How Starbond CA Glue Changed My Woodworking Experience
By: Mikael Masters
Since the time I was young, I almost always had a tool in my hands. Normally it was a hammer or a saw, most often I enjoyed cutting up random pieces of wood or just nailing things to other things, with my parents, often, merely a few steps behind me cleaning up and trying to prevent the messes I was making. Thankfully, there was one tool/product that I had never gotten my hands on in my youth and that was the superglue.
I can only imagine what kinds of messes I would have created, had my parents not been so fervent about keeping it out of my reach and while I did my fair share of destruction. I also learned from a young age that woodworking and using tools to accomplish things was a passion of mine and as I grew I learned more and more how to build and not destroy.
Fast forward twenty years and I am now a professional woodworker having taken up the calling fully to take what was once a beautiful, living thing that was cut down for one reason or another and breathe life and beauty back into it, to help tell its story.
Since we moved to Greece when I was young, my parents stopped having super glue around because it was extremely hard to find here, being that practically, no one locally produces the stuff. So, needless to say I had always watched other makers and woodworkers using various super glues and CA glues on their projects and never really paid it much mind. I had no idea what I was missing.
In 2017 I took part in the annual Christmas Ornament Challenge orchestrated yearly by Carl Jacobsen and Allen Stratton. To my surprise I actually won something with my daring and outlandish design. I won three bottles of superglue from a company called Starbond, based in California, which I had only barely heard about but again, paid little attention to. What I didn’t realize was that the Starbond experience would entirely change the way I looked at woodworking and forever alter my methods.
I always had my ways of fixing things and repairing the small imperfections that a woodworker is sure to run across while working with such a perfectly imperfect medium. If I had a crack, I mixed some sawdust of the wood into PVA glue and filled it, the result was almost seamless, but it took hours sometimes days to cure correctly till I could sand it and move on with the project. I didn’t think too hard about this because it was the way I was used to doing things; I just moved on to other projects and came back to it when it was ready.
If, when turning a bowl, I had a piece of bark fly off of the live edge, I would simply glue it back into position using either PVA glue or epoxy. Again, both took time and I had to set them aside and redirect my focus, moving on with other projects while they cured.
Whenever I turned a bowl and it had hairline cracks or small fractures, I was always concerned that any one of those could become a catch that would indeed destroy this bowl.
In many ways, whenever I had things unstick from their intended moorings, it meant that the project was finished or had to be abandoned for a number of reasons. It meant that I had to start from the ground up and rethink my process so that same mistake wouldn’t reoccur, again, I was used to this and calculated it into my thinking and accepted it as fact.
Then I discovered Starbond.
At first I was leery to try it on many things and it sat on the shelf, hardly touched. I was fully aware of its rarity and figured I would save it for when I had the time to read up on it and know more about its strengths and weaknesses.
I don’t know where, but from somewhere during my growing up years I had developed the misconceived notion that Superglue or CA glue was only for quick fixes that didn’t need to be counted on for high tensile strength or resistance to shock loads. I couldn’t have been more wrong.
The moment I started using it and branching out and attempting things, I found a whole new world of possibilities. Fixing cracks transformed from being a three-day wait to a three-minute occurrence. I simply take some very fine sawdust of the wood, fill the crack with the sawdust, apply water-thin super glue on top and in seconds, it’s cured. I repeat the process until I have fully filled the crack. I sand to bring everything back to level and the crack has disappeared in minutes!
Reapplying bark edges or fixing blown out inclusions in work-pieces became something that I enjoyed, because of the seamlessness and speed of the repairs. I was able to, within minutes, continue on with the project, when before, this kind of problem usually brought my momentum to a halt.
Let us not forget to mention the increased security I felt when I was able to apply water-thin or medium thickness CA glue to the various small cracks in my projects and know that those areas were now homogenous parts of the bowl and that the chance for a catch or a tear-out in those areas was virtually reduced to zero!
Projects that I was generally forced to give up on or simply start over were given a second chance, being able to be re-glued and fixed almost instantly with a glue stronger than epoxy and twenty times faster.Gone are the days of moving on to other projects while I waited for the glue to dry.
Another use I found out about that I was entirely unaware of was the immensely strong and easily applied finish that CA glue produced on wooden surfaces. When I made a tool with a wooden grip, I, like many others, generally always went for one of the big three finishes available to us. Those being Polyurethane varnish, spray varnish or an oil finish. Alas, even the quickest of these finishes took twenty-four hours to fully cure.
With CA glue, I have found that I can apply a finish to my tools or work-pieces and it will be dry and cured in a matter of minutes! Not only that, but it’s the strongest and most durable of the finishes available to me! It allows me to easily achieve any luster I want with minimal polishing or hard work. Anything from a simple, modern matte finish to a more classical high gloss finish is in my reach within minutes.
Along with fixes, I have also found many other interesting ways to use CA glue, both practical and decorative. I won’t go into all these uses here because I’m afraid you might be reading for another five pages. I intend to write more on my various experiences with CA glue, but for now I’ll leave you with this closing statement.
I think it is safe to say that having discovered the world of CA glue, my working experience will never be the same without it, nor do I think I could really ever return to doing it the old way with the same level of patience I once had. Some may call me spoiled, but I think of it more as modernized. I have nothing against the old ways and traditional woodwork will always have a place in this world and in my heart. When fixes are needed that are quick, easy and that work well, Starbond CA glue offers all three in many different shapes and sizes. I personally know that, as my journey through the woodworking world continues, I will always have a bottle of Starbond CA glue near and that when in need, it will always be there to provide for a very easy and simple fix.
I am proud to be a part of helping represent a company that has the guts to provide something as seemingly mundane as CA glue. I personally thank them for their support of the woodworking community, because without them, we would all be stuck in the dark ages!