If you are a woodwork enthusiast then chances are you have wondered how long wood glue takes to dry. After all, nothing kills the rhythm and fun as much as having to sit and wait for some glue to harden. That being said, answering that question might prove to be harder to answer than it seems to be at first. And while the average time is around one hour, this won’t always be the case.
How long glue will take to dry depends on a large number of factors, and the glue is only one of them. Different brands and different kinds of glue will have different drying times due to their composition. Likewise different types of wood have different effects on the drying time, and as such it’s hard to give an specific drying time for all glues. An hour is just the overall average when it comes to gluing wood.
Super Glue will of course dry in seconds as it tends to do, but it might not be the right call for all projects. PVA glues, which are the most common “wood glue” in the market, will usually take the full hour to dry. Brands like Elmers and Gorilla are in this category, however Gorilla products are designed to dry quicker so you can expect them to need only 30 minutes to fully settle.
So What Makes Different Glues Take Longer to Dry?
At the basic level all glues operate on the same basic principles of adhesive and cohesive forces; that is to say glue sticks to both layers of wood and to itself.
As previously mentioned, that doesn’t meant the process is the exact same for all of them, and this comes down largely to composition.
By far the most common wood glue is PVA (Polyvinyl Acetate), and chances are any wood glue you pick are PVA based. Both Elmers and Gorilla wood glues usually fall in this category, and yet they don’t dry as fast as each other, so brands do play a large role. The standard waiting time for PVA is usually an hour, however wood also plays a role. And the more open and lightweight the wood is the more glue you’ll need to use, and as a result expect to spend more time waiting.
Gorilla is a good example of an exception to the rules, as it’s designed to be both faster and stronger than standard wood glue. Gorilla glue can dry as fast as only 20 minutes based on the material and surface area, and should in theory provide a stronger bond than other brands. However just because it can dry fast it doesn’t mean you should always be hasty. If there’s no rush, leaving your project clamped for a longer time can guarantee a better bond.
Epoxies are an interesting option as well. While less intuitive to use than regular glue the resulting bond is incredibly strong. That said it is harder to use and install since it’s divided in both resin and hardener form, and overall you can expect the drying process to last way longer, hours at a time even. Epoxies do have the advantage of growing stronger the longer they take to cure, so the wait does pay off.
Regarding regular glues, the last important option to consider is Polyurethane Glue, which provides a similar effect to PVA but dries notably faster. Polyurethane glue can dry in just a few minutes, usually no more than ten; making it by far the fastest drying wood glue in the market. Of course this comes with a caveat, and you can also expect it to be one of the most expensive overall.
Going back into the wood topic for a bit we need to delve into how each material affects the drying process. When you glue wood what you want to do is to keep a good layer of glue between both pieces. However, porous wood is able to absorb a large percentage of that glue, which makes it harder for the glue to stick. The more porous something is the more glue you’ll need, and the longer it’ll usually take to dry fully.
So as a general rule of thumb look at the average time of each brand or type and glue, and if the wood you are working with is porous you would do good to add around an extra 20% of time. After all what really matters is to ensure a strong bond, and when it comes to glue you can’t really rush it.
How Long Should You Wait Before Resuming Work On Your Wood Project?
To begin with if you plan to paint and sand your recently glued wood the first thing you need to do is to wait at the very least for the drying time. The idea of advancing work while pieces dry might sound enticing, but it usually won’t work in your favor. As we mentioned before wood can absorb glue and it can continue to do so even during the drying process.
While this might not sound that serious at first, that absorption can cause small swellings in the wood, and if you choose to sand before it’s fully dry then you might find that the surface is once again uneven once it’s fully dry. And since ideally you want to paint after the surface is perfect, that takes it out of the equation as well.
If you can afford some extra time after the drying process, that would be even better. As I mentioned earlier in this article, drying calculations aren’t completely exact given all the factors that play a role into it. So being cautious and giving your project some extra time can prove to be the difference between a great or uneven end result.
If you want to maximize time then rotate the different parts of your project. When two pieces are clamped and gluing together, move to another area instead, and with some prior planning you can keep your project active even while you wait for glue to dry. And if you want some extra tips to optimize the drying process then I’ll leave you with some interesting info that can help you in the future.