What To Know: Hot Glue Guns in the Woodshop
Hot glue guns in the woodshop? Before you dis this craft table staple, check out a pro woodworker's list of clever uses for this popular tool.
Our editors and experts handpick every product we feature. We may earn a commission from your purchases.
Ah yes, the hot glue gun. The warrior of your grandmother’s crafts table. It’s great for things like faux flower arrangements and fixing the broken button on that treasured nutcracker. But does a hot glue gun also have a place in the woodshop?
Absolutely! In fact, it’s one of my favorite temporary adhesives around the shop. In my controversial opinion, it’s far better than that silly blue tape and superglue trick.
Let me explain.
Glue Gun Applications
I’ve used hot glue guns in a myriad of applications through the years, from rough milling to refinements on ornamental carvings. Here are some of the ways you can use a hot glue gun in the woodshop:
Do you have a handful of identical parts you need to cut at the bandsaw? Try ganging them up with a dab of hot glue between each layer and cutting them all at once.
Workbench hold down
Are you lacking a proper joinery bench? If you don’t have a vise or bench dogs, how are you supposed to keep work clamped to your workbench? Hot glue can be a fantastic interim solution until you figure out something permanent.
If you’re short on shop space, you may not have a jointer. If that’s the case, or if you’ve had to flatten a board wider than your jointer, you’re likely familiar with a planer sled — a simple shop-made fixture that allows you to joint uneven boards in the planer.
But how do you keep the board and wedges from moving around when you send it through the machine? Hot glue. It’s the simplest, fastest method by far and one of the few methods that won’t damage the sled, ensuring many years of use.
Temporary wall hold
Ever tried to install a French cleat that’s too long and unwieldy to handle alone? Enter hot glue. A couple of dabs on the back of the cleat will help hold it in place while you drill and screw, making installation easier. This also works for trim, small shelves and even picture frames.
Ever try your hand at inlay? How do you hold the positive piece on the work surface while tracing it with a knife? You guessed it: hot glue. A small bead or two will hold it precisely where you need it while you get an accurate knife line.
Need to do a small epoxy pour but want to keep it simple? Use hot glue to create a small dam around the pour to ensure it doesn’t spread to unintended areas.
Packing tape can be an ugly way to seal a box, especially considering that box is the first thing a customer sees (and we all know first impressions are important). In lieu of tape, I often use hot glue to seal boxes. It looks much cleaner and feels like a stronger seal.
Glue Gun Techniques
Here are a few glue gun tips, for those new to hot glue:
Let it get hot
This one seems straightforward, and yet I’m still guilty of impatience. Plug the glue gun in and walk away for at least five minutes to let it get up to temp. Glue should easily flow from the nozzle. If the glue is too cool, it will harden too quickly and may not form a strong bond.
Don’t overdo it
You may not trust hot glue to hold your work firmly, and that’s fair. You’ve been told it’s a poor adhesive for years. But if you pump globs of hot glue onto your workpiece for fear of the bond breaking, you will regret it when you spend an hour cleaning up the mess you made. Trust me on this.
As I later learned, a few dabs will do just fine. If the seal does give way, you can always remove the old glue and reapply.
Put it in the freezer
Here’s a trick I learned from my carving teacher: If the object is small enough to put in the freezer, let it sit in there for 20 to 30 minutes. The extreme cold will make the glue brittle and pop off easily.
We would do this with our applique pieces when we were learning to carve. We’d toss the carving, which was hot glued to the backer board, in the freezer. After a half-hour we would gently slide a chisel between the parts and pop the carving right off. Magic!
Best Glue Guns for Woodworkers
The truth is, for what I use my glue gun for in the woodshop, just about any hot glue gun will do. But people love recommendations, so here are some of mine:
Best Overall Glue Gun
This hot glue gun from Gorilla is a champ. And at $15, it’s a great deal, too.
Best Budget Glue Gun
Here’s a good glue gun from Elmer’s for less than $10 to get you started.
Best Cordless Glue Gun
Yes, Ryobi made this list. If the convenience of cordless is what you’re looking for, consider this highly rated hot glue gun.