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  • Using CA Glue in Woodturning

    There have been some recent threads on CA glue on the Turners forum. The following is an article I did for my turning club website on CA glue after doing some research......

    CA Glue The Woodturners Friend.....

    By Wally Dickerman

    Cyanoacrylate Glue, commonly called CA glue is used by woodturners for a variety of reasons. To attach glue blocks, to fill voids and cracks, to attach collars to hollowforms, to firm up bark on natural edge bowls, as a durable finish for pens, bowls, bottle stoppers and more.

    CA glue works well to bond wet wood. Yellow and white glues do not. For that reason CA is almost universally used to attach glue blocks to bowl blanks.

    Not all CA glues are equal. I stick with the glue brands that are sold in woodworking stores rather than those sold in craft stores. CA comes in several forms. Thin, medium and thick. It comes in black and in flexible.

    According to one manufacturer, unopened CA has about a one year shelf life at room temperatures. If stored in a freezer that shelf life is doubled. I've found that opened CA has a life of 5 or 6 months. I live in a dry climate. In a very humid climate it might be less. When I buy CA I put the date on it and put it in the freezer. When I open a container I put that date on it. After about six months I toss it. I want CA to be at it's full strength when I use it.

    Shelf life of Opened CA stored at temperatures higher than 80 will be shorter.

    Do not store opened CA in a refrigerator or freezer. Moisture in the air will shorten it's life.

    Always wear glasses when using CA. The moisture in our eyes causes instant bonding.

    When filling large cracks or voids it's best to apply CA in layers using an accelerator between layers. The CA has a better chance to cure.

    The fumes from CA glue are potentially harmful to your health so it's a good idea to use it in a well ventilated area.

    Cotton and CA used together causes a chemical reaction creating heat and toxic smoke, so don't use cotton cloth or swabs to apply CA.

    CA does not adhere to glass.

    As opened CA ages, it sometimes thickens. Thin CA can be added to medium and thick CA.

    When I open a new CA container I toss the cap. I find that I get fewer plugged spouts and it doesn't seem to affect the life of the glue. Acetone is a debonder. I keep a small glass jar handy and when I get a plugged spout I put it in the jar. After I've collected a few I cover the spouts with acetone. In 24 hours the spouts are all clean. I keep some on hand to replace clogged spouts. Debonders are available and I keep a bottle on hand. When using CA I seem to usually get some on my fingers. The debonder helps to remove it.

    When using CA to fill voids and cracks it tends to stain the area around the crack, especially when using thin glue. In order to eliminate that probability, I apply some brushing lacquer to the area. It seals the wood, avoiding stain.

    Moisture is an accelerator so when CA is used on wet wood it will set up faster. I find that using the accelerator sold in spray cans is the most convenient to use.
    Comments 5 Comments
    1. max taylor's Avatar
      max taylor -
      I also coat my hands with paste wax, and when thru w`ipe it off. no sticky fingers. Max
    1. alan miller's Avatar
      alan miller -
      Wow,great article Wally.I learned a bunch.Thanks
    1. Pat Foy's Avatar
      Pat Foy -
      Best summary of CA characteristics I've read. Thanks.
      Pat
    1. Bob Bollard's Avatar
      Bob Bollard -
      The fumes are bothersome. Is it safe to use a dust extractor to suck the fumes away? Or would the fumes just be more widely dispersed thru the shop, since the filters are inside the shop?
    1. carey mitchell's Avatar
      carey mitchell -
      Quote Originally Posted by Bob Bollard View Post
      The fumes are bothersome. Is it safe to use a dust extractor to suck the fumes away? Or would the fumes just be more widely dispersed thru the shop, since the filters are inside the shop?


      Inhalation of significant amounts of the fumes can result in major irritation of the airways, which can persist for several days. Hoarseness and coughing can be painful.

      Don't ask me how I know. Mine came from using it as a finish on a small bowl, even with the shop door open I got a strong dose in a few seconds - on the way out! Remember the basic premise of toxicology - the dose makes the poison (believe it was Paraclesus (sp?) who figured that out about 1500 years ago).