Articles - Tools: Glues
09/22/2018
In this article I list the various glues I currently use, and what my experiences have been. These are just my personal opinion, so be sure to experiment. Things such as environmental conditions may have an impact on the success rate of using a particular glue over another.

Styrene

When we start building plastic models, a common suggestion is to use the glue that comes in tubes (popularized by the airplane kit building manufacturers and magazines). This is horrible glue to use, and can leave stringy threads clinging to your models. If you have this glue, throw it away, right now! Instead get Testors Plastic Cement. Nearly any hobby store has these in stock. When you get this bottle (see photo), snap out the applicator brush that comes in the cap, and throw that away, too. It is too course for most of our work. I use a very small paint brush as my applicator. Use this glue when gluing styrene pieces together. I have had limited success with using it on ABS plastic (such as heavily used by Plastruct). The trick with this glue is that the parts to be glued, must be held in place in their final position. The glue is then to be applied to the joint. Capillary action will draw the glue into the entirety of the joint. Multiple applications can be done if the joint covers a large area (such as when gluing two sheets of styrene together on their flat surfaces to form one large, thicker sheet), but be careful of over-doing it. This glue melts the plastic, so if you use too much, you'll be left with a gooey mess. So, apply sparingly, and let the glue do its work. Do not touch the glue area, or get the glue on your fingers and then touch the model, because your fingerprints will become a permanent part of the model. The glue sets in a matter of seconds, but I usually give it several minutes, just to be sure. Be sure to tightly close the lid on the bottle, because this glue evaporates. That being the case, I would highly recommend that you buy this product locally. That way you can inspect how much material is actually in the bottle. If it has been sitting on the shelf for a long time, I have seen bottles as low as half empty.
Glues
I had been reading about people using Methyl Ethyl Ketone (MEK) for gluing styrene parts together. Finally, in 2018 I bought a container of it at my local big box home improvement center. For the price of about two of those Testors bottles, I now have a quart of MEK. I re-used the Testors Plastic Cement glass bottle (after cleaning it out) for my MEK supply in the hobby room; the main MEK container, as shown in the photo, is kept in the garage. The fumes are quite strong. In either case, make sure to keep the lid very tight, because this stuff evaporates very quickly. Quite a bit quicker than the Testors product. I apply it exactly like I applied the Testors glue, using a very small paint brush. As soon as I am done with the brush, I rest the bristles on a piece of paper towel, which wicks the glue out of the brush. No need for rinsing or washing. You only need to forget to do this a couple of times, and you'll learn the habit! MEK works faster than the Testors glue does (which also is predominantly made out of MEK). A tiny bit of MEK goes a long way to making a secure connection. I really like this stuff, but work quickly and safely, because it stinks.
Glues

Wood

I used to use Elmer's yellow glue for gluing wood pieces together, but their formula must have changed, because in 2017 I noticed that it just didn't hold as well. I asked my Dad, an avid woodworker, what he uses, and he recommends the Titebond brand. I am using the Titebond II version. It works very well. Version I is not water resistant, and since we can use water on our model railroads, I decided to use version II. Version III is for outdoor use, so that is overkill, unless you model in G-scale. The only complaint I have is about the bottle shown in the photo, when there is a bit of glue left in the very top, it requires a pair of pliers to open it again after a long while of not using it. It is almost like it glues its own plastic container.
Glues

Scenery

For general scenery glue I use Elmer's Glue-All white glue (do not buy the "School Projects" version, because that is only for temporary use). I buy the white glue by the gallon, as shown in the photo. For smaller applications, I am re-using an older Elmer's bottle that I refill from this container. However, when gluing large areas for scenery base, or making "ground goop", I pour it straight from this gallon jug. The same goes for when making a watered-down mixture for spraying over scenery areas. The glue dries clear, and without a shine. I have found that other white glues leave a shiny surface. You could use matte medium as an alternative, but it is quite a bit more expensive. To apply the glue, I use a paint brush (size depends on the surface area to be covered), and the brush is easily cleaned up with water and maybe some soap.
Glues

Differing Materials

When gluing different kinds of materials to each other, such as wood to plastic, plastic to metal, wood to metal, a super glue is a good first choice. I had been using the small Elmer's super glue tubes, but found that they became hard after a while. Also, getting the tip properly seated on the tube was a pain, with several over the years having ruined a perfectly good tube at the start. I kept on using them, because while you use them on a regular/daily basis, the glue kept running. It is when the tube was opened and they sat for a week or more, they would be hard. So, while they will do in a pinch (you can usually get them at your local grocery store), I have switched to the Loctite Liquid Super Glue. This one works just as well, but I am able to get all of the glue out of this bottle. The tip of the bottle will need to be cleaned from time to time (I use a hand file). There are a couple of downsides to using super glue. First, if you get it on your skin, good luck! If you bond two fingers together, plan on taking a break from modeling for while (Acetone is the only material I have found to de-bond super glue; this is the main ingredient in fingernail polish, but I bought a container of it at the local hardware store). The second issue I have found with super glue, is that it doesn't stand up to sudden hits. If the model is handled carefully, it will last for a long time, but it if it is dropped or hit, the glue joint will likely break.
Glues
To apply any liquid super glue, I use a small tool I bought at a local model railroad show vendor. It is basically a sewing needle pushed into a short wooden dowel. The eye of the needle has been half cut off, so that is used to apply the glue. It works well. I touch the tip to a piece of paper towel after applying the glue, but the glue still builds up over time. I use a propane torch to burn away the glue from the applicator tip.
Glues
Aleene's Tacky Glue will hold a lot of things together. Unlike Elmer's, the "tacky" part of this glue works well in that it grabs and holds the items together while the glue sets. I highly recommend that you keep a bottle of this glue in your hobby supplies.
Glues
If the weakness of super glue bothers you, or if you need the extra strength, one of the epoxy glues is the best solution. Shown here is the 5-minute epoxy (sets in under 5 minutes). They also have 90-minute versions. No matter which brand you go with, mixing the two materials is always a messy business. This is the first time I am using the J-B Weld brand. It leaves the final joint black. I found out that it doesn't glue styrene and metal. I switched, because the Loctite double-dispenser 5-minute epoxy I used to use is a real pain. The odds of getting the same amount out of each side are slim, and the dispenser eventually gets clogged or stuck. However, it did seem to glue anything to anything.
Glues