My daughter's dollhouse, after years of fairly rough use by many enthusiastic children, needs some fixing up. In particular, the staircase has split in half. Luckily it's a clean break, and I should be able to glue it very easily.

Can I use the same wood glue (Elmer's, if it matters) that I'd use for general household repair (e.g., glueing a wooden chair leg back in place) for fixing this lighter craft wood piece? Based on how light it is, I think that it's balsa or a similar wood.

2 Answers 2


Wood glues are fine for balsa.

While there are stronger glues, the added strength is usually unnecessary and strong enough should be sufficient. It is hard to generalize but "white" glues, like Elmers, are just PVA glues that are advertised as craft or general glues. There are also yellow PVA glues, which Elmers also makes (and the one I generally use for my indoor projects), that are geared more towards wood. However there is many similarities between them and in some cases the yellow is just colour added (FYI white vs. yellow is a large debate.).

A common adage among wood workers is that the glue joint is stronger than the wood itself and that is true. Also true is that balsa is one of the weakest hardwoods but it is ideal for a great deal of applications. Go ahead and use either white/yellow glue for this. Some people would even use cyanoacrylate or CA glues, like Super/Crazy glue (as well as some other glues), for their balsa models.

What is more important is how you apply the glue.

You said that you had a clean break which is great. Whether or not this is the case for you I would recommend not removing splinters from the break. You want to glue joint to be as free of gaps as possible. Remove splinters from the break can introduce weak points where the glue might not get the best adhesion. Make sure when you put the staircase back together that you apply glue on both sides of the break enough to cover the entire surface area.

If possible you want to clamp the work, or apply pressure in some way as clamps might be excessive for balsa, to force some of the excess glue out from the joint (you don't need a lot in the joint). Clean the extra that does come out. Let it sit for as long as the glue states on the product label.

  • The tricky thing with splinters is that while removing them creates gaps in a joint leaving them can also create gaps by preventing the joint from closing cleanly. Jul 2, 2016 at 14:40
  • 1
    @PeterGreen Depends on the nature of the splinter. We both agree that voids are bad. Leaving it is usually easier then dealing with the space but it depends applies here.
    – Matt
    Jul 2, 2016 at 14:55

Absolutely. An Elmer's-style wood glue (polyvinyl acetate (PVA), generically known as carpenter's interior wood glue) is an inexpensive glue which is quite effective for holding balsa wood together. It does not take a lot of wood glue to make a good bond. In fact, too much glue will create a weak joint, so use it sparingly (how to use).

If you already have it on hand, wood glue is a perfectly suitable choice.

But to be more thorough, when balsa wood is used in applications like model building, joint strength and minimizing weight might become more of an issue. In those cases, cyanoacrylates ("super glues") are often a better choice. Glue accelerators are usually mixed with these products to speed cure time in a product that would otherwise be ill-suited to fill spaces (loosely fitted porous materials).

There are also polyurethane glues ("gorilla glues") and epoxies that have different properties based on the project's needs and application. There are actually a lot of glues which work well with balsa wood, so here is a list of adhesives showing their properties, pros and cons, and their recommended application:

This list provided courtesy of Diary of a Balsa Goddess

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