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All About Glue

Updated on November 8, 2012

Do It Yourself - Understanding Glue

There's no question that advances in adhesives technology over the years have made life easier and more predictable for all of us. A byproduct of that, however, is a confusing variety of types and brands of adhesives and not a lot of clear information on how wood glues work and which ones work best for a given project. That's too bad, because nearly every woodworker and do-it-yourselfer is utterly reliant on sticking things together with adhesives.

Do you get stuck when choosing the right glue for jobs around the house? Aliphatic resin, polyurethane or ethyl cyanoacrylate? Huh? Don't fret-you just need to bond with your inner glue karma. Of course, there are many specialty glues designed for particular uses such as joining PVC pipe, which can be a wobbly mess, but most household stickums fall into the following main categories. If you're still confused after reading about the following types of glue, just conduct a little online research to find the best type of adhesive for the job.

In this article we will look at different types of glue and its usage. By the end of it, I hope you will have a much better understanding of how glue works and the right type of glue usage for your everyday projects.


America’s most popular adhesive is standard white glue, which is perfect for kids’ crafts and sticking paper to paper. You probably already have a bottle or two around the house. White glue’s cousin, carpenter’s yellow glue (aliphatic resin), is normally recommended for bonding wood to wood. Yellow is also more water resistant and sets up faster than white glue, so make sure you set it right the first time you stick.


Polyurethane adhesives such as Gorilla Glue have become popular in recent years. They will stick to almost anything and are a great choice for many applications, especially adhering unlike materials to each other, such as metal to wood. But remember, less is more. Some polyurethanes

tend to expand, so be careful not to squeeze that bottle too hard or you'll end up with too much of a good thing.


I can still remember the first time I used superglue. It was like magic. No more hopelessly broken toys or soccer trophies. Superglue and other similar ethyl cyanoacrylates work great on glass, metal, most plastics, ceramic figurines, crystal bowls, eyeglasses, and acrylic fingernails.

But again, just use a little bit, as these products will not bond properly if you apply too much. For greater control of application, pick up a tube of superglue in a pinpoint dispenser. Superglue is also offered in a gel form that works well on porous materials. Make sure you keep it out of reach of your child who may have ideas of gluing his younger sibling to the toilet seat. (Yes, I speak from experience!) Do not use ethyl cyanoacrylates to repair an item that will hold water, such as a broken teacup. For maximum water resistance, choose the next category: epoxy.


When you need a bond that will never break, especially between dissimilar surfaces such as wood and metal or glass and stone, epoxy is a terrific choice. Epoxy can also be used on most plastics. Using a two part product may seem a bit confusing, but mixing is relatively simple:

just blend equal parts from each tube. Look for brands that are sold in a double syringe. Dispense what you need and thoroughly stir the two parts together. Apply it quickly and wipe off the excess. Once epoxy sets up, it is almost impossible to break the bond without the risk of breaking whatever it is you've glued.

Epoxy technology has expanded to include other products such asa formula that will bond copper pipe, even when wet, for small plumbing repairs. Epoxy fillers are also often recommended to repair large gaps in wood and fiberglass.


Originally, construction adhesives such as Liquid Nails and other brands were just a mainstay with professional builders and remodelers, but they are gaining popularity on the home front. An excellent value for decks, moldings, paneling, flooring, and other construction projects, these superstrong adhesives are normally dispensed with a caulk gun. Since most construction glues are waterproof, you can use them inside or out. I like them because I can often use a construction adhesive instead of nails for simple projects.


Hot-melt glue is often the choice for hobbies and crafts. It is a quick solution for most porous surfaces. I use it for furniture repair, too.

Even though hot-melt glue is water-resistant once it has cooled, make sure your surfaces are dry before you apply it. Trying to hot glue a wet surface is like using a curling iron on damp hair: it just doesn’t work well. If your project is going be continuously wet, choose a polyurethane glue, epoxy, or construction adhesive instead.

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