The Chronicles of Woodworking in a Can #3: Can Wood Glue Freeze?

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Blog entry by cmckerliesr posted 03-05-2009 12:41 AM 4953 reads 0 times favorited 8 comments Add to Favorites Watch
« Part 2: The Chronicles of Woodworking in a Can (continues 2/27/2009) Part 3 of The Chronicles of Woodworking in a Can series Part 4: It has been a long time.....climate inside the can »

As I am sure you can tell from the title of this blog entry. I have a reason for the question.

No I am not asking if it can, cause I have proof that wood glue can indeed freeze. So why do I bring this up. One to be honest I am a little bored today and just wanted to share a little about something that happened inside the can recently.

I know I have said a lot about how I am able to work comfortably inside the can without heat or air. But I have not talked about what happens when I first open the doors in the morning or some of what I have experienced after a very cold night. Some of it may be common sense considering it is a large metal box, but as I said, I am bored. Who knows I may actually be giving some information that some one may not of considered or thought of. Yeah! Right, like I’m the genius that is going to impart some bit of wisdom or learning to some one. LOL! May be this bit of self indulgence will inspire me to build that rocket ship to fly to the moon that I have been putting of for years. (OK, enough sarcasm). More, big words, I better watch out.

Sorry I went off subject for a moment listening to those voices in my head that started this whole thing.

Honestly I did not give it much thought, that is, the fact that wood glue can freeze. When I decided to work inside the can. Being originally from sunny southern California, I just never gave it much thought. But I had a rude awakening the last day or so. The overnight temperatures had dropped to the high teens, you know 18 – 19 degrees without wind chill or as they call it now days this was not the real feel, but the actual temperature. Damn! I’m just full of wise crap today….

Since I have been working in the can, I have noticed that if the overnight temperatures get low enough it is really noticeable when you first open the doors. Also, I noticed that the temperature warms up nicely if you leave one door open and ambient air from outside comes in. (More big words…sorry I will try to keep it to a minimum). I never really gave it much thought. Especially because I thought that if any one else decided to work in a can as well, they would figure some of these things out for themselves too. I mean you have to understand that there is a little trial and error that has to go on for you to determine how to keep it to your liking with the can. Also, it is dependent on your local climate conditions. So I really never considered going into much about what it was like to go into the can first thing in the morning. Now, lets see if I can bring this all back around to the original thought.

When I first started working in the can, I paid attention to what it was like inside. If it was hot, warm, or cold when I first opened the doors and I tried to be observant as to what was happening to everything inside the can. There was not much to observe at first, because I moved my tools in first and started laying out what was to come next. I did not store much of anything else in there at the time, no wood, no glue, or stain or anything else. But I did notice that if the overnight temperatures got below 30 degrees, it was real chilly inside when I first opened the doors. Sorry, I never carry a thermometer in my pocket so I can not give exact details other than it was chilly in there. I would leave one door open and the outside air along with sunlight would warm it up to my liking fairly quickly. I can not say that it took much longer on a cloudy day, but there was difference. Of course, I could change the temperature or let it warm up faster inside by opening both doors on these days.

Back to the glue…..I’m trying guys, I just keep thinking of things that might be relevant as well and to cover all the bases.

So, I opened the doors yesterday. It was real chilly inside. I was preparing to glue up some boards. I had everything ready, I got my glue bottle, turned it over to squeeze out some glue. Nothing came out. Back to those cuss words. I guess I got stuck on stupid. Turned it over again and that is when I finally noticed, that the glue was not flowing, moving, or coming out of the bottle. So I tried shaking the bottle, working it around in my hands, taking the cap off and trying to stir it up a little. Which is when I found out the glue was frozen. I will not say solid, but frozen to the point that I was not going to be doing any gluing. Luckily I remembered another bottle of glue I had stored in the house. So I retrieved it, and was able to continue with my work. When I was done, I got to thinking. Yes, the most dangerous thing any one man can do, think, or wonder why something happened.

During the course of the day, I had managed to defrost or thaw the first bottle of glue. For what ever reason, I started to wonder if I had left the glue inside a cabinet, out on the bench or if I had some how left it against one of the walls or sides of the can. OK, I admit it I do not always put the glue away or even in the same spot all the time. Before this, I have never thought of keeping track of such a thing. After all I do have some usual habits that have always meant that I pretty much knew where the glue was when I needed it. So. This all brought me to question, does it really matter where I store the glue in the can? Will it freeze inside a cabinet or just left out in the open, or does it only happen if the bottle is in close contact (big word) or proximately (thank god for spell check) to the wall.

Answer: NO. I found that if the overnight temperature drops below about 30 degrees it does not matter where the glue is stored it will freeze. Or at least become unusable until it warms up or thaws out. I did manage to use one trick that at least on one occasion prevented this from happening. Those of you that have a pump house should know this.

We get our water from a well. To help prevent the water from freezing, a simple light bulb is put into the pump house, that and a little insulation has meant that our water supply has never frozen. I had an ah ha moment. Yes it was painful, I was dazed for a few moments, and my wife had to check to see if I was still alive after words, but this is what happened.

I have 2 identical cabinets that are installed against the wall. I installed a light socket in both cabinets. In one, I also glued some insulation to the inside back of the cabinet. In both cabinets I put in 60 watt bulbs and each cabinet also held identical glue bottles. The next day, I checked on my little experiment. The glue in both bottles was still usable, but the one in the insulated cabinet was much more fluid then the glue from the uninsulated cabinet.

I know that I could solve all this by doing one thing. Gluing insulation onto the walls, and then putting up dry wall or some other covering. But for one, I am going to attach another can to this one and I do not want to go through tearing out all of that from the wall that will be taken down. Plus, I also like the fact that I am going through some of the extremes. I like sharing the stories, and the information. I could of easily had some one come in, set the can down, insulated it, installed climate control and possibly more. But doing it this way. I learn what happens too. Plus, what of the guy who can not afford to go all out. If I had just jumped into all of that and then some one who is just getting by, says wow, I am going to do this based on what I have read from this blog. He gets the basic can and then finds out it was not as good as it seemed in the blog. One he may hunt me down, and that would not be pretty.

What I am getting at, is it is easy if you have the means to do so to set up a can and never experience what I have. But, if you do not have the money or the resources are just not available for what ever reason. Then you are going to experience and have to experiment with the same things I am. Heck, I am still running an extension cord to the can for power every day.

Well, I am no longer bored and I hope that I have made you laugh or even imparted some bit of information or wisdom to you. After all that is the my goal here. I can not take myself nor any one else to seriously. I refuse to do so. Every time I start a project, I set out to do my best and create something I can be proud of. At the same time, when I run into things that I might of had a little trouble doing I ask questions even if I have figured out how to do it. Because I want to know how other may handle it or just because some one else may be struggling with the same situation but at scared to look stupid. Like my post in the forum about cutting a notch into a dowel. I had already figured it out, but I was so happy with the response I got. I even kept some of the responses because I want to try their way out when I make another tracking stick.

But that is off subject.

Glue does freeze, you can prevent it, it gets cold inside the can, and so far there has been no affect on the wood I do store in there. Also, no animals, small children, or any thing else was harmed in the quest for knowledge. I look forward to continuing this blog and I am working on not being so long winded.

Warmest Regards!

Until I have more to write about. Keep playing in the sawdust.

-- The Man in the Can, Craig M. North Carolina

8 comments so far

View kiwi1969's profile


608 posts in 3464 days

#1 posted 03-05-2009 01:16 AM

Been there done that. Night shift in New Zealand, dead of winter. Our Taylor clamp was in it,s own room with a gas heater to keep things at a constant temp, but our assemblers had to be sent home as all their glue was freezing up as it sat on their benches and any joint they glued failed, not to mention the wind chill factor comeing of the sawblades and the nailguns blocking up with ice. Oh how I love living in the tropics!

-- if the hand is not working it is not a pure hand

View Steelmum's profile


355 posts in 3985 days

#2 posted 03-05-2009 01:25 AM

I did hear somewhere that if you put your glue in a cooler it will insulate it enough to keep from freezing. Not sure, haven’t tried it, but sounds possible.

-- Berta in NC

View lew's profile (online now)


12100 posts in 3778 days

#3 posted 03-05-2009 02:37 AM


According to the Titebond site, Their yellow wood glue should not be stored where it can freeze. Don’t know what the exact effects are, however.


-- Lew- Time traveler. Purveyor of the Universe's finest custom rolling pins.

View cmckerliesr's profile


82 posts in 3468 days

#4 posted 03-05-2009 03:37 AM

I at first did not intentionally set out to make it freeze. In fact until it happened I did not know that glue would freeze.
I am not sure of the effects either, as it just so happens I was using the Titebond yellow wood glue when this happened. But so far so good, I have not experienced anything negative yet. But I am sure if I did let it freeze repeatedly there probably would be problems.
I should of mentioned that I have stored the glue safely now and that it no longer freezes.
Thanks for you input Lew!
It is always a pleasure.


-- The Man in the Can, Craig M. North Carolina

View RichClark's profile


157 posts in 3453 days

#5 posted 03-05-2009 03:54 AM

I imagine the components of the glue will freeze at different stages and your glue will separate into its components, Nice science project (Ill save that for my daughter) but is a liquid and you have to expect it to freeze. (unless its absolute vodka!) Id chalk it up to not to be repeated and wouldn’t trust a joint with it.

-- Duct Tape is the Force! It has a light side and a dark side and it Binds the Universe together!

View rtb's profile


1101 posts in 3736 days

#6 posted 03-05-2009 06:11 PM

Somehow I don’t think it gets cold enought in NC for this to be much of a prob. I have used thawed tightbond II many times without any sign of glue failure. recently I have had to compleat some projects during the +T part of the day (14-15 F ) and have used G. glue, almost impossible to spread or get out of the bottle at those temps. A few seconds witgh heat gun and it could have been mid summer. I usually leave the clamps on over night but have had no failures with method. I also found that heating the inital sqeeze out after clamping and wiping with a damp shop rag definatatly reduces the amount of cleanup later.

-- RTB. stray animals are just looking for love

View 8iowa's profile


1580 posts in 3784 days

#7 posted 03-05-2009 06:37 PM

Winters in the Upper Peninsula are pretty brutal, in addition to 200+ inches of snow, below freezing temperatures can last continuously for periods of six to eight weeks.

In the late Fall, when I close up my ‘Workshop in the Woods”, I have to gather up all items that would freeze and take them down into the basement of our house. I don’t think it freezes down there, but just to be safe, everything containing H2O is placed in large metal tubs on the floor with blakets placed over. When we open up again in the Spring there are always a few “surprises”, fortunately not too major so far.

-- "Heaven is North of the Bridge"

View MsDebbieP's profile


18615 posts in 4183 days

#8 posted 03-05-2009 08:58 PM

great blog.
Favourite line? “Warmest Regards”

-- ~ Debbie, Canada (

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