Adhesives

This page provides information about common adhesives to use in model making and what materials they work with.

Understanding Adhesives

Choosing the correct adhesive and applying it with care can make a big difference to your model making. The following page provides information on common adhesive types including their properties, cleaning and safety considerations. A quick-look table is available below.

Adhesive Types Table

Common Adhesive Types

Polyvinyl acetate (PVA)

Polyvinyl acetate (PVA) is an excellent general purpose adhesive. It is able to bond a wide array of materials, dries clear and is water-based, making it safe to use and easy to clean. PVA is most effective on materials with porous surfaces, such as paper, card, wood and fabric. It is generally ineffective for smooth, non-porous materials such as acrylic and metal.

PVA has a relatively long drying time but produces strong bonds. It becomes tacky when partially dry, facilitating placement of components.

Cleaning

PVA is water-based and can be washed off using regular soap and water.

Safety

PVA is water-based, non-flammable, non-toxic and does not emit poisonous fumes. It is therefore one of the safest adhesives to use, and makes an excellent choice for most applications, particularly when working at home.

Liquid synthetic resin

Liquid synthetic resin, commonly known as the product UHU All Purpose, is a solvent-based general purpose adhesive. It is a staple product for model making due to its versatility, workability and clear appearance.

A significant advantage is that it has a relatively quick drying time, yet remains adjustable for a short period. Its tackiness and high initial adhesion also make it easy to set pieces in place.

The key to using liquid synthetic resins effectively is in its application. Only small amounts are needed, and pieces should be pressed together to achieve an initial bond. For non-porous materials such as metal and ceramics, apply to both surfaces and allow to dry, then make a second application prior to joining he pieces. A major nuisance is that the high degree of self-adhesion leads to long strands of glue being formed when the applicator is moved away. To avoid this, try using a toothpick or other implement to apply small amounts of glue directly to the piece.

Cleaning

Due to its self-adhesion properties, liquid synthetic resins can generally be rolled off most surfaces including fabrics. It can be dissolved using acetone.

Safety

Liquid synthetic resins contain volatile, highly inflammable solvents. Appropriate precautions should therefore be taken during storage and when working with the adhesive. Only use in a well-ventilated area.

Hot glue

Hot glue is a thermoplastic, meaning it changes state due to temperature. When heated the glue melts and bonds to porous materials, before cooling to resume a solid state. Hot glue is applied using a hot glue gun.

Hot glue can be used on almost all materials and forms very strong bonds with a degree of flexibility. It is particularly useful for high-strength applications such as structural connections where there is little connecting material.

Hot glue guns and glue refills can be borrowed from the FabLab Guru Desk.

Cleaning

Hot glue can be very difficult to remove once set. To remove from surfaces or fabric, use isopropyl rubbing alcohol to loosen the bond between the glue and material.

Safety

Hot glue guns have a heating element that runs at 120-200ºC. Exercise caution when using hot glue guns, and remember to unplug them when not in use.

Super glue

Super glue is a rapid drying, high strength solvent-based adhesive. It is suitable for almost all materials including card, plastics, metals and ceramics. However, super glue will stain some materials, in particular acrylic. It is not recommended for use with clear plastics.

Super glue is widely used by students because of its rapid drying time and strength, however it should be used with caution due to its high toxicity and immediate reactivity with skin.

Only use super glue in small quantities and substitute it for other adhesives such as liquid synthetic resins or PVA where possible.

Cleaning

Super Glue is very difficult to remove once dry. Acetone will dissolve it, but very slowly. To remove super glue from skin, wash off residue using soapy water. Soaking the area in in warm water or using a brush or dish scourer can help to break up residue.

Safety

Super glue contains volatile, highly inflammable solvents. Appropriate precautions should be taken during storage and when working with the adhesive. Super glue emits toxic fumes and should only be used in a well-ventilated area. It is also advisable not use for extended periods of time.

Super glue bonds to skin immediately and caution should be taken when it is being used. In particular, do not touch your face or eyes during use.

Solvent cement

Solvent cement, also known as model cement, is used for bonding plastics such as acrylic. It is clear to begin with, but will yellow over time. Solvent cement is viscose and generally relies on having good contact between adjacent elements to work effectively. It is also less tacky and has a longer drying time than other alternatives, so pieces must be held together for a while to achieve a connecting bond. Solvent cement usually comes in small pots with brush applicators. It can be used to achieve water-tight seals with acrylic, useful as casting boxes.

Cleaning

Solvent cement can be wiped clear in its liquid state and generally will not bond to skin. Once set, it can be removed from surfaces and fabrics using acetone.

Safety

Solvent cement contains volatile, highly inflammable solvents. Appropriate precautions should be taken during storage and when working with the adhesive. Super glue emits toxic fumes and should only be used in a well-ventilated area. It is also advisable not use for extended periods of time.

Expanded polystyrene

Solvent-based adhesives and aerosols will melt and deform expanded foams. It is crucial to use either PVA of specific expanded polystyrene adhesives for these materials.

Expanded polystyrene adhesives are similar in properties to liquid synthetic resin, however, they are specifically intended for use with expanded foams such as extruded polystyrene and high density foam board.

Cleaning

Due to its self-adhesion properties, liquid synthetic resins can generally be rolled off most surfaces including fabrics. It can be dissolved using acetone.

Safety

Contains volatile, highly inflammable solvents. Appropriate precautions should be taken during storage and when working with the adhesive. Only use in a well-ventilated area.

Purchasing Adhesives

Adhesives are available from supermarkets, art supply stores and hardware stores. Staff at expert retailers can advise on the appropriate adhesive for particular tasks. Below is a list of popular local retailers:

Deans Art Supplies

Eckersley's Art & Craft

Melbourne Artists' Supplies

Bunnings

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