Craft Corner: Let's Talk About Glue

Have you ever wanted to put something together but didn’t know what glue to use? Or glued something together only to have it fall apart shortly after? Adhesives are not one-size-fits-all, and when you’re crafting (or repairing) something it really helps to know the appropriate glue to use for your materials. Glue is one of my favorite crafting topics (no, really!) so in this post I will go over a variety of adhesives, their uses, and some tips.


Glue sticks

Use on: paper goods. Don’t bother trying to glue anything else with it.

Dry time: a few minutes

Tips:

  • It’s good for large surfaces of paper because it doesn’t warp the fibers.

  • It doesn’t create the strongest connection, so make sure to apply glue around the very edges and in the center of the page, and apply pressure once you set it down. Sometimes it helps to put a book on top.


Spray adhesive

Use on: paper, cardboard, foam core, glitter, gold leaf.

Dry time: very fast

Tips:

  • It’s REALLY sticky. Make sure you protect the surface you are spraying the item on. I usually put down some cardboard or newspaper.

  • Apply the item you're gluing very carefully as it will be difficult to reposition once it’s down.

  • Use in a well-ventilated area.

  • You can use this with a stencil to create shapes with gold leaf or glitter.


Craft glue (such as Elmer’s. I prefer the clear/gel version of Elmer’s.)

Use on: paper, cardboard, foam core (surface), glitter, (can also be used for wood, but is inferior to wood glue.)

Dry time: at least an hour, depends how thick your layer is

Tips:

  • This type of glue gets absorbed into the paper fibers, so big globs of it can cause warping.

  • Remember to give it ample time to dry, or else it just makes a mess.

  • If you need to use it over a large area, spread a thin layer with a brush or a roller to avoid warping.


Wood glue

Use on: Wood (can also be used on paper in place of craft glue, but it does not dry clear.)

Dry time: a few hours (varies)

Tips:

  • Wood glue works because it gets absorbed into wood fibers and creates a connection between two pieces, but in order for this to happen, the surfaces need to be relatively flush. If try to glue surfaces that leave gaps in between, the bond will not be nearly as strong.

  • If you can use a clamp, definitely do so (but be sure to protect your surface.)

  • There are different types of wood glue with different drying times (see chart below). #2 will work in most cases, but if you need to be able to make adjustments and want a longer setting time, go with #3. Titebond is definitely my go-to brand.

  • If extra glue squeezes out of the cracks, wipe it off immediately with a moist cloth or paper towel. It will be harder to get it off when it's dry, though you can always sand it down.

Hot glue

Use on: Most things (see below)

Dry time: very fast

Tips:

  • It can adhere to almost anything, but you should not rely on it for any joinery that will experience heavy use. It’s more of a way to fix things together (like an ornament or a scrapbook) than a serious glue joint.

  • It does not adhere very well to smooth wood, glass, silicone, or plastic. It will hold them in place, but they will likely be easy to peel off. It may also melt some plastics. For paper-based goods though, have at it! It's also good with fabric and for odd items. Anything with an irregular texture will probably do ok.

  • Get a glue gun with a thin metal nozzle and temperature control. This kind of nozzle is not only more precise, but it seems to stay cleaner and make it easier to get rid of the glue “strings.”

  • Don’t get a mini size glue gun as they overheat quickly and become hard to hold.

  • Side note: You can use special glue gun sticks to make wax seals, which is cool.


CA glue (AKA super glue)

Use on: Most things, but generally non-porous surfaces.

Dry time: very fast

Tips:

  • Be very careful with this stuff as it dries super fast and can get stuck to your skin REALLY easily. If you’re doing a project that requires using a lot of CA glue, grab yourself a bottle of solvent too.

  • This is not a gap-filling glue and will not work very well unless your surfaces are flush.

  • It is best for smooth hard surfaces but it can glue things like wood as well, and I’ve used it many times for laser cut wood structures.

  • If there is not a lot of surface area, the connection may be brittle and break under pressure.

  • My favorite brand is zap-a-gap. It comes in larger bottles than the typical “super glue” tube, which is meant for small fixes, but zap-a-gap is by far the best CA glue I’ve tried.

  • You can also buy small nozzle caps for more detailed application.

  • It works well for acrylic because the glue is clear and usually very thin (but you can also buy specific glue for acrylics and plastics if your project calls for it).

  • Use in a well-ventilated area.


Epoxy

Use on: Pretty much everything except paper goods. This is the “if all else fails” glue.

Dry time: varies

  • Epoxy will glue almost anything. It is a gap-filling glue, which means if your surfaces are not perfectly flush, it will be able to fill some space between them to create the bond without being absorbed.

  • It often comes in a double syringe out of which you push out both parts of the glue and mix them together. Until the parts are mixed together they will remain liquid. My preferred brand of epoxy is Loctite.

  • The stuff is pretty toxic, so I don’t recommend using it unless you really need to. If you do, don’t mix too much at a time (because of fumes but also it dries relatively fast) and do so in a well ventilated area.

  • 5 or 10 minute epoxy will glue most things. It has a fast dry time but it won’t create as strong a connection as a longer drying epoxy such as the 60 minute formula.

  • There are also epoxy formulas made specifically for metals, ceramics, glass, etc. If you’re going to be working extensively with one difficult material in particular, I would recommend getting a specialized epoxy for that material, but the regular one will do for most projects.

Do you have any adhesive-related advice? Any questions or sticky conundrums?


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