What is CA Glue? (Pros, Cons & Common Uses)

CA glue is a strong, fast-acting adhesive, but it doesn’t work for every project. Learn the pros and cons, when to use it, and alternatives to consider.

A bottle of thin, medium and thick CA glue, and a can of spray accelerator

Cyanoacrylate glue or CA glue is a popular adhesive for a variety of applications, including woodworking, because it’s strong, fast-acting, and relatively easy to use. Although CA glue is a fantastic choice for many DIY projects, there are a few drawbacks to consider before using it. In this article, we’ll discuss what CA glue is, its common uses, how to use it effectively, and some alternatives you may want to try.

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Table of Contents

What is Cyanoacrylate Glue?

Cyanoacrylate glue, also known as CA glue, is the industrial name for a group of acrylic resin adhesives that almost instantly bond two surfaces together. You might be familiar with the household names for CA glue, like Super Glue and Crazy Glue.

CA glue works by seeping into the microscopic pores of the surfaces it’s bonding, then hardening when it comes into contact with moisture. Times can vary, but it usually sets in just a few seconds. Because it hardens so rapidly, you must act fast to align the surfaces you’re bonding once you’ve applied the glue.

Cyanoacrylate glue requires a small amount of moisture to set. Most surfaces, including human skin, have enough moisture to set the glue. This means that CA glue can also bond to your skin if you’re not careful. Because wood contains moisture, it provides the perfect environment for CA glue to set quickly and create a strong bond.

Applying thin cyanoacrylate glue to a joint

CA glue also may be used in combination with an accelerator or activator. When the CA glue comes into contact with the activator, a chemical reaction causes the glue to set almost instantly.

Cyanoacrylate glue is waterproof, making it ideal for outdoor projects or applications where moisture is present. It can also withstand temperatures up to about 180 degrees, while heat-resistant versions can withstand temperatures up to 250 degrees.

CA glue is available in different viscosities or thicknesses, and each is best suited for specific applications.

There are a few drawbacks to CA glue. First, it’s more expensive compared to other adhesives. It causes skin and eye irritation, so follow the manufacturer’s safety precautions when using it. And because it sets in the presence of moisture, it has a relatively short shelf life.

What is Cyanoacrylate Glue Used For?

Cyanoacrylate glue is a fast-bonding adhesive that can be used on various materials, including wood, metal, glass, plastic, and rubber. CA glue is often used to repair broken items such as ceramic figurines, and it also has the ability to bond dissimilar materials such as wood to metal.

Woodworkers commonly use CA glue as it can bond two pieces of wood together quickly and securely.

Cyanoacrylate glue sets almost instantly compared to PVA wood glues and polyurethane glues. It doesn’t require clamping, making it ideal for applications where assembly speed is essential, or clamping would be difficult.

Related: What is PVA Glue? (Types, Benefits & Uses)

Assemble Small Projects

CA glue is ideal for small projects because it allows you to assemble without using clamps on parts that might be too tiny or fragile to clamp.

Repair Chips and Tear-out

CA glue can be used to repair woodworking projects caused by tear-out. Tear-out occurs when a blade or bit catches on the wood and tears out a chunk of material.

You can use CA glue to reattach the torn piece and create a seamless repair. And because cyanoacrylate glue dries almost immediately, you can continue working on your project without waiting hours for the adhesive to dry.

Fill Knots and Cracks

Cyanoacrylate glue can be used to fill and stabilize wood knots. Knots are areas of the tree where branches once grew, and with time they can shrink, leaving gaps. CA glue can be used to fill these areas and stabilize the knot.

The glue dries clear, making it an ideal solution for filling knots without compromising the appearance of your project.

CA glue is also an effective way to fill other voids, such as gaps and cracks. Large openings should be filled in steps, allowing each layer of glue to dry before adding more.

Filling a wood knot with CA glue

Strengthen End Grain and Reinforce Plywood Edges

The side of a board where the pores are visible is known as end grain. These pores act like straws, transporting water from the tree’s roots to its branches, and are prone to splitting. CA glue can be applied to end grain which reinforces it and helps to prevent splits.

Similarly, cyanoacrylate glue may be applied to exposed plywood edges, such as shop jigs, to reinforce the edge and protects it from wear.

Applying cyanoacrylate glue to the edge of plywood

Assemble Box Joints

CA glue is an ideal adhesive for assembling joinery such as box joints. Box joints are a series of interlocking fingers that join the ends of a board at a corner.

Related: How to Make Box Joints (3 Easy Ways)

Box joints are notoriously tricky to assemble because you have to apply glue to each finger and then hurry to assemble the four corners before the glue sets.

On the other hand, Cyanoacrylate glue allows you to assemble the box joints without rushing. Instead, first, you’ll assemble the four corners, then apply the CA glue to the joint allowing it to soak into all of the fingers at once.

Assembling a box joint with thin CA glue

Types of CA Glue

CA glue is available in different viscosities or thicknesses, each suited for a specific purpose. It’s also available in an assortment pack with various viscosities, so you can experiment to find the one that works best for your project.

Thin CA Glue

Thin CA glue is ideal for repairing minor defects, hair line cracks, inlay work, and reattaching loose veneer edges. Veneer is a thin layer of wood (often a high-quality hardwood) glued to a substrate such as plywood.

