What Are the Best Tips for Gluing Wood?

Lori Kilchermann

Successfully gluing wood can be accomplished by applying a few simple tips, such as using the correct type of wood glue, employing proper clamping techniques, and allowing adequate drying time. One of the most important tips for gluing wood is to make sure that the glue is applied to smooth and even bonding surfaces. Other factors impacting wood gluing include cleanliness, temperature, and humidity.

Wood glue.
Wood glue.

Selecting the proper glue is key to successfully gluing wood. Several manufacturers produce wood glue, and carefully following the instructions on the product's label will help to guarantee quality bonds. Heat, cold, and humidity can impact glue drying time. Some wood glues cannot be applied in very cold or very hot temperatures, while other glues are made specifically for extreme temperature applications. High humidity can also lengthen a glue's setting time.

The best tip for gluing wood is to make sure that the surfaces being glued are smooth, even, and clean. A dirty, rough surface will prevent the glue from properly adhering to one or both surfaces. Areas to be glued should be sanded smooth to create a good surface bond. The sawdust from sanding and any other dirt or debris should be removed with a dust rag or tack cloth. When gluing painted wood, it is often best to sand the paint off of the surface to be glued because the glue will typically better adhere to bare wood than painted wood.

It is important to apply a thin layer of glue to both surfaces of the wood that will be joined together. A brush, roller, or applicator can be used to apply the glue. Too much glue will lead to drips, runs, and a longer drying time. Too little glue may result in a fragile or failed bond. After the glue is applied, the pieces of wood should be held or clamped in place until the glue sets or dries.

The characteristics of the glue being used should be considered when gluing wood. Some wood glues swell as they dry in order to fill gaps in the wood, while other glues shrink and retract as they dry. For projects with exact tolerances, a glue that swells and adds depth to the joint may not be the best choice. Depending if the glued joint will show, the color of the glue also may be a factor. Wood glues dry to different colors, such as yellow, and some dry to a clear finish.

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Discussion Comments


@jcraig - I have never heard of anyone trying to color glue, but I guess I might be able to imagine some purposes for it. I'd really have no idea, but my next test would be to use a little bit of water-based paint in with the glue. If not that, maybe acrylic paint.

What I was wanting to ask, though, is if anyone had any tips for gluing "cottony" wood. I actually do have a couple pieces of cottonwood that I'm trying to set together. For anyone who's never used it, some of the edges end up with this really hairy texture that is nearly impossible to sand down smooth. I tried normal wood glue, and it the hairs just let it pull apart.

I am wondering what a good one of the expanding wood glues is. What sorts of things should I be looking for, and are there any special tricks for using it?


The article kind of mentions the different glue colors, but I am wondering if it is at all possible to actually color the glue before you apply it.

I am working on a project, and I would really like the glue to be blue to give it a certain effect. I know it sounds kind of odd, but it's hard to explain the project.

I have done one trial with food coloring, and that failed. I thought maybe using a little bit of paint might work, but there are so many options I wanted to see if anyone here had any opinions before I went any further with it.

The type of glue I have is normal, white wood glue that dries clear. I could always try some other type if that might work better. Does anyone have any thoughts?


@TreeMan - For something like popsicle sticks, I would just go with the basic, yellow wood glue. There shouldn't be any need for any special epoxies or anything.

As far as releasing the hold goes, if you buy the basic kind, it should say it is water based or something along those lines. Check before you buy it, and you should see what I am talking about. What that means is that you should be able to soak the piece or area in water for a little while, and the glue should pull apart. Honestly, I've never had to deal with it before, so I don't know if any residue is left over or how difficult it is, but that is the basic technique.

Like you mentioned with putting glue on both sides, that is very important. For your project, I would suggest getting a set of cheap paint brushes to use. Just squirt a little bit of the glue onto a paper plate or something and then just use it as needed. There's no need to squirt out a lot at a time, though, or it will just dry up before it's used.


Wow, I never realized there was so much to consider about using the different types of wood glue. I didn't know that you were supposed to put the glue on both sides of the wood, either. I have always just put it on one piece.

My daughter is working on making a popsicle stick castle for a school project, and I was curious what everyone thought would be the best type of wood glue to get for the job. Obviously, there isn't going to be any sort of huge stress on the thing, but I would like to get something that will be durable, since I am guessing she will want to keep it.

Another thing I am concerned about is if she glues some pieces together, but then realizes they aren't in the right place, or something. Does anyone have any tips for releasing wood glue once it has set?

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