Whenever you have to attach two pieces of wood together (and you want them to be PERMANENTLY attached), glue is your best friend. Really. You may not have had much success with it before; but stick around and listen to this. The basic problem with wood is that when you attach two pieces with nails or screws (or even wood dowels), you are depending on the friction between the nail and the wood to hold the pieces together. As the wood dries out (and it always does); the friction lessens. Then the two pieces start to wobble around, and that causes the friction to fade even faster.
Glue to the rescue! By adding glue to the faces of the two pieces of wood (at the area where they touch), you now have a potentially solid joint.
For the glue to work well, you need 5 things:
1. There has to be enough surface covered by glue.
If you have a couple of eight foot long 2”x4”’s attached at the top’s (like a giant upside-down V); and the joint area is 1” x 1”, you are not going to have much success. The glue works by making a relatively large area that prevent the two pieces from swiveling around the nail (or screw or bolt, or dowel) The nail holds the pieces together, while the glue simply keeps them from wobbling.
The fix: This one is trouble. If you can change the design (so there is more area where the two pieces touch); then you are golden. Otherwise, give it to someone else; let them struggle with a poor design.
2. You have to temporarily clamp the two pieces of wood together VERY tightly (while the glue drys.)
Glue is not really “structural”. If the two pieces of wood are not touching really solidly, then the glue has to act like a third piece of wood. And very few glues can do that well. Clamping the pieces of wood together allows the glue to ONLY have to do it’s favorite job. And that is Acting like Velcro. (Velcro can be pulled apart really easily; but try to slide or twist it, never.)
The fix: Wowser has RACKS full of clamps for this very reason. With enough clamps you can press almost anything together long enough for the glue to dry.
3. The design of the joint has to make “Glue sense”.
If the 2”x4”s are held together with one 8 penny nail, then the glue will be pulled apart very soon. (Remember, the glue does NOT help from pulling the pieces apart, only from twisting .)
The fix: use a bolt that goes all the way through both 2”x4”’s OR, use two or three nails. Or 2 screws. Anything to hold the two pieces together.
4. Pick the right glue.
This is not too difficult (for wood). Pick a waterproof wood glue. Almost any of them will work. Do NOT use a “craft” glue. Few of them will “setup”. If you can wash it off after it drys; pick a different one.
5. LET IT DRY COMPLETELY
Remember when you made “candied carrots”? And they boiled over, so you pulled them off the stove, set the saucepan on the counter; and forgot about it until the next morning? (Did you need a chisel to get the pan off the counter? I did.) When you glue, you need to do the same thing (but on purpose). Let it “setup”, dry, harden, gell, coagulate. Pick whatever word you like that will help you remember to wait for it to harden completely.
I hope you enjoyed these tips. Now come by Wowser and let’s build something.
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(This article was originally printed in The Willits Weekly. We love them and you should make sure you pick up their paper every Thursday.)