Elmer’s Carpenters Wood Glue Review and Guide

Elmers have been around since 1947, and are a beloved brand across America and the world. Most often known for their school glues, Elmers also create a whole range of glue and adhesive products, including several PVA wood glues, which we’re going to have a look at today.

Quick Overview

Since 1947, Elmer’s has been creating adhesive products and has built up a great reputation as being a family-friendly brand used in schools across North America.

Elmer’s first carpenter’s glue was produced in 1953 and ever since then, the company has been iterating on its design to create the best possible glue.

Nowadays, Elmer’s produce two different versions of their wood glue:

  • Elmer’s Wood Glue
  • Elmer’s Wood Glue MAX

What’s the difference between Elmer’s Wood Glue Versions?

The main difference is the intended use – Regular wood glue is intended for indoor use only, whereas the MAX version is weatherproof and designed for exterior use. 

If you don’t know which one you need, try to find the MAX version. It’s roughly the same price, but it has the added bonus of being suitable for humid/wet environments including the outdoors.

Pros and Cons:


  • Forms a bond stronger than wood
  • Minimal clamping time
  • Easily sanded once dry
  • Completely safe and non toxic
  • Easy to clean with water
  • Can be used indoors and outdoors
  • Available in various volumes
  • No fumes
  • Can be painted or stained


  • Only really useful for wood
  • The regular version isn’t waterproof

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Product Features

Elmer’s Carpenters Wood Glue has a number of useful properties that have helped it achieve a great reputation among woodworkers across North America.

Forms a bond stronger than wood

With Elmer’s Wood Glue, you never need to worry about the strength of the bond. 

Like most PVA glues, Elmer’s Carpenter’s glue creates a bond that is actually stronger than the wood around it. This means that you don’t have to worry at all about your bond failing. The bond is so strong that the solid wood around the join will fail before the bond itself does.

Minimal clamp times

One of the worst things about PVA glue is the clamp time.

Some glues recommend a clamp time of up to 24 hours, but Elmers claim their Wood Glue requires only a 20-30 minute clamp time until the bond is strong enough to work with.

This will really depend on a number of factors including how much glue you used, the porosity of the wood surface, the humidity and the temperature of your workshop, etc.

To be safe, I would recommend you leave the piece clamped for at least a full hour, and certainly don’t put any stress on a new joint for 24 hours.

Safe and non-toxic

Elmer’s Wood Glue is safe and non-toxic. It doesn’t give off any nasty fumes like a CA glue, and it’s perfectly safe to use even when food contact may be involved, such as a table or worktop, or a bowl, or tray for the kitchen.

One thing to keep in mind is that kitchen projects should use the MAX version of Elmer’s Wood Glue because it’s fully waterproof.

Can be Sanded, Painted and Stained

Not every Wood Glue can take paint and stain well. Elmer’s have perfected their formula to ensure their Carpenter’s glue can accept paint, wood stain, or any other wood finish like linseed oil or varnish once it’s dry.

This is great for when you have to make a repair or join that’s going to be visible in the finished piece.

The cured glue behaves a lot like wood, it can be sanded, drilled, ground down, and planed just like any wooden surface. 

Waterproof – Suitable for Exterior/Interior Use (MAX only)

Elmer’s offer two different versions of their wood glue – the regular version and the MAX version.

The MAX version has the added benefit of being completely waterproof, meaning it won’t degrade at all when it’s exposed to water, making it perfect for use outside or in situations where there are constant levels of high humidity. (Like in the kitchen or bathroom)

The regular version is for indoor/dry use only.

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How to use Elmer’s Carpenters Wood Glue

Gorilla Super Glue Gel is just like any other CA glue, but the gel formula means you have to give the bottle a good shake before you use it.

1: Prepare the wood before you apply any glue

Make sure the surface is clean and dry.

Sand or plane the wood to create a smooth surface, free from any paint, dust, varnish, or finish. This will ensure the best possible bond.

PVA glue works by seeping into the pores of the wood, so if there is any paint or other finish on the wood, the glue won’t be able to get to the pores.

2: Apply a thin layer of glue to both pieces of wood

There’s some controversy about this step… If you check any woodworking forum you will find “one-siders” and “double-siders” everywhere. Some people swear they have always applied the glue only to one surface, others swear by applying it to both.

The truth is, the manufacturer themselves recommends that the glue is applied to both surfaces, so that’s what I’m going to recommend here. (Although with any wood glue, it will work perfectly fine even if you only apply it to one side)

Apply a thin layer of glue. Applying more won’t make the bond any stronger, and it will be more visible afterward so use only as much as you need to cover the surface.

If you want, you can use a glue brush to help with this though I just use my finger.

3: Clamp the surfaces in place – for at least 30 minutes

Elmers claim their Wood Glue only requires 20 to 30 minutes of clamping, however, PVA glue is notorious for how long it takes to dry and this seems overly optimistic to me.

I recommend you clamp the piece for at least 30 minutes as per the manufacturer’s instructions, but if you can leave the piece clamped for longer you will end up with a better bond.

The bond will continue to strengthen even after it’s strong enough to have the clamps removed. It can take anywhere up to a few days to reach maximum strength, depending on the humidity and temperature of your working environment.

