For many centuries animal glue, especially hide glue, was the primary adhesive of choice for a great many types of woodworking, including furniture and lutherie. It is manufactured from rendered collagen from the skins (hides) of animals. It is chemically similar to edible gelatin and is non-toxic if ingested. Hide glue is still used today in specialized applications: musical instruments (lutherie), for replica furniture, and for conservation-grade repairs to antique woodwork. Hide glue is measured on the basis of its gel strength, a measure of how many grams of force it requires to depress a 1⁄2 in (13 mm) plunger 4 mm (0.16 in) into a 12.5% protein solution of the glue at 10 °C (50 °F). Glue is manufactured in standard grades from 32–512 grams (1.1–18.1 oz). 192-gram (6.8 oz) strength is the most commonly used for woodworking; 251-gram (8.9 oz) is the highest normally used for instrument building; 135-gram (4.8 oz) is the lowest used for general woodwork. Glue above 250-gram (8.8 oz) strength requires excessive dilution and so leaves too little glue in joints for effective adhesion, so it is not commonly used. Liquid versions of hide glue are now available; typically they have urea added to keep the glue liquid at room temperature and to extend drying time. Examples of liquid hide glue are Old Brown Glue or Titebond Liquid Hide. Hide glue does not creep. Hide glue joints are easy to repair, by just heating and adding more hide glue.
Urea-formaldehyde resin adhesives feature a low effective cost, low cure temperatures, resistance to microorganisms and abrasion, and light color. It does not creep, and can be repaired with epoxy. It can rapidly deteriorate in hot, moist environments, releasing formaldehyde (a carcinogen).
Resorcinol-formaldehyde resin glue is very strong and durable (resisting immersion in boiling water, mild acids, salt water, solvents, mold, fungus, ultraviolet, etc.). It must be mixed before use (liquid resin and powdered catalyst). It has a dark purple color which may be objectionable in some uses. Toxic. For many years, the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) has stated that "Resorcinol is the only known adhesive recommended and approved for use in wooden aircraft structure and fully meets necessary strength and durability requirements" for certificated aircraft, however in fact the vast majority of wooden aircraft built in recent decades (mostly amateur-built aircraft) instead use other types of adhesives (primarily epoxy resin systems) which offer greater strength and even more importantly, much less criticality in perfect application technique. Most newer adhesives are much more tolerant to typical construction mistakes (such as small gaps or misalignments between parts) than resorcinol, which offers virtually no tolerance for such everyday construction situations. This can pose major difficulties, especially in complex assemblies. However, resorcinol is still used by some builders/restorers, and is commonly seen in vintage aircraft.
Polyurethane glue (trade names include Gorilla Glue and Excel) is becoming increasingly popular. They bond to textile fibers, metals, plastics, glass, sand, ceramics, and rubber, in addition to wood. Polyurethane wood adhesives are normally prepolymers terminated with isocyanate groups. When exposed to moisture, isocyanates react with water and thus cure the adhesives. Therefore, one component polyurethane adhesives are also named as moisture-cure polyurethanes. In addition, interactions between polyurethanes and wood polymers can significantly influence bond performance. However, in water-saturating tests, polyurethane bonds "were much less durable than the resorcinol bonds on both [Douglas-fir and yellow birch]."
Epoxy, usually as a two part mix system, cures under a wider range of temperatures and moisture content than other glues, does not require pressure while curing, and has good gap-filling properties: near-perfect joints with very small gaps actually produce weaker bonds. Use of epoxy requires careful attention to the mixing ratio of the two parts. It bonds to most cured wood glues (except PVA). Two part epoxy adhesive is very resistant to ultraviolet light and salt water, most epoxy is heat resistant up to 350 °F (177 °C), the formulations containing powdered metal and rubber or plasticizers are very tough and shock resistant. Epoxy can trigger long-term sensitivity (allergies) from overexposure, and is often expensive.
Cyanoacrylate (Crazy glue, Superglue, CA or CyA) is used mainly for small repairs, especially by woodturners. It bonds instantly, including to skin. Cured CA is essentially a plastic material. Versions are available that are able to wick into tight joints but bond with reduced strength (because much drips out and much soaks into the wood leaving very little on the surface for the bond), or thicker formulations (gel) which can fill very small gaps, do not flow out of the joint, and do not soak so quickly into wood. Thinner cyanoacrylate glue does not bond more quickly nor form shorter polymer chains than the gel version when used on wood. The chemical nature of wood significantly delays polymerization of cyanoacrylate. When it finally polymerizes in a wood joint, enough gel remains for a better bond than with the thin version. When using the gel, too much glue will weaken the resulting bond. Likewise, applying too little of the thin super glue will result in almost no glue at all remaining in a wood joint, causing a weak bond or no bond at all. Versions are also available that are foam safe (regular CA dissolves most plastic foams) which are usually also marketed as low odor. Cyanoacrylate is stiff but has a low shear strength (brittle) thus normal wood bending can break the bond in some applications. Often, too much adhesive is applied which leads to a much weaker bond. CA has quickly become the dominant adhesive used by builders of balsa wood models, where its strength far exceeds the base materials.
Casein glue was used to make strong and robust joints in early aviation, but fell out of favor due to its susceptibility to attack by bacteria.
Hobbyists commonly use polyvinyl acetate (PVA), also known as "white glue" or "hobby and craft", and aliphatic resin emulsion, commonly referred to as "carpenter's glue" or "yellow glue", which has similar relative ultimate strength. The two have different grip characteristics before initial set, with PVAs exhibiting more slip during assembly and yellow glue having more initial grip. PVAs are non-toxic and very easy to use, but hard to repair since most glues (including PVA) do not adhere well to hardened PVA glue. PVAs will creep under constant load. Elmer's Glue-All is an example of PVA adhesive.
Several wood glues have poor "gap-filling" ability, meaning they either soak into the wood and leave the gap empty, or remain to fill the gap but have little structural integrity. Therefore, woodworkers commonly use tight-fitting joints that need surprisingly little glue to hold large pieces of wood. Most wood glues need to be clamped while the glue sets. Epoxy resins and some other glues can be thickened with structural fillers (or with thicker formulations of the resin) to help fill gaps, however it is preferable to try to minimize gaps in the first place.