Glue vs. Screws in Woodworking: Which Is Better?
Wood Glue: A Brief Overview
Pros of Wood Glue
What might surprise people is that wood glue is very strong, stronger than screws. But how does a paste get stronger than steel for holding wood together?
Glue is a liquid, and wood likes to absorb moisture; when you apply glue to wood, it will start to get absorbed into the fibers, and the pieces of wood will start to bond with each other. It’s on a whole different level than the glue you used in elementary school and can be successfully used to hold together wooden furniture or other projects.
You can use wood glue to do more things than just attaching things. It is far more versatile than you may initially think.
One use-case is that it can bond broken wood back together to make it new again. Let’s say you snapped a table leg, for instance; you can simply glue the two pieces back together and sand off any excess patches or blobs.
Wood glue can also be used in more crafts because you just need a small amount of it; it can be used for small projects with many different pieces. If you were to use screws for projects like these, you’d have a bunch of visible steel all over the places, plus it would be more effort to use screws in this scenario.
Creates a Cleaner Look
For aesthetic purposes, wood glue is arguably the superior way to do your projects. It creates a cleaner look and gives the vibe that the product is one solid piece of wood rather than hammered together.
Cons of Wood Glue
You Have to Wait for It to Dry
Wood glue is a liquid means it is a double-edged sword. While it eventually dries to create a strong bond, you are going to be waiting for at least 30 minutes for the glue to dry and 6 hours for it to become completely cured. Past that, it is advisable to not stress the joints on your product for at least 24 hours.
If you hate waiting around and just want to get things done and read, this will probably become an annoyance for you.
Not Suitable for Hot Environments
While heat is beneficial to wood glue in that it can dry faster, it starts to have the opposite effect when there is too much heat. The cured resin that can be found in popular wood glues such as Titebond and Elmers will start to soften, which results in wood having a harder time bonding.
If you are working in a workshop that gets excessively hot, you might have a harder time working with glue.
Screws: A Brief Overview
Screws are another way to join multiple pieces of wood together, and there are many different kinds. That’s a topic in itself, so we will be just referring to screws as a whole.
Using screws to join pieces of wood together has been a thing for ages and it is still a great way to get things done. Because the screws themselves are made of steel, they are strong enough to hold together a lot of weight.
There are different reasons why you might opt to go with this method over glue (and reasons why you might not). We will be getting into both the pros and cons of using screws for your projects to give you a better idea on where they work best and where they fall short.
Pros of Screws
No Waiting Around
Possibly one of the biggest advantages of using screws is that, unlike glue, you don’t have to wait around for things to dry. Once you have locked two or more wood pieces together, you don’t have to worry about it.
Additionally, you don’t need to worry about the temperature of your environment. We mentioned above how excessively hot temperatures can make glue even slower to dry and stick. If you are using screws, you don’t need to deal with any of that (although we recommend an air conditioner for comfort anyway!)
Better for Attaching Other Materials to Wood
While wood glue is incredibly strong when attaching two wood pieces, it starts to lose this advantage when bringing other materials in the mix, such as metals. If you are trying to make something such as a kitchen knife, it makes a lot more sense to use screws to secure the handle to the blade.
If you ever need to disassemble your project, you will have a much easier time doing so if you had used screws. While the glue is much better for reattaching broken wood, if you ever need to replace something or make adjustments, there will be less of a headache when you only need to unscrew using a drill.
Cons of Screws
This ties back into the glue, providing better aesthetics overall. While it is possible to hide screw heads by drilling deeper holes and using filler to cover them, that is an extra step, and it may backfire if you don’t do it right.
Glue is applied to all of the necessary surfaces for strong reinforcement. Screws, on the other hand, are only applied to small sections such as the edges or the middle. This arguably makes for less durable products overall.
Glue vs. Screws: When to Use
It’s safe to say that glue wins when it comes to versatility. It’s invisible on a finished project, strong enough to bind wood, and can be used to put broken wood pieces back together.
The vast majority of woodworking projects can be done with just wood glue. Still, there are instances where screws would make sense, such as attaching materials other than wood or working on a project that might need to be disassembled later.
In reality, having both in your workshop is ideal, and using both on the same project can be beneficial depending on what you are doing. Screws can provide stronger joints, and whole clamping glue can hold the rest of it down.
Glue and screws can coexist in woodworking because they do some things better than the other. In reality, we need both to provide balance in woodworking and you can definitely use both on many projects to get the best of both worlds. Screws work best for holding together joints while glue is better for holding down the length of the board.