Gluing Oily Tropical Hardwoods

by Eric Meier

Conventional wood glues like Titebond are water-based, and they rely on penetrating into the grain of the wood, and then (once the water has evaporated) hardening, leaving a bond that is in many instances stronger than the wood itself.

The Problem:

Many tropical hardwoods are so oily or resinous that they’re practically waterproof. It would then stand to reason that if conventional wood glues need to penetrate into the wood in order to obtain a strong bond, then these oily woods would present a challenge in gluing.

[fusion_builder_container hundred_percent=”yes” overflow=”visible”][fusion_builder_row][fusion_builder_column type=”1_1″ background_position=”left top” background_color=”” border_size=”” border_color=”” border_style=”solid” spacing=”yes” background_image=”” background_repeat=”no-repeat” padding=”” margin_top=”0px” margin_bottom=”0px” class=”” id=”” animation_type=”” animation_speed=”0.3″ animation_direction=”left” hide_on_mobile=”no” center_content=”no” min_height=”none”]

Water beads up on the surface of Cocobolo.
Water beads up on the surface of Cocobolo.

Above you can see a picture of untreated, raw Cocobolo, which was misted with a spray bottle full of regular water. It should be plain to see that this wood, (along with a handful of other tropical species), appear to be nearly waterproof.

They’re technically not waterproof: since all wood, (even the Cocobolo pictured above), contains some degree of moisture that changes depending upon the relative humidity of the surrounding air. But for most intents and purposes, in the short amount of time that is elapsed in the gluing process, so little of the glue sinks down into the wood grain that it is essentially waterproof, or perhaps more accurately, glueproof.

Between different types of wood, and even within the same species of wood, there can be a lot of variability in oil/resin content, and gluing success/difficulty. Sometimes an oily wood can be glued with regular yellow glue with no problems, and in the next instance, the glue joint will almost fall apart on its own.

It would be preferable if the objects which we are building would stay in one piece!

So what can be done about this unpredictable nature of wood?

Some Solutions:

Please note that these are some solutions that can help give consistent results in gluing troublesome woods; but it is by no means a cure-all that is guaranteed to work every time, with all wood species and with all types of wood joints. On the whole, employing these tips should result in generally stronger, longer-lasting glue joints in oily woods..

1.) Wipe the wood surface with a solvent prior to gluing.

Since the primary problem that tropical woods present in gluing is their oiliness, (with density probably being the second biggest problem), any of these natural oils and resins that you can remove from the wood surface will help the glue adhere that much better.

While it’s not a cure-all, wiping the wood with a solvent first goes a long way. But you have to be sure of two things: first, you should try to glue the pieces of wood to be joined as soon as possible after the solvent has evaporated from the wood surface. This is because the wood’s oils will tend to migrate back to the surface of the wood where you removed some of the oils. Secondly, you have to be sure that the solvent you’re using is actually dissolving and removing the wood’s oils. A good way to gauge this is by checking the towel that you’re using to wipe the solvent to see if it’s changed to the wood’s color.

[/fusion_builder_column][fusion_builder_column type=”1_1″ background_position=”left top” background_color=”” border_size=”” border_color=”” border_style=”solid” spacing=”yes” background_image=”” background_repeat=”no-repeat” padding=”” margin_top=”0px” margin_bottom=”0px” class=”” id=”” animation_type=”” animation_speed=”0.3″ animation_direction=”left” hide_on_mobile=”no” center_content=”no” min_height=”none”]

A solvent should lift surface oils from the wood.
A solvent should lift surface oils from the wood.

Note in the example above, mineral spirits was used to lift some of Cocobolo’s oils off the wood surface: and you can clearly see the stained orange cloth as evidence. If you’re initially testing a solvent, make sure that the wood is clear of any small particles of sawdust that might make it appear as though the towel is being discolored. Try a cloth with water first as a baseline: it should basically stay white since the water does not dissolve the wood’s heartwood extractives. Some common solvents that you can try are: acetone, denatured alcohol, lacquer thinner, mineral spirits, and naphtha.

2.) Sand the wood to help open up the grain.

You’ll notice that sometimes on particularly dense woods, just after they’re out of the planer, that they almost have a shine to them. This is because the blades of a jointer/planer can actually burnish the wood as it passes through the machine. Sanding helps to break up this flattened/polished surface so more glue can penetrate into the wood. It’s tempting to take the wood straight from the planer or jointer and glue it immediately, but for stronger joints, especially in dense woods, it helps to sand the wood with medium-grit sandpaper before it’s glued.

3.) Use synthetic, non-water-based glues.

