Thursday, January 10, 2013

Review: Sticking Together

J & A here. This is the first post in a line of review posts about specific materials we use for our projects. This week, a big topic: Adhesives. Unless you only use Lego, at some point you need to stick things together. We're here to talk about our favorite adhesives and why you see some names come up over and over on here.

First up: the common adhesives.

Isn't it cute how Elmer thinks this is his moment?

From the top left and working across and down:

1. Aleen's Tacky Glue,
2. Aleen's Quick Dry Tacky Glue,
3. Aleen's Turbo Tacky Glue
This family of adhesives is what I mean when I say, "Glue something together." They work on plaster, paper, cardstock, polymer clays... Lots of things. Thick, decent working time with the original flavor, strong initial grip, dries clear. I love this stuff. Due to the thickness, I sometimes build a "well" of Lego bricks to store the bottle upside-down in (with the cap still on!) so that the glue can pool at the top of the container and be ready to squeeze. Of the glues present here, this one benefits the most from having a scrap of material to pout it out onto and apply from there with a toothpick, crummy paintbrush, or scrap of cardstock. A little goes a long way.

The Quick Dry was a "gift" from a departing co-worker at my grad program. They left it in their desk and it became my travellling glue bottle so I didn't lug Big Bertha around. It is indeed faster, but otherwise has the same qualities as the original. I prefer it for Hirst Arts because it sets up fast enough to build a wall rapidly.

The Turbo is Quick Dry on steroids. I built the TARDIS with it and the stuff is super fast when compared to white glues. The initial tack is very nearly the final word on the matter, so be confident about your placement with this stuff. You don't want a thick enough layer to be able to scootch it around much (because it means you have too much glue), but too small an amount and the stuff just sets like BAM!

4. Mod Podge
5. Scotch Quick Dry Adhesive
This dynamic duo made an appearance in Comic Book Coasters. They're primarily papercrafting materials, and I figure A uses the Scotch Quick Dry as much as I use the Aleen's. Mod Podge is a thick, permanent decoupage medium that can easily be used as a glue or a top coat (like the professional foam-sculptor's Sculpt-or-Coat). It is so thick that brush strokes remain visible in the final coating if used as a sealer.

The Scotch is designed for photographs and paper crafts as well, but is specifically an adhesive. It doesn't really bleed through and has a super precise tip which makes it great for small projects. I've made use of it on some props for very precise placement of small items. Scrapbookers, make the investment.

6. Plastruct Plastic Weld
If you work with ABS, styrene, pretty much any soft plastic, you need this. Superglue is great for a lot of things, but plastic cement is perfect for plastic. Plastic cements work by temporarily destabilizing the plastic and causing it to flow together, leaving one solid plastic widget behind. I like this one because it is water thin and flows into crevices on its own. It has a brush applicator attached to the lid and makes it a snap to dab into seams. The trouble with plastic cement is fumes (use ventilation) and evaporation. It works quickly because it evaporates so quickly, which means if you leave the lid off for a few minutes while cutting parts or lining stuff up and you can lose 10% of the remaining adhesive. Tighten that sucker down when you finish the project or it won't be there when you need it next time.

7. Krazy Glue Advanced Formula
8. Zap's Zip Kicker
Cyanoacrylate glue, better known as "super" glue, is ideal for a lot of applications, but can become brittle under certain conditions. I use it a lot for metal-on-metal or metal-on-plastic gluing and for gluing dissimilar materials (wood to ceramic, that sort of thing) as the glue bonds to pretty much anything (including, and especially, the user. When you inevitably glue yourself to something, gently roll your skin from the object, not the other way around). There are a lot of tricks with super glue, including packing a seam with baking soda and dripping glue into it to make a filler, to using an accelerator like Zip Kicker to speed up the curing process. As with the plastic weld, fumes can be an issue and some folks do eventually develop a sensitivity to CA glue which can not be predicted. Longterm exposure increases the likelihood of picking it up, so limit your glue huffing when possible. (Fun Fact: CA glue was used as a medical tool during the Vietnam War to seal up injured soldiers until they could get looked at by a doctor. Ask A some time about how she should have got three or four stitches and we patched her up with a gel super glue instead. I'd be lying if I didn't admit that I've patched up some minor razor mishaps with CA glue myself.)

Then, the more specialized stuff:

"Do you wanna talk about me now?" No, Elmer, no one wants you!
1. Super 77 Spray Adhesive
When you absolutely, positively, need to give something a perfectly even sheen of adhesive, this is your pick. It's like rubber cement in a can: A layer on one surface gives it some grap, a layer on both surfaces gives it an aggressive bond that can not be broken without mangling the weaker surface. I love it for paper stuff, like attaching templates to a substrate or affixing a printed graphic to foamcore. Overspray is a mess and cleanup is a hassle, but treat it like spray paint and you won't be too far off. Pro-Tip: Grip small parts with tweezers or pliers and keep your hands out of the way.

2. Gorilla Glue
The strongest gap-filling glue I know of, Gorilla needs to be clamped to be effective as the glue itself foams and expands when it cures. As a result, it can pour out of seams and bubble onto nearby surfaces. Use it for internal parts in props and large builds and sparingly when you approach the surface elements.

3. Loctite Instant Mix Epoxy
If you need parts to never come apart again, epoxy it. A two-part glue that is dispensed by a plunger into a specialized tip that mixes the epoxy as it makes it to the aperture, this epoxy is the only stuff I've used that doesn't end up a race against time as you waste disposable cups and a plastic spoon rushing to make it happen, or eyeball ratio of glue to hardener. For a limited application of epoxy to a small project, this is my preferred method. Naturally, if you need a larger volume, it's getting into digital scale and disposable spoon territory, but that's not the scale I work at right now.

4. Sureflex Adhesive
5. Model Hobby Cement
These two glues are included for unfortunate reasons: They failed to deliver what we needed of them. The Sureflex is supposed to be a flexible rubber glue that seals seams and shoes and whatnot, but it just lacked conviction. It dried stretchy and clear, but pulled loose when any force was applied. The generic model cement is a rubber cement-like goo that is supposed to be a universal glue. In my experience, it does a great job of weakly bonding a large number of things together and shaking apart under mild stress. There are better glues out there. If it comes packaged with a plastic model, hold onto it for experimental purposes.

6. Plastic Model Cement Pen
This is basically a paint pen filled with the plastic weld I talked about earlier. A felt applicator is pressed into the barrel and wicks plastic cement to the surface. For precise, non-running application of plastic cement, these pens are a good way to get the job done. I feel like the cap maybe doesn't affix as tight as I like or maybe I didn't use it enough and the small amount of adhesive dried up in a couple until I got more careful about storage.

There are some glues we didn't talk about today, but that's probably a result of A and I not using them as much. With such a wealth of products out there, we have tried a lot of them and keep using the ones that work for us. But what works for you?

As we get further into the Review article phase here, feel free to turn us on to materials you want us to examine. If you sell products, hey, send us some and we'll talk about them.

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