Gluing Ipe for Indoor Furniture

Tips about making furniture with Ipe. September 7, 2011

Question
I have a customer that insists on bedroom furniture that features heavy slabs of ipe a platform bed with 4' by 8' by 1 1/2" extended headboard, kingsize bed frame and deck with recessed platform of same thickness, mitered on two exposed corners. It also has two bedside cabinets with a drawer that will have marble tops. The only materials visible specified to be ipe. I guess this is sort of an extreme case of a wood worker imposing the will on the material. Which is what we do for a living anyhow, but usually we hope for an outcome that is durable to at least a degree.

My experience with ipe is negligible, so I've used this site to research the community's experience with the material. It sounds overall like one cautionary entry after another. I have noted the dire warnings of wood movement after completion, terrible dust and splinters, resistance to gluing.

The customer is relieving me of responsibility for cracking and it seems they are attracted to a sort of rustic that I'm not up to speed on. So aside from cracks and the weight, dust, and etc. of this project my questions: can the stuff be glued, and will a 1 1/4" bore glue-joint cutter such as Amana help? My stationary machines with carbide tooling might survive this project, and with adequate protection I have a pretty good chance too. But will this furniture stay together?

Forum Responses
(Adhesive Forum)
From contributor U:
I built a deck two years ago. I did a test, and did all the 6" wide miter returns on the hand rail with just Titebond III. They are still dead tight, in full weather and sun. It surprises me every time I go back.



From the original questioner:
Thanks for the experience-based note on Titebond III. That sounds pretty remarkable, better than my deck miters. Is there any hardware or joinery helping out the glue in that case? The dire warnings about joint failure have me curious as to successes that others have had.


From contributor A:

We used Ipe in the shop for a big fancy gazebo. The dust is awful. The material actually works very well. When a wood is that hard it's more like milling plastic. We had to do a bunch of free hand curves on the shaper. The combination of hardness and short grain resulted in little to no tearout. The idea that teak or ipe are difficult to glue is bunk. Traditionally teak is sanded with 80 grit, wiped with a solvent, then glued with epoxy. Epoxy will not bond well to unsanded hard maple as well. Bent laminations of maple can be glued with yellow glue straight out of the planer. They will often fail when using epoxy if not run thru a widebelt sander at 60 grit.


From contributor U:
Only 4 or 5, 23 guage pins. Like I said, I really wanted to test the glue. No biscuit, domino, nothing but glue.


From Gene Wengert, forum technical advisor:
Check the archives for info on using epoxy including that a thin glue line is a weak joint. Do not use much pressure at all.