Wood glue is one of the ways to join two pieces of wood together, thanks to its ability to create a stronger bond than the wood itself. And, unlike metal fasteners, wood glue doesn’t leave behind a hole or head to cover. But for wood glue to be effective, it needs time to dry and reach maximum strength.
With so many different types and brands of wood glue on the market, it can be difficult to figure out how long you have to wait before the clamps can come off and you can put that newly glued joint back into service.
How long does it take wood glue to dry? Many factors impact glue dry time, including temperature, humidity, wood species, and even moisture content. In this article, we’ll demystify this process by discussing the drying times of some of the most popular wood glues and how these factors affect those times.
Wood Glue Dry Time vs. Cure Time vs Set Time
As with paint, stain, liquid nails, concrete, and other construction products that have drying times, wood glue also has a cure time and set time.
What’s the difference? Let’s start with the one that comes first in the drying process, which is set time. The set time is the amount of time it takes for the glue to create a bond of acceptable strength between the two pieces you’re gluing together.
A glue is set when it shows signs of hardening. If the glue is exposed, this is often indicated by it forming a solid skin over the glue.
Think of the glue in a state between being solid and liquid. That said, the bond is tenuous at best and will likely come apart fairly easily when even a small amount of force is applied to it. Most glues set in around 15 to 30 minutes.
Dry time refers to the amount of time it takes for the glue to become hard enough that clamps can be removed.
Depending on the type of glue, this can take anywhere from 15 minutes to a couple of hours. Once dry, glue should be able to hold the bond together with nominal force applied to it.
Wood held together by clamps should no longer require the clamps once the glue reaches its dry time unless the joint is stressed. Just because the glue is dry doesn’t mean it’s ready to go into full service.
Cure time is the amount of time it takes for the glue to reach its maximum hardness and the bond its maximum strength. Cure time varies with wood glue and can typically range from as little as 24 hours to several days.
How Long Does Wood Glue Take to Dry
The list below provides the dry times for the most popular wood glues on the market and their recommended applications. Remember that these dry times are not set in stone as glue dry time can be affected by numerous factors, which we’ll get into later in this article.
The dry times below are under ideal conditions of around 50 percent humidity at a temperature of 70 degrees with lumber with an average moisture content.
What Factors Affect Wood Glue Drying Time?
As with concrete, paint, liquid nails, and other construction products that come in a liquid or semi-liquid state, several factors impact how long it takes for wood glue to dry. While this may seem confusing at first, you can ensure a good result by learning what these factors are.
Stressed Joints vs Unstressed Joints
How long you should wait for wood glue to dry largely depends on how much stress the bond must endure. A shelf glued to two wood supports underneath it does not have any stress in the joint.
Gravity is helping to hold such joints together by pushing down the connection. In this case, the joint may only need to be held together for 30 minutes to an hour.
In comparison, two 1×6 boards glued together perpendicularly at the ends face a significant amount of stress. The weight of the boards creates forces that want to pull the joint apart.
For this kind of stressed joint, you’ll need to keep the two boards clamped tougher for 24 hours to ensure the bond is strong enough to hold the boards together on its own.
Not all wood glues are the same. They come in a variety of different formulas, which impacts dry time. Understanding how long it takes each of these different types of glues to dry is critical to choosing the right one for the job.
This is the most common type of wood glue, identifiable by its pale yellow color and viscous consistency. It’s water-based and dries when the water in it begins evaporating when exposed to air.
Since many PVA glues create stronger bonds than the wood they are bonding together, they are effective for many carpentry applications. Most PVA glues set in 30 minutes to an hour and take about a day to dry.
Unlike PVA, polyurethane glue is not water-based. While it produces high VOCs, it also has advantages over PVA glue. It dries when exposed to moisture, making it ideal for use with wood with a high moisture content.
It also won’t soak into porous wood, which can cause wood to swell. Polyurethane typically sets in about two hours and takes 24 hours to fully dry.
Polyurethane and PVA glue dry when reacting with air or moisture, epoxy uses a chemical reaction between a resin and hardener, which comes in separate tubes. This reaction begins when the user combines the two substances just before application.
Epoxy glues take longer to dry but are stronger than other glues. Epoxy can take as much as 72 hours to fully cure.
Most of us know this complicated-sounding glue by its nickname: super glue. Like epoxy, cyanoacrylate can be used on many different kinds of materials, including wood. It dries very quickly compared to PVA, polyurethane, or epoxy glues, setting in as little as 10 minutes and fully curing in about a day.
While this makes it ideal for completing quick fixes in a pinch, it does not create a strong bond between wood as other glue types.