Since water is repelled by the wood’s oils, using water-based glues like Titebond® can pose problems—though Titebond® II or III are usually better at gluing oily woods than Titebond® Original. Instead, use glues that aren’t water based, and/or glues that can bond a wider variety of materials like plastics and other non-porous surfaces (since that’s practically what we’re doing with these exotic woods anyways).

Some examples of such adhesives would be: polyurethane glues (i.e. Gorilla Glue®, etc.), 2-part epoxies (i.e. West System®, System Three®, etc.) and, if the parts to be glued are fairly small, cyanoacrylate glues (i.e. “super” glue, Hot Stuff®, etc.).Also, if using a polyurethane-based glue, it’s important to wet the wood surface with water just before gluing. Polyurethane is activated by moisture, and it may not receive enough moisture to cure properly if the wood has been kiln-dried and is very low in moisture content.

 

A List of Troublesome Woods:

Wood Gluing Notes
Bubinga High density, closed pores, and natural oils can cause problems with glue penetration.
Bulletwood High density and moderately oily.
Cocobolo Very high oil content and high density.
Cumaru High oil content and high density.
East Indian Rosewood High oil content and medium/high density.
Ebonies Some oil present, along with very high densities.
Ekki High density and moderately oily.
Goncalo Alves High density and natural oils prevent water absorption.
Greenheart High density and natural oils.
Honduran Rosewood High oil content and high density.
Ipe Reportedly very difficult to glue in exterior applications, especially for the long term.
Katalox Very high density, along with natural oils.
Kingwood Very high oil content and high density.
Lignum Vitae Extremely high oil content and density can pose gluing challenges.
Osage Orange Oils present can give gluing problems.
Purpleheart High oil content and high density.
Rosewoods Typically very oily and very dense.
Santos Mahogany High density and moderately oily.
Teak Oils/resins can present challenges in outdoor applications.
Verawood Extremely high oil content and density can pose gluing challenges.

See also:


[/fusion_builder_column][/fusion_builder_row][/fusion_builder_container]

Are you an aspiring wood nerd?

The poster, Worldwide Woods, Ranked by Hardness, should be required reading for anyone enrolled in the school of wood nerdery. I have amassed over 500 wood species on a single poster, arranged into eight major geographic regions, with each wood sorted and ranked according to its Janka hardness. Each wood has been meticulously documented and photographed, listed with its Janka hardness value (in lbf) and geographic and global hardness rankings. Consider this: the venerable Red Oak (Quercus rubra) sits at only #33 in North America and #278 worldwide for hardness! Aspiring wood nerds be advised: your syllabus may be calling for Worldwide Woods as part of your next assignment!

51
Share your experience

avatar
Photo and Image Files
 
 
 
39 Comment threads
12 Thread replies
1 Followers
 
Most reacted comment
Hottest comment thread
37 Comment authors
JohnGuy CanuelGeorge AdamsTimothy ClemonsJeff Recent comment authors
  Subscribe  
Notify of
Guy Canuel
Guy Canuel

What is the best glue to use to laminate pantagonia rosewood (curupay) to make a dining table?

George Adams
George Adams

If you wish to do a glue up with any oily woods, Try this. I had a piece red wood of a sort, which was waxy and oily. the piece was 1”X 1″ X 12 Inches. I put it in a microwave in steps of 10 seconds to a full minute in total. The waxes and oils came running out. I used a paper towel and just wiped it off. The wood ended up Hot and dry and free of oils. It will take quite a while for the wood too cool, so be careful handling it. After sanding, I… Read more »

Jeff
Jeff

What glue would you recommend for teak? Specifically a part of a teak umbrella frame one of the arms snapped as I was raising it.

Peter Amos
Peter Amos

Thank you for this wonderfully, delightful website. You have opened my eyes to a ‘New World’ of woodworking with exotic wood I was not aware of being available in the UK.

I am going to use 200 year old African mahogany to make a table; will this still need special treatment when gluing? I shall also use some of this to make a frame for your poster when it arrives.

Thank you for taking the time to read this and I look forward to your comments.

Alex T
Alex T

I remember making a pen from lignin vitae and having to glue the metal parts together around the wood because nothing would stick to the wood! Nice final product though. LV requires no finish and just fine sanding.

Jack
Jack

Can Hide glue be used to glue Santos rosewood veneer to birch plywood substrate after wiping with acetone?

Matthew
Matthew

Has anyone tried to glue purple heart? I have just made a (hand-cut) dovetailed jewellery box out of it with incredible difficulty and then glued up but some of the joints really struggled to come up.

