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Choose the Right Glue for the Job

Filed Under: Products & Materials

DIY projects come in many flavors. They all use materials and usually need some method to bond them together. That typically means a glue. Let's look at what type of glue works for which type of project.

  • Super Glue. It's all over the place; every checkout counter, convenience store, or mega marketer has it. This is really a great adhesive but it's only effective on non porous surfaces, like plastic. Believe it or not, it's also used in forensic science to bring out fingerprints. It's true; I learned about it when I was on the jury for a capitol murder case.
  • Contact Cement. Its been around for a long time and cabinetmakers would be lost without it. It's what's used to bond plastic laminate (or the generic brand name Formica) to plywood in countertop construction.
  • Carpenter's Glue. This is the one most often used. The brands you'll most often see are DAP and Elmer's. It works well with wood and ceramics.
  • Hide Glue. Hide glue is so named because it's made from collagen from cattle hide and connective tissues. You can buy it in a powder form and mix it with water. This is the glue that you must use when repairing antique furniture. If you use anything modern, the piece will lose its antique status. It's also the glue of choice for craftsmen making stringed instruments.
  • Titebond. Titebond I, II, and III are an evolving family of woodworking glues. Their greatest claim to fame is their waterproof characteristics. For outdoor projects, this is a must-have.
  • Gorilla Grip. This is a polyurethane-based glue and it's incredibly strong. But remember to clamp wooden pieces together tightly because it cures by reacting with humidity and it foams, creating outward pressure.

All of these glues work well, as long as you use the correct one for the project.

  • jason.schlauch

    Titebond and Elmer's glues are both under the same umbrella of polyvinyl acetate (PVA) glues. They work really well on wood but to get the best performance you should tightly clamp the two objects you're gluing together.

    The clamping advice also applies to Gorilla glue (or any polyurethane based glue) since it expands as it dries. You should also lightly mist the objects you're gluing with water.

    The water advice also applies to "Super" glues (Cyanoacrylate based glues). In the absence of water they'll just sit there uncured. I store my bottles of opened superglue in sealed plastic bags. This keeps humidity out (which can cause the glue to cure in the bottle) but also keeps the outgassing from the glue from covering the surrounding container with a white haze.

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