I have a few specific woodworking uses for cyanoacrylate (CA, aka. 'super') glue. I'd also like to have some around so I can expand my usage as I find good new wood-related applications.

My product choices so far (hardware store variety, two in a blister-pack, a fraction of an ounce each) have ended in frustration. Basically the little tubes dry up after the first use. My most common use would be to strengthen tapped threads in MDF, and that only takes a drop or two when I'm making a jig, which isn't every day.

I see around on videos and so on that folks seem to use CA glue fairly happily, which leads me to believe they're getting more than one usage session from each container.

I've stored my opened (internal aluminum seal pierced, but cap back on tightly) CA glue tubes in a glass jar filled with fresh silica gel desiccant. I saw a video that said moisture in the air worked its way into the tube through the nylon cap over time. Sounded like a great theory, but didn't work at all. A month after opening a tube it's solid as a rock.

What should I be looking for in the way of a CA glue that won't go hard on the shelf over a month or a year and that will be ready for use whenever the occasion arises?

  • 1
    As for prevention of the glue drying out here is a question that has been answered on that on a other part of stack exchange . lifehacks.stackexchange.com/questions/4061/… – Ljk2000 Nov 14 '16 at 3:27
  • In my experience, plastic bottles survive for reuse much better than foil tubes; better seal, apparently. – keshlam Nov 14 '16 at 3:58
up vote 2 down vote accepted

Superglue does tend to begin to set in storage and I believe the usual consumer experience is you end up wasting most of it :-( The small tubes don't last well after opening and I think can't be reliably made to last well so as keshlam says in a Comment above the plastic bottles could well provide a better long-term storage option. However, you do waste very little glue if one of the tubes goes hard before you go back to it, a gram or two at most. Because the plastic containers are usually do muvh larger if you do have problems using up the remainder before it has gelled or gone hard you lose a lot more. Now this may be offset by the initial lower cost per gram/ounce, you'll have to do the sums for yourself based on what you have available to you.

I buy a budget brand in a multi-pack of small tubes (eight per card) and although I nearly never get through a tube before the remaining glue sets it costs so little per tube it seems a negligible waste to me.

I've stored my opened (internal aluminum seal pierced, but cap back on tightly) CA glue tubes in a glass jar filled with fresh silica gel desiccant. I saw a video that said moisture in the air worked its way into the tube through the nylon cap over time. Sounded like a great theory, but didn't work at all. A month after opening a tube it's solid as a rock.

It is moisture that kicks off the cyanoacrylate setting reaction so keeping water vapour from the liquid glue in the tube/bottle is the key to storage. If you live somewhere with higher humidity you're already behind the eight ball as far as CA longevity is concerned. People who report excellent long-term storage of superglue without taking extraordinary measures are often living in dry climates and may not specify this, giving unrealistic ideas of what others can expect.

The method you describe is an excellent general approach I think. It limits the amount of air the glue is exposed to and additionally dries out whatever air is trapped in the jar. There are two things you should check though to ensure you're getting the best results. The first is whether the jar is actually air-tight. The second and less obvious one is is your silica gel still capable of absorbing moisture?1

The two tips for storing opened containers of CA that I'm most familiar with are in the fridge and sealing the cap somehow.

Fridges are well known for their ability to dry out food that isn't wrapped properly so it's easy to see they'll help keep dry anything that's stored in them2.

The second main method I'm aware of is to seal either the threads in the cap, or the edge of the cap. The two ways this is commonly done that I've seen are to use Vaseline on the threads, or to tape the edge. Common tapes don't do a particularly good job here but they're better than nothing. The ideal thing to use here is something purpose-made as a moisture seal and Parafilm is one of those, made as a laboratory sealant film and available in rolls of various widths and length. It's not cheap but it goes a long way so a roll about the size of your average roll of duct tape may last you the rest of your life.

It only occurred to me while I was writing this that you could also use caulk to seal the cap edge, that might be worth experimenting with as caulk should be 100% waterproof and will easily peel from hard plastics. Of course then you have the problem of how to seal the caulk nozzle properly LOL

Be realistic
Now all the above tips aside, they all make sense and sound like they should work well, but for one reason or another I've found that nothing works reliable or repeatedly. So I don't think it's realistic for most of us to expect to be able to store an opened container of CA for a year and come back to it to find it in exactly the condition we left it. It would be great if we could, but I suspect that only those living somewhere with lower humidity can actually get this sort of shelf life.


1As silica gel is always absorbing moisture in a lot of places if it's over a couple of weeks old it's already less effective than it should be according to what I've read, and after a few months nearly anywhere it could already be saturated with water or nearly so. Good news on this front though — silica gel can be dried out and reused endlessly. Yeah I didn't know that for most of my life either. The number of packs I threw away...! But anyway, you can Google around for more details but basically you dry it out in a warm oven, either as loose crystals spread out on a clean baking tray or within the original packets works in some cases (you may get some slight scorching of the paper or whatever the material is but this is just cosmetic).

After drying silica gel should always be stored double-bagged in zip-locks or in an air-tight jar to maintain it for use.

2There is a slight catch here, especially for anyone dealing with a high-humidity environment — the tube or bottle being so much colder will tend to actively condense moisture from the air when brought out and opened, which can lead to premature setting of the remaining glue in the container. So it's imperative if you store your glue in the fridge to warm the tube or bottle up before opening it.

  • If storing in the fridge (or even freezer) it's worth keeping the bottle in a small sealed bag. So the condensation lands on the outside of the bag not the bottle. – Chris H Nov 14 '16 at 12:43
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    Seconding what @ChrisH said about bagging it before storing it in the freezer, and I'll add another reason: Because it can get knocked around, tip over, and start leaking glue into your freezer. Ask me how I know! – Charlie Kilian Nov 14 '16 at 15:58
  • @CharlieKilian I agree completely that the glue should be in a container of some kind. But I am struggling however to imagine how you had a leak from a bottle or tube with a tight-fitting cap :-) – Graphus Nov 15 '16 at 2:24
  • @Graphus If I recall correctly, the glue had crusted over and dried, leading to a less-than-satisfactorily-tight cap. Mistakes begat more mistakes. Blame was cast; fingers were pointed. (Most of them at me, and justly so.) :-) – Charlie Kilian Nov 15 '16 at 5:15

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