If you’ve ever heard of a horse being “sent off to the glue factory,” then this is the type of glue they’re referring to. This type of glue is made of animal parts high in collagen, a key ingredient for making glue.
Hide glue is favored by woodworkers because it dries transparent, won’t allow joints to shift while drying, won’t shrink as it dries, is reversible, and is just as strong as PVA. Hide glue is more difficult to work with, as it must be heated to a temperature of 145 degrees before being applied. It hardens as it cools to room temperature.
In addition to dry time, set time, and cure time, glue also has an open assembly time and close assembly time. Understanding these times is crucial to properly applying wood glue.
Open assembly is the amount of time you have from the time the glue exits the bottle to the time you create the bond before it becomes too dry to use.
Some glues have a very short open time. Epoxies must be used typically within 5 to 10 minutes or so of being mixed. PVA glues typically give between 10 and 15 minutes of open assembly time, while super glue has an open time of just 3 to 5 minutes.
Closed assembly refers to the amount of time you have to reposition the bond before it can no longer be moved. This is also often referred to as “assembly time.” Assembly time can vary from seconds for super glue to about 10 minutes for PVA glues up to a full hour for liquid hide glue. Attempting to reposition a bond once the open time has expired will result in a weaker joint.
Whether it’s paint, concrete, or wood glue, humidity is one of the biggest factors that affect drying time. The higher the humidity, the more moisture there is in the surrounding air. Humid air is less capable of evaporating the moisture in water-based glue.
Most dry times on the side of the bottle are based on a normal humidity of about 50%. So, if you’re in a climate-controlled indoor area, then you don’t need to worry about deviating from the instructions on the bottle.
However, if you’re working outdoors or in a garage or shed that is not climate-controlled, you may need to consider extending the dry time. In humid environments, plan on doubling the dry time to ensure the glue dries thoroughly before removing clamps or putting a glued piece into service.
Humidity will affect some glues more than others. PVA glues dry more slowly in high humidity as they require air to remove the moisture from the glue. Dryer air does this more efficiently than damp air. Polyurethane glues, meanwhile, dry more quickly when exposed to moisture.
Likewise, if you’re in a dryer environment where the humidity is under 40 percent, expect the glue to dry more quickly, potentially shortening both the open assembly and close assembly times.
Most dry times are based on room temperatures of between 65 and 75 degrees. While temperatures that are moderately warmer or cooler likely won’t impact dry time, extreme heat and sub-freezing temperatures can speed up or slow down the drying process.
Luckily, most glue manufacturers put a temperature range on the bottle that delineates the temperature range at which the glue should be applied.
Most have a minimum temperature range of around 45 to 50 degrees; however, the temperature can range significantly depending on glue type, as shown in the table below.
If you’re struggling to reach the minimum temperature requirements, try using a space heater or blow dryer to dry the glue.
|Wood Glue Type||Application Temperature Range|
|Polyvinyl Acetate||50-77 degrees|
Wood Moisture Content
Wood is porous with numerous tiny pockets inside it that were used to transport water through its trunk and branches when it was a living tree. After being cut down and milled into lumber, it retains some of that moisture. That moisture content affects its ability to help wood glue dry.
Freshly cut and milled green wood can have a moisture content of up to 75 percent, while kiln-dried wood will have around 15 percent or less.
PVA glues in a water suspension must evaporate for the glue to dry and harden. Dryer wood will soak up much of that moisture, causing the glue to dry faster.
Wood with a higher moisture content does not have as much room to absorb more water, lengthening the drying process of the glue. Too much moisture can also weaken the glue, resulting in a poor bond.
If you’re working with wood that has a high moisture content, consider using polyurethane glue. For best results with PVA or hide wood glue, use kiln-dried wood with a moisture content of 15 percent or lower.
Though wood type is less of a factor when determining how quickly wood glue dries, it’s still a factor to consider, especially if you’re working with more exotic wood species.
Some tropical woods are oilier than others, making it more difficult for the wood to absorb the moisture in water-based glues, slowing the dry time.
It’s best to use epoxy or polyurethane to glue oilier woods together. You can even use cyanoacrylate for smaller areas. If you’re deadset on using water-based wood glue, try sanding it or use a solvent to remove some of the oil at the surface of the wood.
Some woods are also denser than others, which can extend dry time. Hardwoods, for example, are denser than softwoods. This higher density means they have less space in their wood structure to soak up moisture.
The more moisture a piece of wood can soak up, the faster water-based wood glues, such as PVA, will dry. If using a denser hardwood, such as maple, oak, or cherry, consider using a non-water-based wood glue such as polyurethane or epoxy.
Good air circulation is also key to drying glue, especially if you’re using PVA glue, which dries through evaporation. The more air that’s circulating, the greater the availability of dry air that can collect water molecules from the glue.
