue. So no joinery. Just glue and clamp pressure.
Most of you are scoffing right now or wondering if my friend should file a claim with the Better Business Bureau. But if you keep an open mind, you might be surprised by what glue can do. It will sometimes defy conventional woodworking wisdom.
Years ago, I was worked with Troy Sexton, an excellent furniture maker in Sunbury, Ohio, who had a restless and sharp mind. He’s the kind of guy who would wake up one morning and convert his table saw into an incredible meat grinder for processing deer. Or he’d bolt together two table saws to create a tenon-cutting station that defies my efforts to describe it.
Anyway, one day I showed up at his shop and he handed me a face frame to a cabinet and gave me these instructions: “Try to break it.”
I couldn’t bust it. I knocked it around. Twisted it with all my might. After about five minutes, I handed the face frame back to him. Troy explained what he was up to.
There was no joinery in the frame. He’d assembled the frame with yellow glue and pocket screws. After the glue had dried, he’d removed the pocket screws.
If you think I’m suggesting that joinery is superfluous, you’re missing the point. For the record: Joinery is good. You want interlocking parts in your furniture for a wide variety of reasons.
Instead, I’d like to suggest that many of the woodworking rules we’re taught are untested assumptions. I’m guilty of believing them and repeating them, just like every woodworking writer. It is a daily battle to keep my eyes and mind open.
I might not ever make drawers with only glue and pressure, but the idea behind it makes me reconsider what I know about stacked laminations, gluing up tabletops and the way I make the crest rails for my chairs.
Don’t believe everything you read, even here. Or, as Mark Twain put it: “All generalizations are false, including this one.”
— Christopher Schwarz