What Is The Best Type Of Glue For Balsa Wood Models?

The smaller the wood craft, the more important it is to keep any added weight to a bare minimum.

Wood glues might be very strong, but with that extra strength comes extra weight. And this is just one of the reasons why wood glue might not be suitable for your balsa wood craft.

Which is why, in this post, we reveal the three big problems with using wood glue on balsa wood models. You’ll also learn which super-holding adhesive is a better glue option for your Balsa models.

And keep reading to find out if using hot melt adhesives (aka hot glues) are right for delicate wood crafts.

best glue for balsa wood

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Does Wood Glue Work On Balsa Wood Models?

Wood glue, (which is also known as PVA glue), can bind almost any two pieces of wood together. And it will have no trouble binding balsa wood.

But, you may run into a few issues if you use wood glue specifically on balsa wood crafts.

Issue No. 1). Wood Glues Are Great At Gluing Wood… And Not Much Else.

If your balsa model plans include plastic or metal fittings, then wood glue won’t be up to the job.

PVA (Polyvinyl Acetate) glues can bind wood, and any kind of wood derivative material (such as Plywood and paper). However, they do not work well at getting plastics and metals to adhere to anything.

Issue No. 2). PVA Glues On Balsa Wood Will Add Weight

Wood glues work by binding wood right down to its very fiber. It does this by sinking down into wood pores. That way, it leaves behind next to no gaps between two pieces of lumber.

And it’s ability to get absorbed into wood grain, makes PVA glue fantastic for creating durable bonds. But, it also means that a fair bit of glue will get pressed down into otherwise small and delicate balsa wood pieces. So, if you use wood glue to glue many pieces together, all of that absorbed glue will add up.

Issue No 3). Wood Glues Take A While To Dry And Cure

Wood glue can take 30 minutes to dry, and up to 24 hours to cure.

Now, typically you can use wood clamps (or nails) to hold a wood glue joint in place, while it dries. This leaves you free to wander off, leaving the adhesive to set.

But, fragile small model pieces will snap underneath clamping pressure. And even brad nails may prove to be too much for it. Which leaves you holding balsa wood in place, for half an hour, as you wait for it to dry.

Related Post: Can You Really Drill Into Balsa Wood?

So What Kind Of Glue Do You Use For Balsa Wood?

For small lightweight balsa models, you’re better off using super glue, otherwise known as CA (Cyanoacrylates) glue. This quick-drying adhesive can glue wood, plastic, and even metal.

It is a high strength bonding product that can dry in as little as 10 seconds. And it can set in an afternoon (taking as few as 8 hours to cure).

Aren’t CA and PVA Glues The Same Thing?

These two glues are very different. PVA glues are a thermoplastic adhesive. While, CA glues contain formaldehyde condensation.

And that formaldehyde condensation is the key driver behind Cyanoacrylates ability to form high strength bond.

And Can You Use CA Glue On All Balsa Wood Joints?

Balsa wood is fairly light when its cut down to size. So, CA glue is perfectly suitable for small Balsa wood crafts.

But, full sized Balsa wood boards will need wood glue, if you want them to hold.

You see, CA glue isn’t as strong as PVA glue when placed under pressure. PVA glue, once it has cured and set, is very strong. In fact, it is harder and more durable than even wood itself.

On the other hand, CA glue can become increasingly more brittle after it sets. And, with enough pressure, hardened CA glue joints can snap.

Now, this isn’t a problem when it comes to small scale model crafts. But, when it comes to gluing tables and chairs, CA glue isn’t suitable.

Last, but not least, CA glues are not as thick as PVA glues. So, a super glue will add less weight to a fragile Balsa wood piece.

Related Post: Can You Stain Balsa Wood? (Best Practice Revealed!)

What About Hot Glue? Can I Use Hot Glue On Balsa Models Instead?

Well, hot glues are an altogether different type of adhesive to CA glue.

Unlike CA glues, hot glues do not contain any water, and they are not capable of gluing metals and plastics. And hot glues take much longer to dry than CA glues, (around 10 minutes).

They aren’t as durable as PVA glues either, since this super-heated adhesive doesn’t penetrate wood grain the way that wood glues can.

In short, if you were to put them in order of a choice adhesive; CA glue comes first place, then PVA glue. And then hot glue falls behind both of them in last place.

Related Post: 5 Reasons Why You Should Use Paulownia Vs Balsa Wood

To Sum Up, Here Are The 3 Key Takeaways From This Post…

  • 1). PVA wood glues can glue wood, but not much else.
  • 2). CA glue can bind wood, plastic, and metal. It also dries and sets in a mere fraction of the time of wood glue.
  • 3). Only use CA glue on small lightweight wood crafts. It is not a suitable adhesive for heavier wood items.


Ethyl Cyanoacrylates | Wikipedia.org