Super Glue -
Tips and Tricks for Using and Storing Cyanoacrylate Adhesives

Various Super Glue products, accelerators and debonders

One of the most common products in a woodturners studio is cyanoacrylate ester, or as it is more commonly called, Super Glue, or CA. Cyanoacrylate adhesive can be a valuable addition to your woodturning toolbox for numerous tasks around your workshop. Here are a few tips for using and storing CA that will help you make the most of this versatile product.

Storing Cyanoacrylates

Most CA’s have an average shelf life of about 6-12 months once opened. Unopened bottles can be stored in the freezer for an extended period of time. However, once a CA bottle is opened and exposed to atmospheric moisture, different storage procedures are required to prevent premature curing in the bottle.

  • Unopened Containers: Unopened bottles should be stored in the freezer for the longest shelf life. Before using, allow the bottle to come to room temperature. I prefer to allow the frozen bottle to sit overnight on the bench before using it, to insure that it has reached uniform ambient temperature.
  • Opened Containers: Do not store opened bottles without their caps, unless you live in areas that routinely have very low humidity levels year round. Exposure to high humidity can cause premature curing of the CA in the bottle.

If you purchase your CA in bulk containers and transfer them into smaller applicator bottles for use, ensure that these bottles are manufactured from polyethylene for best storage results.

Do not store opened CA containers near your manual pump accelerator bottle. During the summer months, high heat can cause accelerator vapors to leave the pump spray unit, causing premature curing of a nearby CA bottle. Some accelerators are now available in pressurized spray cans. While these are more expensive initially than bulk liquids, over time I have found out that they end up costing less per use than the bulk liquids.

Do not store opened bottles in the freezer. When removed, condensation may develop inside the bottle causing premature curing. For best long term storage results, store opened CA bottles in a jar with a desiccant to absorb any moisture inside the jar. When stored this way, you can usually get every drop out of the bottle. Another option is to place the opened CA bottles inside a jar with a mason lid and pull a vacuum on the jar. This works very well, but requires a vacuum unit.

If you do not have one, use the above method with desiccant packs to remove any moisture inside the jar. Desiccant packs can be purchased at most camera and electronics stores, or be scavenged from the boxes of any new electronics that you purchase.

Preventing Tip Clogging with Super Glues

It’s a quite common and frustrating fact that cyanoacrylates tend to clog the tips of their applicator bottles. If you employ one of the following procedures, you can effectively mitigate this problem.

When you have finished using the CA, allow sufficient time for the CA left in the tip to return to the bottle before replacing the cap. Sometimes, a sharp rap on the counter will assist in clearing the tip of the bottle of any uncured Super Glue. Always cover the bottle with a cloth and wear face and eye protection when rapping the bottle to clear the tip. Wipe the exterior of the tip with paper towels before storing the bottle away.

Do not touch the tip of the bottle onto a surface that has been sprayed with active accelerator, or the accelerator will cure the CA inside the nozzle. When you have finished using the CA, simply switch the used tip for a spare clean tip. Place the used tip in a small jar of Acetone until it is needed again.

When another fresh tip is needed, use tweezers to swap the clean tip in the Acetone jar with the used tip. Allow the tip to fully dry before replacing the tip on the CA bottle. Spare tips can be purchased at most suppliers that sell CA.

Replacement tips are available from most manufacturers

Using Super Glue for Filling Deep Voids

Many of you know that I do lots of inlay work! In addition to inlaying gemstones and precious metals in my work, I also regularly inlay crushed stone and other materials that are secured with either CA, or epoxy. If you are going to use CA on deep voids, or as a binder for inlay work such as crushed stone, you need to allow sufficient time for a full thickness cure before sanding the filled area. How long this takes is variable, but it may requite up to 24 hours or longer, depending on the depth of the void.

While you can use an accelerator to help speed up the overall curing time, nothing can replace time. It's best to let the CA cure without any accelerator on really deep voids, as over use of the accelerator in an attempt to speed the curing can result in blooming, or frosting. In severe cases, bubbles can form under the cured skin.

If possible, use no accelerator at all and let the piece cure naturally overnight, or longer before you begin sanding the area. Not only will your deep void look better, it will sand easier when allowed to fully cure before sanding. On large and deep crushed stone filled voids, I prefer to use no accelerator and wait one to two days before sanding to insure a full thickness cure.

Again, there is no substitute for time here. If you try to rush the cure on a deep void, you may end up damaging the turning, requiring a repair. In addition, sanding before the void has fully cured can present a safety hazard, as the deeper layers of the void may still be liquid, even when the top is rock hard. By sanding too soon, you risk exposing the lower liquid layers which may spray out onto your face or body when sanding on the lathe.

Using Accelerators with Super Glue

Accelerators, or kickers, are available in
pump sprayers, aerosol sprayers or bulk bottles

If you’ve worked with any CA products before, you may have occasionally noticed a white haze, or frosting on your CA during its cure cycle. This phenomenon is called blooming or frosting. High ambient humidity levels, or improper use of accelerators can cause violent curing reactions, resulting in frosting, or blooming when cured.

In addition to the above, if you place your woodturning into a closed container, prior to the CA being fully cured, it can cause blooming and frosting. Closed containers prevent the vapors from dissipating during the cure cycle, allowing them to redeposit on the surface of the CA.

To eliminate these super glue problems:

  • Use low odor or low bloom products. These are specifically formulated to reduce blooming and frosting. The manufacturer will state on the label if the CA is a low bloom version.
  • Reduce the ambient studio humidity before use. Dehumidifiers should be set to the range of 40 – 50% for best results. If you do not have a dehumidifier, choose low humidity days for your CA work.
  • Cross-ventilate your workspace to dissipate curing vapors, before they can resettle onto the applied area.
  • Reduce the amount of accelerator, or eliminate it entirely.

To learn more about Super Glues, check out Super Glues: A Technical Discussion in our educational library.

Safety Note: Always follow all manufacturers safety instructions before working with your lathe, or any of the tools or products you may use. If you are unsure about any operation, obtain competent professional instruction before proceeding. Use and wear all necessary safety devices during turning and observe safe woodturning practices to prevent accident or injury.

Steven D. Russell is a professional studio woodturner, teacher and writer. He has written numerous articles for international woodturning magazines, which have been published in more than 78 countries around the world. Steve has demonstrated in numerous cities across the United States. His studio, Eurowood Werks, specializes in bowls, platters and hollow forms with unique visual and tactile treatments.

Steve is also the current and founding President of the Lone Star Woodturners Association, Inc., an AAW member chapter. The LSWA is a 501(c)3 non-profit educational organization dedicated to teaching and demonstrating the art and craft of woodturning.

Steve is also a featured writer for the Guild of Master Craftsman's "Woodturning" magazine, published in London England. Woodturning magazine is the world's leading magazine for woodturners. Look for his articles covering technical topics, or project based articles in an upcoming issue.