Wood Glue vs. Joints vs. Screws: Which Should I Use?

Among wood glue vs. wood joints vs. screws, which one should you use? Besides choosing the most reliable kind of wood joining, you also have to consider the type of project you’re currently working on. More importantly, the purpose of your wooden item. If you are unsure of choosing the best adhesive material, we will help you pick the right one. 

In choosing amongst Wood Glue vs. Joints vs. Screws, understand your project first. When it comes to wood joinery, always remember that wood joints can support themselves like the mortises and tenons can do. If done correctly, woodworkers only apply wood glue as support in preventing slips and adding more strength. On the other hand, other less secure joints, like butt joints, require 100% support from screws, biscuits, or dowels. Screws are also better if you want your project. 

Most of the time, you will use both glue and screws in one project to add more strength and stability. Think of it this way; there are times when wood glue is not efficient enough, so you have to screw instead. On the other hand, some projects that carry heavy loads must be strong enough to withstand any weight. So, it is all about knowing when you should use wood glue, joints, and screws. 

Understanding Wood Glue – Should You Use It for Your Project?

Wood glue is more durable than wood. It is why it can combine several pieces of lumber through this material. It works just like the simple glue you used for your projects when you were in school. There are some simple things that you can accomplish with wood glue and those times when it is not suitable to use such adhesive material. For example, miter joints are ideal for strengthening wood joinery. Otherwise, you have to screw the end grain, which is not good since it may cause cracks.

On the other hand, glue is not a good idea if you want a controlled movement or adjustable features. So, beyond cases that require or eliminate glue as an option, it’s just that option. With that said, you should consider what you’re going to do when you design your piece.

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Just be aware of what wood and glue prefer. Gluing the end of grain to the edge is a no-go. It’s because the adhesive is going to get upset back, and there’s going to be less bonding going on with it. Flat grain to flat grain is the best thing for gluing. It has the most surface area for bonding.

Other Uses Of Wood Glue

When should you use wood glue? It is one of the most common questions that most beginner woodworkers would ask. So, here are some fundamental woodworking activities where you can use wood glue as an adhesive material. 

Fix Broken Parts

You can use wood glue when you find any cracks in one of your wooden fixtures or furniture pieces. Tiny quantities of wood glue are extreme, and the wood glue can tie broken pieces of wood back together. Wood glue solidifies, which ensures that you can sand it after it has dried to remove excess blobs and patches. It will also improve the repair work by using wood glue to make it look more professional.

Secure Your Wooden Objects 

The primary use of wood glue is for holding pieces of wood. It is when the wood glue acts as a holding agent before you attach large bolts or screws, which secures pieces of wood together permanently. Wood glue wears faster than a secure bolt or screw. It is what other woodworkers want to avoid when using wood glue, especially on large-size wooden objects. On the other hand, the screws will take the main weight of the wood. The adhesive you apply will act as additional support without giving so much weight.

Decoration For Your Woodworking

You can use wood glue to repair large pieces of wood for decoration. The wooden boards and frames will be a good example. You have to run a large amount of wood glue over the back of a wooden skirting board or chassis. It will help you stick the item to the wall while making it more efficient. Wood glue is the easiest way to apply a final decoration to a wooden fixture or piece of furniture. Moreover, you can use wood glue to fix wooden tiles in a room in a discreet manner.

Finish Your Crafts

Wood glue is a perfect adhesive material that you can use for finishing your crafts. It is because tiny quantities of wood glue are enough to bind small pieces of wood together. Moreover, it will allow the creation of large wooden statues or objects that will not fall apart for a long time.

Many of the adhesives supplied with craft packs are weak and structurally inefficient. Effective wood glue brands will not cost you a lot and will be accessible. It will also save you a lot of money from having to buy more low-quality glue.

When To Use Wood Joints?

Most of the time, you will be using wood joints to combine or assemble your projects, whether it is a simple box or pieces of furniture. Take note that you may combine either wood glue or screws with adding more strength to the wood joints.

A good woodworker knows hundreds of different forms of wood joinery. We understand that it is hard to know which and when you should use one type. So, let us give some of the primary wood joinery methods that are beginner-friendly.

Butt Joints

There are just two pieces of wood connected perpendicularly to each other, often with nails or screws. They can be perfectly fine joints, but they would have little structural integrity of their own. Butt joints can be your best option when the wood is rough or rustic, or when speed matters more than looks. Always make sure that your technique of joining is appropriate for the project. You can either countersink or plug your screw holes to dress up the butt joint.

Pocket Screws

Pocket joinery is excellent for attaching wood pieces with different grain orientations — from table tops, legs, or for making face frames. You could use it to reinforce the joint of the butt. It’s because you will attach the screws on the corner of the wood.

The joint is much stronger than the typical butt joint, where the screws go directly into the final grain. Pocket joinery is fast and relatively stable, but you’re going to need a special jig and drill bit. These joints aren’t the prettiest, so you’re going to want to figure out a way to hide them.

Biscuit Joinery

This method involves the gluing of “biscuits” of wood into slots cut into the wood. It’s a perfect way to hold bits of plywood or other engineered material together, providing a lot of glue surface as well as the strength of the biscuits themselves. Biscuits are perfect for casework and for strengthening and lining the edge joints, but the layout can be frustrating before you get the hang of it.

Miter Joints

Miters have more glue surface than a straight butt joint, but the joint is still a fine grain, which is famous for not handling the glue well. It’s always a good idea to add a spline. Miters with splines look good so that the joint itself can contribute to the design. The most significant negative is weakness. You’ll also need to take some time to set up the joint correctly, so it doesn’t have any holes.

