When to Use Wood Glue, Screws, or Both for Woodworking

When to Use Wood Glue, Screws, or Both for Woodworking by Valentin | Last Updated: December 23, 2020
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Wood is one of the best crafting materials we have, in my opinion. You can get a lot of different types of wood that can be used to build all sorts of amazing projects.

Wood is also widely available and pretty easy to work with even if you are new to woodworking. For most projects simple wood glue will be more than enough to assemble your wood project permanently but how strong is wood glue and when should you use screws or should you use both?

In this guide, I will explain exactly that, so that you will be able to confidently decide for yourselves how you should assemble your project.

You should use wood glue and screws together if you are building something that needs to be very strong and needs to carry a lot of weight later on like a heavy table or a shelf for example. But for most woodworking projects simple wood glue will be more than strong enough. 

There are a few exceptions where wood glue is not the best choice and vice versa.

I will go more into depth about when to use wood glue and when it´s best to use screws.

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When to Use Wood Glue

Wood glue will create a very strong bond between wood pieces. It is ideal for gluing wooden joints, panels, and for fixing broken wooden pieces.

You should use wood glue for permanently bonding wooden joints to each other and for glueing wood pieces together that have a medium to large surface area for glueing. Wood glue should not be used if the piece hast o be flexible or if it has to carry a lot of weight later on.

For the best result and strongest connection possible wood glue should be applied in a thin and even layer. It is necessary to press both pieces together until the glue has dried.

The easiest way to do this is by clamping the wooden pieces together.

It should only take a few minutes until the wood glue has created an initial bond.

It will take about an hour or sometimes more until the glue is completely dry, however.

  • Advantages of Wood Glue:
    • Easy and safe to use
    • Cheap
    • Creates a very strong permanent bond
    • Dries quickly
  • Disadvantages of Wood Glue:
    • It will create a rigid bond so it should not be used for gluing flexible parts
    • Some wood variants like Cedar  have to be cleaned from any oil residue before using wood glue to glue them
    • It is not Strong enough to glue for example feet to a tabletop

When to Use Screw to Fasten Wood

I personally try to avoid using screws to assemble my woodworking projects as much as possible for vanity reasons mainly.

I think it just looks awful if you can see screw heads on an assembled and painted piece.

So I personally always think about how to hide them later on before I even start with my project.

I prefer using wood glue over screws any day but sometimes you have to use screws because wood glue is simply not strong enough.

You should use Screws if your project needs to hold a lot of weight or if it has to withstand a lot of stress. For example when building a bookshelf, building a wood deck, and so on.

Be careful when using screws because not every type of wood can be fastened with a regular screw.

Cedar might actually „eat“ some screws that are not coated properly and some types of wood that like to move a lot might separate themselves after a while.

So you need to use special fasteners in order to work with these types of wood.

So make sure to double-check if have the right type of screws for the type of wood that you are using.

  • Advantages of Using Screws:
    • Easy to use and cheap
    • Projects can be disassembled easier
    • Create a very strong and permanent bond
    • Can be used for outdoor projects
  • Disadvantages of Using Screws:
    • Some type of woods „eat“ the screw if they are not coated properly
    • You should drill a hole before using the screw or the wood might split
    • You have to hide the screw heads afterward

When to use Wood Glue and Screws Together

On rare occasions, you might want to use both screws and wood glue together.

I personally never used both in the past but there are some projects where it might actually make sense to use Screws and Woodglue together.

For example, if you are using something that needs to be very strong or that has to be built very precisely then using both might make sense.

If you are building a table then only using screws might be enough but you will be able to build an even sturdier and stronger table if you use joints and wood glue to connect the pieces and then use screws to further strengthen the connection.

Andi f you are building a project where a lot of precision is required on top of strength then you can simply glue down the pieces initially to make sure that they are fixed before drilling any holes and connecting the pieces with screws.

This will guarantee that the pieces won´t move out of position as you drilled the holes and screw the wood pieces down.

So in the end there isn´t really a definitive answer to the question of whether you should use screws, wood glue, or both. It entirely depends on your project.

So take a look at your project and try to answer the following questions in order to narrow down whether you should use wood glue or screws for your project.

Are you going to use wood joints to connect the wooden pieces together?

Do your wooden pieces have a lot of surface area to apply glue to?

Does your project only need to support a moderate amount of weight?

If you can answer all of these questions with yes, then using wood glue is perfect for your project.

Do you need to disassemble your whole or parts of your project?

Does your project need to be flexible or is the wood moving a little bit?

Do you need your project to support a lot of weight?

If you can answer any of these questions with yes then using screws might be the best way to go.

Do you need a lot of precision in your projects?

Do you need your project to support a lot of weight that will strain the wood in different angles or directions?

If you answered any of these questions with yes then you might want to consider using wood glue and screws together.

Hi, I am a passionate maker and professional prop maker for the entertainment industry. I use my woodworking, programming, electronics, and illustration know-how to create these interactive props. And I share my knowledge and my experience on this blog with you so that you can become a maker yourself.