Is Wood Glue the Same As PVA?
Some of the most popular wood glues on the market are PVA-based, including Titebond II and Gorilla Wood Glue.
Something else that’s PVA-based is the white craft or ‘school’ glue used by kids the world over for various craft projects.
Based on the fact that they’re both formulated from PVA or polyvinyl acetate, a common question is whether or not you can use standard PVA glue for woodworking or the occasional furniture repair.
After all, if they’re both PVA-based, then they must be the same, right?
PVA wood glues are not the same as white PVA craft or school glues. They’re both based on the same synthetic resin (polyvinyl acetate), but PVA wood glues are stronger, set faster, can be sanded, and are more water/heat resistant. Some wood glue varieties, such as aliphatic resins, also dry yellow.
Keep reading on as we’ll be comparing craft glue to PVA wood glue to determine whether it’s just another marketing ploy designed to push up prices, and to figure out if you really would be better off having a wood-specific PVA glue to hand.
What Is Wood Glue?
The term wood glue can be applied to any adhesive that’s capable of bonding wood.
That’s not to say that these glues won’t bond other materials, because in most cases, they will, but they’re primarily intended for woodworking applications or for things like repairing wooden furniture.
Some other glues are multi-purpose, meaning that they’ll bond things like glass, metal, plastic, ceramic, and wood, too.
Gorilla Glue Clear is one such example, and you can see the various types of things it bonds written on the front of the bottle:
While these multi-purpose glues aren’t technically a ‘wood glue’, it isn’t uncommon for them to be referred this way. After all, they are still a glue that bonds wood.
Looking at both specific wood glues, and other options which are capable of bonding wood, there are plenty of different types available, including:
The chemical properties of each of these different types of glue influence things like drying time, the color the wood glue dries, strength, ability to withstand exposure to moisture, etc.
What Is the Difference Between PVA and Wood Glue?
Before answering this question in detail, it’s worth pointing out the three main types of PVA-based wood glue that this question will be covering:
Based on this, there are three main comparisons that we’ll need to make to answer this question fully (click to navigate):
PVA Craft Glues vs. White PVA Wood Glues
Used by millions of kids worldwide, craft glue is probably the first thing that comes to mind when you think of PVA glue.
Here are some of the main features of craft glue:
Next up, let’s look at white PVA wood glue and some of the main similarities and differences between it and craft glue:
Aliphatic Resins vs. White PVA Wood Glues
Aliphatic resins contain tackifying resins or ‘tackifiers’ to improve some of the inherent weaknesses of standard PVA for woodworking, for example, the glue’s poor water resistance and high susceptibility to creep.
Although the tackifiers used in aliphatic resins range from yellow to light brown, these glues get the majority of their color from dyes which are added to help differentiate them from regular white PVA glues.
One such example of an aliphatic resin that dries with a distinct color is Titebond Original:
The changing of the color is essentially a marketing ploy, although there is arguably a slight advantage to be had from the glue more closely matching the color of the wood on which it’s being used.
Here are some of the various similarities between aliphatic resins and white PVA wood glues:
And here are some of the differences between the two:
It can sometimes be challenging to differentiate between an aliphatic resin and a white PVA wood glue.
You certainly can’t rely on color alone.
Some PVA glues that dry translucent may, in fact, be aliphatic resins, for example, but the manufacturer has opted not to add a dye, and the back of the bottle and the sales page refers to PVA with no mention of aliphatic resins.
Also, a cheaper glue that isn’t an aliphatic resin may have had a yellow dye added, even though it doesn’t contain any of the other properties you’d expect to see from a genuine yellow wood glue, for example, superior water resistance and reduced creep.
For this reason, we recommend paying more attention to the various features of a specific glue, as opposed to whether or not it’s explicitly referred to as an aliphatic resin by the manufacturer.
After all, provided the glue in question meets your requirements, it doesn’t really matter what the manufacturer has classified it as.
PVA Wood Glues vs. Other Types of Wood Glue
There are plenty of different types of wood glue available, as we’ve mentioned above, with PVA-based wood glues being just one type.
There are various advantages and disadvantages to each type of wood glue, and particular adhesives will be better suited to specific applications or uses.
Here are just some of the ways that PVA, aliphatic resin, cyanoacrylate (CA), polyurethane, epoxy, and hide wood glues can differ:
What Is PVA Wood Glue Used For?
A glue can be defined as:
Any non-metallic substance applied to one or both surfaces of two separate items that binds them together and resists their separation.
In the case of PVA-based wood glue, the two surfaces in question would typically be wood. These could either be two fresh pieces of wood for a new project or older wood where you’re repairing a piece of furniture, for example.
PVA wood glues are generally good for:
Can You Use PVA Glue Instead of Wood Glue?
PVA craft glue is a multi-purpose glue that you can use to bond various materials, including paper, cardboard, and fabric.
You can also use PVA craft glue to bond wood, although you’ll be missing out on some of the refinements that make PVA-based wood glues a much better choice for timber.
Aside from PVA craft glue potentially being cheaper and easier to find than dedicated PVA wood glue, we’d struggle to find a strong enough reason to bypass wood glue in favor of craft glue for your woodworking projects.
A dedicated PVA wood glue gets our vote every time, and here’s why:
Wood glue is not the same as PVA craft glue.
PVA wood glues come in two main types – white PVA wood glues and aliphatic resins – and both of these are formulated from the same synthetic resin (polyvinyl acetate) as craft glue.
White PVA wood glues are essentially modified versions of craft glue that improve on some of the weaknesses of basic PVA, including, for example, improving overall strength and providing better moisture resistance.
Aliphatic resins are another modified type of PVA that use tackifiers to further improve the properties of standard PVA glue (even versus white PVA wood glues).
The yellow to brown color of aliphatic resins mainly comes from dyes, and these are added primarily for marketing purposes to differentiate these glues from white glues. The tackifiers do provide tangible benefits such as increased strength, better resistance to creep, and improved moisture and heat resistance, though.
As mentioned above, we don’t recommend worrying too much about choosing a white PVA wood glue versus an aliphatic resin glue.
Well, it can be very tough to tell them apart, and you can’t rely on color alone.
After all, some genuine aliphatic resins are made without dyes and dry white, and some cheaper PVA glues contain dyes even though the remainder of their properties fall short of what you’d expect from a good yellow wood glue.
In many cases, the manufacturer won’t specifically refer to a glue being an aliphatic resin either, and so you’ll be none the wiser with what you’re getting.
And because of this, we recommend picking a glue based on its features rather than its classification.
With regard to regular PVA glue (i.e. craft glue, school glue, white glue, or whatever else you want to call it), it is possible to use this for your woodworking projects, and it is a viable alternative to wood glue if you don’t have any to hand.
We’d still recommend popping to your local hardware store or waiting for some genuine PVA wood glue to be delivered from Amazon, though, because there are real benefits to using genuine wood glue. We know from personal experience that it isn’t just a marketing ploy.
If you have any particular questions or queries that you can’t find an answer to above, drop us a comment below, and we’ll do our best to get back to you as quickly as possible.
Thanks, and good luck!