Dovetail Joint

Dovetail woodworking is popular in the world of wood woodworking techniques. Apart from its strength, you can also use it for decoration. The ends of the pieces, or what they also call as tails and pins) interlock and form a stable joint. However, take note that it is not easy to do, especially for novice woodworkers. Tight-fitting dovetails are one of the common signs of a great woodworker.

Mortise And Tenon Joint

This joint may look like a butt joint from the outside, but hidden out of sight is a tenon. It is a projecting piece of wood that fits into the mortise or a recess of the other wooden piece. Once combined, it will lock the wood together. This approach offers a lot of strength and glue on the surface. There are also several types of mortise and tenon joints, including mortise and tares, which use wedges or pins to secure the joint in place.

When To Use Screws?

Screws may not be as flexible as wood glue, but you can still use it in various woodworking tools. The use of screws is every day in most wooden cabinets, tables, and storage furniture. The threaded shaft of screws offers better hold in wood. Hence, it draws boards together tightly and efficiently with greater tensile strength. Moreover, screws do a better job of keeping the wood tight even during the wood’s natural expansion and contraction.

If you are looking for an excellent and traditional way of joining your wood, screws are a great option as well. You can choose from different sizes, depending on your current project. You may not have to wait longer for drying and cure, but you still have to use an electric drill to bore a hole. Still, screws are accessible in woodworking for various applications like securing plywood sheathing, working on hardwood, and assembling wood objects. 

You can also use it to attach ledger boards, hand drywalls, install cabinets, fasten wood decking, and fabricate wooden projects. The bottom line is that selecting the correct screw goes down to pick the right size fastener and then uses the most suitable tool to push it into the wood. After gaining some practical experience through trial and error, the right choice will become crystal clear.

Types of Wood Screws

There are several occasions when a person may be uncertain whether it would be easier to use screws or standard nails to fasten two or more surfaces. First of all, you should know that the screws are specifically for resisting the shearing force between two objects.

Thanks to their surface area, the screws are better suited to withstand the withdrawal force. Screws often make for more precise installation and are ideally suited to more delicate activities, such as fine woodworking. Now, let’s take a look at a few of the most common screws.

Hex-Head Structural Screws

As the name denotes, the hexagonal depression found on the head of these screws allows for faster drilling and fewer chances of slippage as would be common with a Phillips-head bit. Therefore, the screw is much less likely to strip whenever you have to remove and reinsert it. Hex-Head Structural Screws is one of the most common screw types that you can use in woodworking.

Heavy-Duty Hex-Head Structural Screws

As the name suggests, the hexagonal depression found on the head of these screws allows faster drilling and fewer chances of slipping than the Phillips-head bit. The screw is also much less likely to strip if it needs to be removed and then reinserted. This type is widely common to use on other load-bearing structures.

Stainless Steel Hex-Head Structural Screws

Stainless steel is extremely corrosion resistant. Moreover, you can use it in more wide conditions wherein there are higher levels of moisture. Hence, it is suitable for outdoor wooden projects. As with other versions, it is not ordinarily necessary to drill a pilot hole before you insert the screw. The depressed hexagonal head helps to prevent the bit from slipping out during insertion or removal. Wood-to-wood applications are quite common in this variety.

Flat Head Structural Screws

The most significant difference with a flat head screw is that there are no twisted edges compared to the regular hexagonal form. It allows you to insert the screw in a substrate with a much smaller chance of breaking or fracturing. Moreover, Flat Head Structural Screws will give you more flexibility and reduced stripping.

This screw is excellent for finishing work, as is often seen in cabinets and other exacting trades. Tighter threading allows for superior grip levels and maximum withdrawal resistance. They are some of the most common types of structural screws. As is evident, each of them serves a particular function and application. When appreciating their strategic advantages, even the most demanding of building projects will make the right choices.

Frequently Asked Questions

Overall, you can never be wrong with wood joinery methods. To add more strength, you can use wood glue and even screws to the project. Finally, here are some common questions asked from other woodworkers. 

Is wood glue stronger than screws?

Most of the time, when it comes to woodworking, wood glue is more reliable than screws for as long as it has high-quality. However, there are some portions of the wood where it doesn’t stick very well. So, there are times when you have to use screws and other wood joinery methods if you want to add more durability. Different wood joinery methods like dovetails, dados, rabbets, lock miters, box joints, mortise, and tenon will give you enough space to put the glue. 

It is also essential to know that you can’t use wood glue alone on other projects intended to hold heavier materials. For example, you can’t use it alone if you are making cabinets, tables, and furniture. Yes, wood glue is more durable than wood, but it also has limitations. So, make sure to always understand the purpose of your project and the materials that you’re going to use.

Why does wood glue turn to black?

Wood glue turns black, and it’s not because of the wood or the adhesive alone. It’s a mixture of the two that turns it into black when it’s cold. Some water-based emulsion glues contain active amine, which holds them in suspension. The potent amine then reacts to any wood with a high tannin content, which causes it to turn black. This case is the same with oak that turns to gloom when it gets washed with ammonia.

What is the strongest wood glue?

If you are looking for the most robust and most durable type of wood glue, Polyurethane glue should be on your list. It is so versatile that you can use it on different materials from wood, plastic, metal, ceramic, glass, and concrete. It dries quickly and very fast, making it suitable for almost any type of project – big or small. Polyurethane Glue is also ideal for indoor and outdoor use. However, dried polyurethane glue can be troublesome for finishes where it dries. 


Wood joinery is one of the traditional ways to combine and assemble pieces of wood. Most of the time, glue is a conventional adhesive device in woodworking. You can use it for different projects. If you want to add more strength, then screws are almost accessible everywhere. Plus, it is not that expensive. 

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