If you’ve got a join that’s going to have a lot of pressure put on it (like a chair leg or a joist beam) leave it clamped overnight to get the best possible bond.

4: Clean up any excess while it’s still wet

As you clamp the piece, some glue will probably seep out from between the surfaces. 

This isn’t a huge deal, you can wipe it up with a damp rag and it will come off no problem. It’s easier to remove it at this stage than leaving it till later when you would have to sand it.

Also, make sure to remove any glue from the nozzle and cap of the bottle before storage.

5: Store in a cool, dark place

PVA glue is long-lasting as long as it’s stored correctly. Keep it in a cool, dry, and dark place away from any heat or moisture sources, and out of direct sunlight.

What materials does Elmer’s wood glue work on?

Elmers Carpenters Wood Glue is designed for adhering wood to wood. It’s not great for other materials, but it will form a bond with some other porous materials similar to wood, like paper or cardboard. 

Even though it will work to some extent on other materials, the bond will not be as strong, and you would probably be better with a multipurpose glue or epoxy.

If you have a specific use in mind that isn’t listed here, check out the reviews on Amazon – lots of people share their experience there.

Works well on:

  • Wood (of course)
  • Paper
  • Cardboard
  • Natural Fabrics
  • Leather

But not on:

  • Any type of plastic
  • Metal
  • Glass
  • Ceramic
  • Most other non-wood materials

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What are the ingredients?

Elmer’s Carpenters Wood Glue is a standard PVA glue. It’s made from PVA (Polyvinyl Acetate)

Can I mix Elmer’s Wood Glue with Sawdust?

This is an old carpenter’s trick. You can mix PVA with the sawdust from the material you are bonding, to ensure the glue dries a color closer to the color of the wood.

However, Elmer’s Wood Glue is paintable and stainable, and it already dries a natural light yellowish wood color, so most of the time this will not be necessary.

Can I use Elmer’s Wood Glue for a cutting board?

Elmer’s is great for a cutting board, but make sure to use the MAX version, which is waterproof and not the interior version, which may degrade over time with exposure to water.

Check out the MAX version here.

Does Elmer’s Wood Glue work on Plastic?

Elmer’s is a PVA glue so it won’t work on Plastic at all.

It’s designed for wood to wood applications only, and apart from a few wood-like porous surfaces like paper or cardboard, that’s all it’s really good for.

If you need to bond plastic, try a plastic cement or a CA superglue.

How to thin Elmer’s Wood Glue?

Elmer’s Wood Glue can be thinned by adding a little water, however, this will come at the cost of weakening the bond strength so it is not advised.

Most of the time, the glue will be fine straight out the bottle, and if required you can use a glue brush to help you spread it.

Elmer’s Wood Glue Cure Time & Clamp Time:

Elmer’s Wood Glue will be cured in up to 24 hours, depending on the temperature and humidity of your working environment, and on how much glue you used.

Even before it’s fully cured, it will be strong enough to be unclamped in about 30 minutes, so long as the joint is not a weight-bearing joint and will have no stress on it. (Otherwise, it must be clamped overnight)

Safety Data Sheet

Here are the MSDS safety data sheets for each of the Elmer’s Wood Glue variants:

Elmer’s Wood Glue (interior/original) MSDS

Elmer’s Wood Glue MAX (exterior) MSDS

Does Elmer’s Wood Glue Expand?

Elmer’s Wood Glues (both the original and the max version) do not expand.

This is helpful because an expanding glue like polyurethane may weaken your wood joint and be more visible than a non-expanding glue like Elmer’s PVA wood glues.

Is Elmer’s Wood Glue Food-Safe?

Both Elmer’s Carpenters Wood Glue and Elmer’s Carpenters Wood Glue MAX are both food-safe and non-toxic.

This means they are perfectly safe to use in and around the kitchen, you don’t need to worry about any getting on your hands (it washes off with water) and it doesn’t give off any nasty fumes.

Is Elmer’s Wood Glue Waterproof?

Elmer’s Original Wood Glue (for Interior Use) is not waterproof, it will degrade when exposed to water. However, the MAX version is waterproof and rated for outdoor or indoor use.

Make sure to pick up the MAX version if you’re going to be using it in a humid area like the bathroom or kitchen, or if your project is going to be outdoors.

How to remove Elmer’s Wood Glue?

While the glue is still wet, you can clean it up easily with a damp rag.

Once it’s dry, it can be removed by sanding, filing, or otherwise grinding down as you would with wood.

If you get some on your clothes, make sure to wash them straight away with warm soapy water. Although the original formula will come out in the wash, the MAX version won’t once it’s had a chance to cure.

Elmer’s vs Titebond – what is the difference?

One of the most common questions about Elmer’s is how it stacks up to Titebond Wood Glue.

I’ve written a complete guide to the different versions of Titebond. Check that out if you’re interested.

Basically, Elmer’s Wood Glue (interior) is equivalent to Titebond I (original), and Elmer’s Wood Glue MAX is roughly equivalent to Titebond III (Waterproof)

Titebond II is somewhere in the middle, offering water resistance (but not complete waterproofing).

Click here to view Elmer’s Wood Glue on Amazon