I accept the points regarding the use of acetone but if anyone has had a successful experience can you please share your knowledge!

thanks,

matthew UK

Timothy Clemons
Timothy Clemons

I glued rosewood to cypress. Read a while back, when gluing oily woods, the best way is to glue the wood right after cutting your piece. The heat from cutting will move the oil away from the edge. ASAP
apply glue and join the other piece. It has been 7 years and the plate is beautifully together. Hope you have success, try a small piece first.

David
David

I build interior cabinetry and the teak grating and dive platforms for 70′ yachts. One of my jobs from years ago, called in a warranty report for the teak dive platform. I laminate solid teak, 3 layer to be almost 2″ thick. I use 3M epoxy, cure it in a vacuum table, rough cut it on a CNC, and finish it with a trim router. The teak strips were cleaned with acetone before assembling. Some of the epoxy has started to separate. These yachts see the the blue water and lots of UV. Does anyone have any experience tring to… Read more »

John

Resorcinol glue. Once you’ve used it, you’ll never go back. Still available, just from obscure companies. 4 hour pot life. Sets in 10 hours, although let it stand for a couple of days before going crazy with more shaping. Light sand planed edges, degrease with acetone or lacquer thinners, apply to both sides of the joint with a stiff brush, working it into the wood, no holidays, not even a bubble (you will understand this better after you’ve done it once) clamp that baby up, and it is now one piece of wood. If it won’t adhere to the surface,… Read more »

Kenny
Kenny

Whatever you’re about to do to remove the oils, here is a starting point: iron the surface as if it were a garment. That’s right – use an ordinary clothes iron with an old T-shirt or whatever between the iron and the wood surface. I discovered by accident that this really draws the oils to the surface and you can just wipe them away with the T-shirt. As others have mentioned, the oils will migrate to the surface again, but doing this a few times surely must reduce the overall levels of oils near the surface. Warning: I only found… Read more »

Diane Criss
Diane Criss

We have a carved cane made in jamica several years ago. It’s made of ironwood. It is broken in half with a clean cut to glue back together. The cane means a lot to us & my husband needs it. Please let me know what glue I need & the process to put it back together. Thank you.

Bruce Gardella
Bruce Gardella

Can anyone recommend a glue that will work on Milo wood joints?

Joel van Lennep
Joel van Lennep

Have you (pl.) ever noticed that when you use masking tape (etc.) on a smoothed but unfinished tropical hardwood (like cocobolo or Braz. r’w’d), when you remove it, it leaves the area to which it was applied, paler and slightly depleted of color (some of which comes off on the tape)? Well, I’ve found it helps in gluing, because, I think, it draws out waterproof resins. I prepare the surfaces to be glued and cover them with masking tape (lately, I’ve had good results with transparent packing tape, warming it, just slightly, with a heat gun, and pressing it down… Read more »

Bill Abbott
Bill Abbott

In his book, “Classic Guitar Making” (Copyright 1974, published by Lawrence A. Brock), Arthur E. Overholtzer writes about removing pitch and tar from Brazilian Rosewood. After sawing to size. He used “Spic and Span” laundry detergent and water, completely immersing the boards. He agitated through the day and changed the detergent solution daily, for a week, then boiled in clean water, with 3 changes. He taped the ends of the boards to slow evaporation from the end grain, and let them dry for a week. Titebond water-based glue worked fine on rosewood treated this way. One of his students, Rose-Ellen… Read more »

Sed
Sed

Has anybody ever had problems gluing yellowheart wood? Does it have a high oil content like purple heart or cocobolo?

Alan G
Alan G

I have recently glued yellow heart and purple heart for a segmented turned bowl. I had no problems and I used Titebond original.

Bill Kutz
Bill Kutz

I am somewhat new to woodworking, as I was a tool & die maker for 41 years. I know that the super glues have a tendency to break down in about 5 to 7 years, but I am wondering about the type that uses an Ultraviolet light to activate it. I have had great success using it to repair ceramics, some wood, and plastic. I have even glued Teflon on cast iron. Since Teflon is so slick, it really presents an economic issue to bond it to anything. I also have used it to bond an old wood plane base… Read more »

Steve
Steve

I haven’t used the G/Flex yet that was recommended by Wood Sculptor, but I have used Smiths Oak and teak Epoxy, which worked fine and without any use of solvents too. It also remained flexible and had a discrete glue line.
He is utterly on the pin with Cyanoacrylate, it wasn’t designed for this, and will fail normally sooner rather than later. Temporary repairs ONLY, brittle, and degrades under all sorts of conditions.

