Good old PVA
Now, I don’t know about you but until I became a cabinet maker the only thing I knew for sure about PVA glue was that it was excellent at sticking nothing to nothing! Many a primary school project came a cropper due to the complete inability of this glorious white glue to keep a toilet tube attached to a cereal box. Or to fix paper triangles to a cardboard cut-out of a dinosaur. Absolutely rubbish!
And yet, and yet, I can tell you with nearly absolute confidence that there are now literally hundreds of pieces of our furniture all around the world literally standing on their own legs thanks to the indomitable might of the great PVA glue.
PVA, also known as Polyvinyl Acetate an ‘aliphatic rubbery synthetic polymer’ – is a wonderful glue. It is so harmless you can eat it, so accommodating you can wash it off with water. It’s so flexible that it will move with the wood as the environment changes. It is so durable that it’ll last a hundred years. It is so strong that the wood around a PVA-glued joint will break before the joint itself. Rubbish no longer, this stuff is a work of genius!
There are other great glues of course. Cascamite, if your joints have gaps that need filling. Or F120, a urea-formaldehyde resin that is great for laminating and veneering curved panels. But Cascamite can be brittle, and F120 can be expensive. Trust me when I say you can do a lot worse than invest in a decent strong PVA – D3 strength where humidity is an issue and D4 strength if near running water or outside. We do, Rowden does, and no sleepless nights!
One other thing PVA is just amazing for is complicated marquetry. We recently applied a 300 piece marquetry design to a compound curved surface (a wooden surf board). The marquetry veneers were glued with PVA and clamped inside a vacuum bag for three hours. It came out pretty well but about ten of the pieces had slid a little towards their neighbour. The glue was hard set, but with a hot iron, a bit of paper, and a hard edge, we were able to re-melt the glue and use the hard edge to push the pieces into place. Within 30 seconds the glue had rebounded with the piece perfectly and permanently located, 6 day’s work saved!
Lakshmi Bhaskaran, 2017.
Lakshmi studied at the Rowden Atelier in 2008, following on from a successful career as a design writer and author. It was at Rowden that she met her husband and business partner, Jonathan Walter. The pair set up Bark Furniture in 2010 and now run a successful furniture business, based in Cornwall, with clients all around the world. Lakshmi has written for renowned publications including Wallpaper and has authored five books in the design area.