Various modifications of polyvinyl acetate emulsion wood adhesive were made and their performance evaluated in standard tests. The results are interpreted in the context of adhesion theories and the chemical structures of the polymers and wood. The adhesion of the polymers to wood and the cohesive strength of the polymers are the two predominant factors determining the performance of the adhesives. Adhesive strength in thermosetting resins is enhanced by irreversible chemical reactions that create extensive networks within the adhesive layer and strong bonds to the wood substrate, leading to strong and durable joints that passed all of the performance evaluation tests. Most of the PVAc emulsions exhibited good adhesive performance in the dry state, but failed in water soak and boiling water immersion tests since their adhesion and cohesion are mainly based on weaker physical interactions. Emulsions with (hard) core‐(soft) shell morphology and correspondingly high glass transition temperatures gave poor performance under all conditions.
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