Medium CA Glue

Medium CA glue is best suited for filling wood knots, pen-turning projects such as bonding pen tubes to blanks, and applying to end grain to help prevent splits.

Thick CA Glue

Thick CA glue is excellent for quickly assembling shop jigs and bonding miter joints such as picture frames.

Gel CA Glue

Gel CA glue works well for filling gaps, bonding porous and irregular surfaces, and attaching moldings to cabinetry.

Dark CA Glue

Dark CA glue has a dark color which is ideal for hiding blemishes, filling dark voids, and for working with burl or spalted wood.

Burl is a type of growth that forms on a tree, typically around an unsprouted bud. Burls are prized for their unique appearance and can be used in various ways, such as in woodworking or carving.

Spalted wood has been damaged by fungi, creating a unique and desirable appearance.

Cyanoacrylate Glue Pros and Cons

Before using CA glue in your next project, there are pros and cons to consider.

CA Glue Pros

  • Bonds quickly
  • Strong and durable
  • Can be used on a variety of surfaces
  • Doesn’t require clamping

CA Glue Cons

  • Bonds to skin and can be difficult to remove
  • It can irritate the skin and eyes
  • It’s more expensive than other glues
  • It has a relatively short shelf life

Alternatives to Cyanoacrylate Glue

If you’re unsure if CA glue is the right adhesive for your project, here are some alternatives to consider.

Wood Glue

Wood glue is a less expensive alternative to CA glue, but keep in mind that it won’t adhere to nonporous surfaces. Additionally, not all wood glues are waterproof, so be sure to check before making your purchase.

Polyurethane Glue

Polyurethane glue is another alternative to cyanoacrylate glue. It’s waterproof, bonds most materials, and also requires moisture to set. But it doesn’t bond as quickly as CA glue; it requires clamping and expands as it dries, which can push pieces apart if it’s not clamped properly.

Related: What is Polyurethane Glue? (Pros, Cons & Uses)


Like CA glue, epoxy can be used on porous and nonporous surfaces.

How to Use Cyanoacrylate Glue

Cyanoacrylate glue is simple to use, but you should keep a few things in mind to get the best results. Here’s a brief video demonstration on how to use CA glue.

How Do You Clean Up CA Glue?

Once CA glue has cured, it can be difficult to remove, so cleaning up any messes right away is important.

Cyanoacrylate Glue on Skin

CA glue bonds in the presence of moisture, so if it comes into contact with your skin, it will start to bond almost immediately. This means it’s possible to glue your fingers together! So if you work with CA glue, it’s a good idea to wear disposable gloves.

If you get the glue on your skin or bond your fingers together, don’t panic. There are a few ways to remove CA glue from skin. I like to take the least aggressive approach by massaging the area with lotion, vegetable oil, or petroleum jelly. This will sometimes loosen the bond enough that you can peel it off. Don’t force it; otherwise, you may end up tearing your skin.

If all else fails, acetone or nail polish remover will dissolve CA glue. But be careful, acetone will also remove your skin’s natural oils, so it can cause irritation. Acetone and nail polish remover are flammable, so be sure to use them in a well-ventilated area away from any heat sources.

Related: Mineral Spirits vs Acetone (Differences + Which to Use)

Cyanoacrylate Glue on Surfaces

CA glue bonds to most surfaces, so you’ll need to be careful where you use it. The best way to remove CA glue is with acetone or nail polish remover, but these solvents can damage some surfaces.

Acetone or nail polish remover are the most effective methods to remove CA glue; however, they can damage some surfaces.

If the dried glue is on a finished surface, like wood furniture, you’ll need to be careful not to damage the top coat. It’s best to test the solvent in an inconspicuous place before trying to remove the glue from a visible area.

Moisten a clean cloth acetone or nail polish remover, apply it to the glue, and allow it to set for about a minute. Next, blot the area with a clean rag until the glue is removed. You may need to repeat this process a few times to get all of the glue off.

How Do You Store CA Glue?

The shelf life of CA glue is relatively short, so it’s essential to store it properly to extend its lifespan.

Because it sets in the presence of moisture, humidity in the air can cause CA glue to set prematurely. So it’s important to store it in a dry place like in a refrigerator or an airtight container with a desiccant, like a silica gel packet or even table salt to absorb any moisture, keeping your glue fresh for longer.

Frequently Asked Questions

Is CA glue the same as super glue?

Yes, CA glue and super glue are the same thing. Cyanoacrylate glue is the scientific name for super glue.

Is CA glue the same as Gorilla Glue?

No, CA glue and Gorilla Glue are not the same. CA glue is cyanoacrylate glue that sets quickly in the presence of moisture, and Gorilla Glue is polyurethane glue that also requires moisture to set but expands as it dries.

Final Thoughts

Cyanoacrylate glue, also known as CA glue or super glue, is an incredibly versatile, fast-drying adhesive that bonds to most surfaces. It sets in the presence of moisture, and because it bonds so quickly, it does not need to be clamped. Human skin has enough moisture to set the glue, so you must be careful when using it.

CA glue is a good option for projects where assembly speed is essential, or clamping would be difficult.

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