Wood Sculptor
Wood Sculptor

For all these oily woods use either G-2 (System Three Epoxy) or G/Flex (West System Epoxy). These adhesives are specifically made for these woods. I prefer the “repair viscosity” G/Flex as it helps hold the joints together where clamping is difficult. Never use cyanoacrylate adhesives (CA or superglues) except as a temporary bond – they always fail after a few years. The G-2 and G/Flex adhesives remain flexible whereas CA becomes brittle so as the different woods move differently over time/temperature/humidity only the flexible adhesives can hold the oily woods together. Titebond Original works sometimes but the Titebond II and… Read more »

Jim MacMahon
Jim MacMahon

Many thanks. I’ll give it a try.

Carter Ruff
Carter Ruff

I use the nonflammable formulation of Zip-Strip. It’s readily available in hardware stores where I live, and I think it’s widely distributed.

I brush it on with a throwaway acid brush, give it a few minutes, scrape it off with a razor and clean up with water. If I’m in a hurry I’ll even use a blow drier to dry things off before gluing.

Cheers!

Jim MacMahon
Jim MacMahon

Hello, Carter, thanks for the suggestion. However, could you suggest a brand of paint remover to try as there a lot of formulations out there? I’m definitely interested. Jim

Carter Ruff
Carter Ruff

I am a guitarmaker, and have used cocobolo on a number of guitars, both as back and side sets, and as fingerboards and bridges. I’ve never had trouble with gluing it, and have used PVA, hot hide glue, and “all-wood” epoxy, all with good success. I have heard a warning about pre-treating with solvents, namely that it can cause more oil to rise to the surface from within the wood, and so I have chosen not to use that method. What I do is I pre-treat the glue joints with a chemical paint stripper before proceeding. I figure it’s designed… Read more »

enrique
enrique

hi i am a guitar maker,,i use lignum vitae very ofter, it is a very very difiicult “customer” to glue, but since 3 months i started glue this one with cianocrylate, many times fretboards. i designed a big truss rod option specially for having less surface to glue, just 15mm sectors on the borders operation takes 15 minutes, and 6 grames of cianocrylate, it glues it mint, putting a good quantity of glue because it dries so fast that if bit glue, no time for pressing, but leaving a good hand of cianocrylate,,i press fretboard exactly 10 minutes and after… Read more »

zzzzz
zzzzz

if you are still around, can you tell me if the super glue held up. I was under the understanding that that glue is not good for a long time.
thanks

Juggernaut1969
Juggernaut1969

I cannot speak for the poster, but I can speak from experience.
I have had no bad luck with inlays that were small and held in with superglue like glues. However larger parts exposed to prolonged stress often do fail. It can make a real mess of a fretboard, as the surfaces will separate, but enough of the superglue will remain in the wood making it difficult for a different glue to grab in a repair.

zzzzz
zzzzz

good to know, thanks

Etelon Longbows
Etelon Longbows

The glue sounds like urea formalderhide, such as cascermite, a powdered wood glue. I think the only thing that may dissolve it is water, as some manufacturers recommend that the glue lines are protected if using out doors There is A bowyer who has had similar problems with oily woods when using this glue and manage to repair them. If the pieces have not comletely seperated and there is only a thin crack then use CA, low viscosity (super glue) If you wish to seperate the parts then steam may work. A red colourd resin I use called resorcinol (Phenol… Read more »

Oscar Mayer
Oscar Mayer

You can order it online.

Jim MacMahon
Jim MacMahon

I am trying to re-glue a Dansk rosewood bowl that has separated along several glue lines. The old unknown type of glue is white-ish and brittle and I have tried many solvents to remove it from the joints, but none has worked. I’d love it if someone could suggest a solvent to remove the old glue and also suggest an appropriate product for the repair glue up.

Etelon Longbows
Etelon Longbows

I glue up Ipe on a regular basis it is a very oily wood. I use Resorcinol resin as it is one of the only one that works well with oily woods. I used to Remove as much oil as possible using acetone but withe some pieces it would take forever and in some case end up more oily than after sanding. Even so resorcinol worked very well. Now sand the suface using 40 or 60 grit with a new belt where the grit is sharp. put a drop of water on a wast part to make sure it does… Read more »

curly pio
curly pio

p.s. THE WOOD DATABASE is GREAT!

curly pio
curly pio

I use it on knife scales and handles.
The joint is basically Gorilla glue and the two wood pieces clamped until dry.
I have had to router out a line joining both pieces on the backside of the project and used a length of bamboo placed in the routed line with glue to give it some added strength. So far this works. Since the backside is not visible it seems to work for when I have to use Cocobolo.
(maybe a picture would help to illustrate my joinery)

Curly Pio
Curly Pio

Other Ideas?
I have tried solvents to clean, rough sanding the surfaces to be glued and used Gorilla glue on Cocobolo.
It seems to bond well until heat comes into the equation which seems to cause the bond to release.
Any ideas? (besides keeping it away from heat)

edad
edad

As a boat builder and luthier Id never use a water based glue on oily hardwoods,its just not worth the trouble. epoxy only. my .02 cents.

