Does woodglue swell plywood and make glue ups more difficult ?

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Forum topic by OldBull posted 07-31-2021 06:52 PM 297 views 0 times favorited 4 replies Add to Favorites Watch
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516 posts in 507 days

07-31-2021 06:52 PM

Good afternoon,
I did some glue ups in the last few days of my cabinet project and the glue up always seems more difficult than the pre assembly / fit check. For me it is a bit of an anxious time with so much work on the line and that may be part of it but the fit seems different after glue is applied and I don’t remember feeling that way with hardwood. I apply the glue quickly and assemble quickly. It is almost like the wood swells slightly from the glue. Do plywood cabinet joints need to be a bit looser than hardwood? I apply glue to both sides to make sure it is adequate. I laid down strips of tape for squeeze out and that makes the joint more difficult to see and the glue up a little more difficult.

Thanks for any help.

P.S. The joints were 1/4” slots mated with long 1/4” tenons. I am guessing that is the right term as I used a whiteside 1955 rabbet set to remove 1/8” on each side of 1/2” BB Ply to make 22” tenons. Don’t ask me why I did it that way, I have no idea !!!!

4 replies so far

View Axis39's profile


536 posts in 809 days

#1 posted 08-01-2021 07:20 PM

I don’t treat plywood joints any differently than hardwood joints, size-wise. I have never had an issue, and I’ve built a lotta plywood boxes…

Of course, once glue is on, it’s always more slippery… or more sticky, depending on open times. But, that’s the same with hardwood.

I would be nervous taking that much off of plywood to make your tenons… It will still work well for placement, but I’d be nervous I’d be making the plywood weaker.

-- John F. SoCal transplant, chewer uppper of good wood

View therealSteveN's profile


8632 posts in 1786 days

#2 posted 08-01-2021 09:39 PM

I just treat it like end grain, which it is. It will pull in any type of moisture, is rough, (unless sanded smooth) and therefore it isn’t the best glue surface, but I also don’t treat it differently, but also rarely glue it to anything, usually it’s inset into a rabbet or dado. Doing an edge banding is about the only time I do glue directly to it, but there I can’t say I’ve seen a big failure %.

-- Think safe, be safe

View SMP's profile


4712 posts in 1117 days

#3 posted 08-01-2021 10:22 PM

unless it was like particle board core or something(like the cheap flat pack crap) but any half decent ply should be fine.

View OldBull's profile


516 posts in 507 days

#4 posted 08-01-2021 10:32 PM

Thanks for the replies.

There are 5 edges that received glue, The image below is of a test piece for setting the bit. The cabinet is incredibly strong and even has unique sound to it when hit with a knuckle (high note). The tenon is of course set in a 1/4 slot. These were used on the dividers and rabbets used on the frame. Not a single nail or screw in the thing.

I learned many lessons during this build about good vs great clamps and good (spelled cheap) vs great router table.



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