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Whether it was the first synthetic adhesive produced in 1869 or the "super glues" of today, glues or adhesives have one purpose: They bond two solid materials together.

In the past 15 years, the term "super glue" has become a part of the American vernacular. But exotic new glues are hitting the market with highly visible brand names such as Gorilla Glue.

There are so many new glues that sometimes it is hard to know what is out there, much less how to choose the right one. There are very few glues that work well on all types of materials.

A first step is to know the differences in the types of glue and their best uses. Other factors include such characteristics as drying time, whether the glue is waterproof, whether it can be stained, what materials it is best for and degree of toxicity.

Here are some of the more widely known and commonly used glues around the home.

* Polyurethanes. Gorilla Glue is probably the best-known polyurethane adhesive, although it has some new competitors such as Rhino Ultra Glue. It is waterproof, stainable, paintable, goes on dark and dries to a light tan, foams to fill gaps and is virtually odorless. It has a 90 percent curing time of three to four hours and will completely dry in 24 hours. This is an extremely versatile glue that can bond metal, ceramics, stone or wood. Heat-, shock- and solvent-resistant, it has a shelf life of about three years. Another advantage is that it adheres slowly, perhaps over 20 minutes of working time, giving you time to position the parts to be glued.

* Construction adhesive. There are many new construction adhesives on the market. Loctite's Power Grab boasts that it bonds almost instantly, eliminating the need for nails or clamps. But Liquid Nails is probably best known to those who shop home centers and hardware stores.

These come in large tubes for use in caulking-type guns and in smaller tubes that don't need a gun. The adhesive is clear both in application and drying, is waterproof and is used frequently for home-improvement projects such as installing drywall and paneling, and bonding flooring to wood. It has a variable drying time of three to 20 minutes, depending on the materials involved, temperature and climate conditions. Once it is dry it's very hard to remove. It has a strong odor.

* Epoxy. This is one of the strongest types of glue and typically comes in two parts, which are mixed to achieve bonding. Epoxy glues have a variety of setting times. They are also waterproof, can fill gaps and can bond dissimilar materials.

* Hot-melt glue sticks. For crafts and household repairs. Fast-setting. Not very strong.

* Spray adhesives. Krylon and 3M are among the best-known brands. This is an aerosol spray often used in scrap-booking or for applying veneer.

* Silicones. This type of glue named for its primary ingredient can act as an adhesive and sealer, particularly in situations where the area being glued might get wet. Silicone glues do well even in cold weather.

* Woodworker's glue. Also called yellow or carpenter's glue, this is best for bonding wood and is usually used indoors, though some types such as Titebond III are waterproof. Good at filling gaps. Has a very short working time unless you get the special type that sets slower.

* Contact cement. Used in crafts, bonding plastic laminates or veneers to wood. It is applied with a roller or paintbrush. You wait a few minutes and then join the two pieces. Strong, sturdy bond, but unforgiving if you didn't have things aligned.

* White glue. Elmer's is probably the best-known brand. Used in crafts. Sets in an hour. Dries clear.

* Clear cement. Typically sold as a clear liquid in tubes. For lighter wood and porous materials, but can be used on plastics, glass and ceramics. Somewhat water-resistant.

* Plastic resins. Water-resistant. Good for interior woods.

* Super glue. This glue has become sort of a generic label for many glues. It claims to bond almost all nonporous surfaces. It comes in relatively small tubes and in gel form, which can be easier to dispense. Super glue bonds in seconds, which can be a blessing and a curse. It's not unusual to get a drop of this glue on your hands and have a hard time removing it. A 1-inch bond can hold more than a ton.

No matter which glue you use, remember the mistake that most people make: They use too much glue. A little dab will do you.

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