Learn about the different types of glue to use for all sorts of repair jobs.
Is your kitchen counter curling up at the edges? Are you
ever going to fix that broken handle on your favorite
coffee cup? Are your most comfortable running shoes falling
apart? Here's how to pick the right glue for every repair
Four thousand years ago, ancient Egyptians made glue by
boiling animal hides and used the substance as a binder in
paint and for woodworking. This early glue technology
didn't change much until the middle of the 20th century,
when different organic and synthetic glues began to be
Today, dozens of glues designed to stick virtually anything
to anything else are on the market. Favorite "anythings"
include ceramics, fabric, glass, leather, metal, paper,
plastic, rubber, Styrofoam, vinyl and wood; mix and match
as needed. Despite the advances, no miracle glue has yet
been invented; what works well with some materials may not
work at all with others.
To help you make the right choices, a glue "vocabulary" follows. All types of glue are about the
same strength as long as you use them according to the
directions. Remember, some are toxic or contain irritants,
so try to use the least-toxic glue available for your job.
The Vocabulary of Glue
Open-assembly time: This is the period of
time you have between when you spread the glue on the
surface and when it starts to set. If you're fixing the
handle on a broken mug, you want a glue with a short
"open-assembly time" — in other words, a "quick-set"
glue. If you're working on a more complex job, such as
repairing an antique chair, use a glue with a long
open-assembly time so you have time to fit all the pieces
Glue cure times The amount of time it takes for
the glue to form its maximum bond. This can vary from as
few as 24 hours for white or yellow glue to as long as a
week or more for some epoxies.
Glue shelf life: Good glues do go bad. "Shelf
life" refers to the period of time that glue remains
useable. White, yellow and polyurethane glues last for
about a year if properly stored in airtight containers.
Hot-melt sticks and epoxies remain useable for many years.
Improper storage can cause glue to spoil prematurely. (For
this reason, buying a larger container isn't always a
bargain.) As a rule, if the working properties of a
particular glue seem abnormal, don't use it.
Glue pot life: For those glues that require
mixing, "pot life" refers to the time you have to apply the
glue to your work after you have mixed it. Epoxies have pot
lives that vary from five to 30 minutes; if you need more
time, lowering the glue's temperature will extend its pot
Chart: Choosing the Right Glue