Boatwood101
Boatwood101

Use epoxy, I recommend system 3 brand “silver tip” i have had good results with it on teak. you will have to cut the teak thinner than 1″ or it will not take that bend without breaking. Based on your pic and dimensions, i would try 1/2″ or thinner. If you do manage to make it work with the thicker pieces, there will be an incredible amount of stress locked in the part that will result in a lot of “spring back” and early failure. Make sure to wipe all surfaces to be bonded VERY WELL with solvent (acetone, MEK,… Read more »

Dreamweaver Hardwood Hammocks
Dreamweaver Hardwood Hammocks

I have a bunch of these laminated Larch Stands, but I would like to try the same design with laminating 4 1″ thick x 4″ long x 1.9m long Indonesian teak wood together into a curve. Does anyone recommend a type of glue that is fast drying and has a strong bond with Teak? Also does anyone know how much compressive strength would be the best? It would be kiln dried, Premium or A grade teak. Does anybody have any experience with something like this and think 1″ thick maybe too thick and would crack? Any recommendations are greatly appreciated.… Read more »

caliente guitars
caliente guitars

good morning Tony
could you please send me and post a couple of picks?
will give you answer asap
my email
sibemol2club@gmail.com

thanks a lot

Tony Sloan
Tony Sloan

Hello. I am debating buying what appears to be a VERY nice used classical guitar whose Indian rosewood bridge has separated from the body’s top/soundboard which is red cedar. However, I am unfamiliar with exactly how to go about re-attaching the bridge to the cedar given the oil issues mentioned above. Logically, there must be a standardized type of approach to this issue since virtually all red cedar topped classical guitars have rosewood bridges and for them to rip up like this isn’t very common. I would seriously appreciate any and all information about the best way or a standard… Read more »

bryan
bryan

One of the suggestions I could make that if possible or when possible to mortise out a section of the two pieces being glued together and incerting another, glue friendly wood, to bond the two together. The mortise would be an inset so that the true wood would show and not the insert; if that makes sence? The inserted wood could be slotted in place like a dowel, or small screws which are resesed below the surface of the softer wood will hold it in place. Just thinking outside the wood box.

caliente guitars
caliente guitars

good day
about this 3 possibilities

1 poliurethane glue
2 epoxic glue
3 cianocrylate

which one do you think it is best for gluing hard woods between
in middle measured pieces???

(sorry if my english it is not the best)

thanks a lot

caliente guitars
caliente guitars

good afternoon i am just making some investigations about gluing hard woods here in colombia about amazonas you can easelly find out 50 species of hard woods worst of all it is lignum vitae and some very similar to that,, tabebuia impegitinosa or sapan for example i am highly interested on trying cianocrylate on fretboard joint and any non water based glue,, lignum vitae it is extremelly hard one that absolutelly do not tolerate any water based glue,,after 3 days starts to open, and gives a lot of problems,,if you add to this fact that this hard woods hot a… Read more »

Maximus
Maximus

Hello Ignitious

It is not possible, so you had better not try

Love from

The Internet

ignitious
ignitious

Hello

I love leadwood and i in my country it is not protected, so i wanted to make a log cabin, is it possible?

kind regards
Ignitious

edad
edad

Tropical hardwoods have tons of natural oils in them ,the oldschool trick of cleaning the surface with acetone still works great, just be sure to do your gluing within an hour but no less than 30 minutes. That way the solvent has gassed off and the oils have not started to return to the surface. West systems with the normal catalyst not the fast one. is my first choice, with a close second to system 3. Works on teak and cocobolo, Ipe, canary, and other rosewoods and bocote to name a few.remember dont over tighten your clamps bring it up… Read more »

edad
edad

Tropical hardwoods have tons of natural oils in them ,the oldschool trick of cleaning the surface with acetone still works great, just be sure to do your gluing within an hour but no less than 30 minutes. That way the solvent has gassed off and the oils have not started to return to the surface. West systems with the normal catalyst not the fast one. is my first choice, with a close second to system 3. Works on teak and cocobolo, Ipe, canary, and other rosewoods and bocote to name a few.remember dont over tighten your clamps bring it up… Read more »