Monday, March 21, 2011

HOBBY: Adhesives 101

For the miniature enthusiast there are three types of glue they are familiar with. The most common and most widely used is cyanoacrylate or CA glue. Its more common name is super glue. The other two glues that are used are plastic cement and epoxy. All three have their place in the hobbyist’s arsenal, and this is why I am going to take a closer look at them.
Cyanoacrylate is an acrylic resin adhesive that utilizes water as a hardener. It doesn’t shrink and it can bond two dissimilar surfaces together. The main benefits are fast drying times, and relative decent bonds. Its drawbacks are that certain plastics and non-porous materials may make it difficult for the give to form bonds. Also the glue, when fully hardened is brittle, which may cause breakage.
Now that we know what CA glue is let’s look at using its properties to help us. CA glue is the workhorse glue of the wargamer’s universe. The primary reason is because one can assemble an army in a relative short period of time. Also with a little effort you can cause the glue bond to fail, which means you can easily change out model configurations with edition or codex changes. The drawbacks to this glue mean overtime your tabletop figures will break because of stresses from handling and transport.
Epoxy is the least used of all the glues. It is a two part process consisting of a resin and a hardener. It has a longer drying time than CA glue, which can be advantageous. It has a stronger bond than CA, and it doesn’t suffer from shrinkage like water based glues. Once it is fully hardened it can be sanded and drilled.
Since epoxy is the red headed step child of the modeling world I thought I would explain why you should use it. Its best use is with large multi piece models, and resin kits because it makes strong bonds that will support the weight of your figure. Because it takes longer to harden, you can also quickly clean up any glue mess that should occur on your figure. It will also help fill gaps. The increased hardening time does mean that you will need to get comfortable to hold the pieces in position, or if you can work it out a hobby vise or a third hand tool will work just fine.
Finally, there is our good old standby plastic cement. (As a word of caution the warnings on the bottles about the fumes being flammable and harmful are spot on. The reason why you get the “high” sensation is because your brain is suffering hypoxia or lack of oxygen. This can kill you, so please use your plastic glue in well ventilated area.) Plastic glue is unlike our other two glues in that it is not a resin but a solvent. It works by dissolving and softening the plastic molecules, and after a few minutes to twenty four hours the two pieces of plastic are literally welded together. Many wargamers avoid plastic glue because many of their projects utilize plastic and metal parts, or they like the abilty to pop apart old models to redo for newer codices.
Plastic Cement comes in many varieties. The most commonly known is the Testors Plastic Cement in a tube. This is thicker of the plastic cements and has a gel like consistency. Gel cements can take several minutes to set and then a minimum of 24 hours to cure. Gel cements give you an amount of working time much like epoxy. That way you can get your join in the exact position you want. On the other end of the spectrum you have plastic glues that are almost like water. