Glue for Dovetails

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Forum topic by SnowyRiver posted 04-08-2009 04:57 AM 4601 views 2 times favorited 12 replies Add to Favorites Watch
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51457 posts in 3505 days

04-08-2009 04:57 AM

I was wondering what glue everyone uses when doing dovetails? I have been usually using Titebond III, but sometimes find when I have a lot of dovetails to do, that it is sometimes hard to get glue on all the tails and pins and then assemble the piece before the glue starts to set. I have thought maybe polyurethane would be better for this…thoughts?


-- Wayne - Plymouth MN

12 replies so far

View matt garcia's profile

matt garcia

1896 posts in 3696 days

#1 posted 04-08-2009 05:03 AM

I use Titebond III on just about everything with no setting issues for me, even on dovetails. Are you dry fitting your case ahead of time? I’ve always found that a dryfit before glue up will get you a strategy on what sequence you assemble it before the glue is spread. Hope that helps!

-- Matt Garcia Wannabe Period Furniture Maker, Houston TX

View Mike Lingenfelter's profile

Mike Lingenfelter

503 posts in 4138 days

#2 posted 04-08-2009 05:20 AM

I generally use Titebond II, for a lot of my glue ups. I have had some close calls, getting the pieces together before the glue starts to tack-up. I haven’t tried it yet, but I’m told Liquid Hide glue has a somewhat longer open time. Don’t confuse this with Hot Hide glue, which sets very fast. Regular White glue also has a slightly longer open time. I used Polyurethane glue on one project and really didn’t like the mess it made. It was hard to clean off the wood and your hands (use gloves if you try this glue).

View Woodhacker's profile


1139 posts in 3748 days

#3 posted 04-08-2009 05:50 AM

I use Titebond III pretty much exclusively on dovetails. I have tried polyurethane, but I don’t like the messy clean up either, and if there are any gaps in the joints I find the foam left in any gap a nuisance.

I understand the risk with TB III setting up… but if you plan out your gluing sequence and have everything at hand, and work purposefully, you should be OK. One other comment, if possible look for ways to apply the glue and assemble only one or two of the corners at a time…that way the glue is not exposed for as long a time.

-- Martin, Kansas

View cmaeda's profile


205 posts in 3579 days

#4 posted 04-08-2009 06:22 AM

I use Titebond III. I use a small glue brush and only apply glue to the long grain.
Never had any problems with the glue setting. Using a small glue brush really speeds things up.

View TomHintz's profile


207 posts in 3423 days

#5 posted 04-08-2009 09:04 AM

I like to use Gorilla Glue on dovetails. The open time makes this less of a rushed deal and I love how the excess “foam out” just scrapes away and doesn’t leave stuff behind that bothers finishing later. I have had very good luck with the Gorilla Glue and continue to use it a bunch for the more complicated joinery and outdoor stuff.

-- Tom Hintz,

View Waldschrat's profile


505 posts in 3460 days

#6 posted 04-08-2009 11:26 AM


Tom Hintz has a good point, but probably deserves being expanded upon… It all depends on what kind of project or piece are you gluing together. If you are doing a simple Drawer, or small box with dovetails, then I say, use white/yellow (PVC, PVA) glue, (D3 grade) if its only a couple of tails on each corner, then I will even use the “Express” white glues (the stuff that sets up or has a press time of in 5-10 min), because it does not take long to put the glue on a small drawer, and its done way faster, and if you are doing alot of drawers, than it adds up, every extra 10 to 15 min. you have to wait for the normal stuff.

Tom Hintz has a good point as well, as you can see, the open time is way better on most PU (PolyUerathane glues, which Gorilla Glue belongs too), alot of these glues have an open time of about 30 minutes (some up to 60 min). If you are in a hurry and need waterproof/weather resistant, there are even some which have a open time of 15 minutes and have a press time of 1-2 hours… I think that the Gorilla falls into this catagory, (not sure as I do not have a bottle in front of me at th moment). This is a great advantage for bigger pieces and joints with many many dovetails or complicated joints that all have to be glued together at once. (shameless plug: Check out my oak room divider, about 2 meters of dovetails and all the middle and vertical shelves were glued together at the same time, and for this I used the 60 min. open time PU glue, and we needed every minute of it! Just to get the glue on all the pieces). And if one is in a real hurry, spraying a little water with a spray bottle or lightly wetted sponge on the joint will greatly accelerate or shorten the press and setup time

A small note to the PU glues, (not certian about Gorilla Glue or Sumo glue) but they are mostly UV sensitiv, and with time although weather reistant or water proof, will usually break down with sunlight over time, when exposed to it for whatever reason.

-- Nicholas, Cabinet/Furniture Maker, Blue Hill, Maine

View Rob's profile


143 posts in 3954 days

#7 posted 04-08-2009 12:09 PM

Titebond 2 or3 for me. No working time issues. As previously stated, a dry run first up helps.




View SnowyRiver's profile


51457 posts in 3505 days

#8 posted 04-08-2009 04:38 PM

Thanks for all the info folks. Yes, I dry fit it first, and generally dont have any problems with drawers or small boxs, but when I have a larger project like a chest etc (right now I have a chest with four corners and 32 large dovetails, so I wasnt sure if I dare use Titebond, or maybe go to something with a longer set time. Sometimes with a large box, its hard to get all the glue on, assembled and clamped before it starts to set.

-- Wayne - Plymouth MN

View Dusty56's profile


11819 posts in 3712 days

#9 posted 04-14-2009 05:03 PM

Hi Snowy . It looks like you’re already using the longest open time Titebond glue , unless you step up to their “Extend” glue which offers 15 minutes of open time , or use their Poly glue , 20-25 minutes of open time.These are quoted at 50% humidity by Titebond. Here is a link to Titebond.

I hope it helps you with your question. : )

-- I'm absolutely positive that I couldn't be more uncertain!

View SnowyRiver's profile


51457 posts in 3505 days

#10 posted 04-14-2009 05:45 PM

Thanks Dusty56. I appreciate the glue URL. I ended up using Gorrilla Glue. It worked fine and gave me quite a long time to assemble it

-- Wayne - Plymouth MN

View Dusty56's profile


11819 posts in 3712 days

#11 posted 04-14-2009 06:14 PM

Good to hear : )

-- I'm absolutely positive that I couldn't be more uncertain!

View jack's profile


45 posts in 3353 days

#12 posted 04-15-2009 10:37 PM

Hay Snowy River try puting your glue on ice.

-- All about wood..

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