Poor airflow will slow the drying process and, in some cases, prevent the glue from drying at all.
To improve ventilation, work in an open area. If indoors, open windows. Whether indoors or outdoors, use a fan to blow air over the glued joints to help speed along the drying process.
Another potential factor to consider when considering the dry time for wood glue is thickness. Whereas a thin layer of glue will dry quickly, a thicker glue application will take longer to dry.
In most cases, thickness is not a factor. If you’re clamping the joint together, the thickness will be minuscule and therefore, the dry time won’t be impacted. However, if you’re using wood glue to fill small gaps around dowels or tenons, expect the dry time to be longer.
How to Make Wood Glue Dry Faster
While giving joint plenty of time to dry is the best strategy for wood glue, sometimes you just can’t wait. In those cases, there are a few strategies you can employ to speed up the dry time.
Heat causes water to evaporate faster, so warming the air in a workshop or applying a hairdryer to the joint will help to speed the drying process. This is especially effective when working in damp or cold conditions.
A heater or hairdryer will not only raise the temperature of the glue but also eliminate moisture from the surrounding air, lowering the humidity. You can also speed up the drying process by blowing air across the joint with a fan.
If you’re using epoxy, you can also shorten the dry time by adding a higher percentage of hardener when mixing the epoxy. Just keep in mind that the glue could set very quickly, so you’ll have to work fast. Using this method also means the bond will have less resin and, therefore may not be quite as strong.
What is the Best Fast Drying Wood Glue?
There are several projects on the market that offer faster than average drying times for wood glue.
Titebond Quick & Thick Multi-Surface Glue
With an open assembly time of just 3 to 5 minutes and a closed assembly time of 15 minutes, Titebond Quick and Thick wood glue is one of the fastest drying wood glues on the market. What makes it so quick-drying is its viscosity.
Titebond Quick & Thick also happens to be one of the thicker glues you can buy, so it doesn’t compromise on strength.
Like other PVA wood glues, this product is stronger than the wood it’s binding together.
Krazy Glue, Gast Dry Wood Glue
While cyanoacrylate glues are not ideal for larger joints, they are a good choice for smaller applications. In those situations, this quick-drying wood glue from Krazy Glue is a great option.
It sets minutes after its application, making it one of the fastest options for joining two pieces of wood together.
This makes it ideal for joints that aren’t clampable. Simply hold the piece in place for a few minutes the let go.
How Long to Let Wood Glue Dry Before Sanding?
While you may be anxious to move your project forward, handling a glued joint too quickly can ruin it. Fortunately, you typically don’t have to wait that long. Most joints only need to be clamped for about an hour, after which they can be lightly sanded.
The exception is stressed joints. It’s best to allow these joints a full day of drying and curing before applying any pressure, such as heavy sanding. Wait a full day for any joint before subjecting the connection to a more rigorous sanding effort.
How Long to Clamp Wood Glue?
How long two pieces of wood should remain clamped together before you remove the clamps has mainly to do with whether the joints are stressed or not. If the joint is under stress, then you should leave it clamped for 24 hours. This will give the glue enough time to fully harden to support the weight without coming apart.
If the joint is not stressed, then you can remove the clamps after about an hour of drying. If you’re not sure how much stress the joint is under, then err on the side of caution and leave it clamped for the maximum time.
Whereas unclamping the two pieces too early could ruin the project, leaving them clamped for longer than needed won’t.
Why Isn’t My Wood Glue Drying?
There is a wide range of factors that could be preventing your glue from drying. Check the temperature of your woodshop to make sure it falls within the temperature range on the bottle. If the temperature gets too chilly, wood glue will not dry.
Make sure you have enough air circulation. If it’s humid, you’ll need air circulation to help the evaporation process required to dry water-based glues. With that in mind, check the humidity. Overly humid conditions greater than 60 percent will extend the dry time of many wood types of glue.
Check the wood. If the wood fibers are too dense or the wood is oily, the glue won’t be able to adhere to it. Also, if the wood has a high moisture content, it will take longer to remove the moisture from the glue, slowing the drying process.
Your glue could also be too old. If the glue is more than two years old, it may have begun to degrade. This could prevent it from drying properly while negatively impacting its joint strength.
Finally, check and make sure you’re using the right kind of wood glue for the job. Review the section above regarding wood glue types for guidance.
Wood glue is the main staple of numerous carpentry and woodworking projects. While reading the instructions is crucial, it’s also important to understand how other factors affect dry time, including temperature, humidity, and even wood species. Understanding how long it takes for wood glue to fully dry is key to ensuring the joints between two pieces of wood are strong enough to hold together for many years to come.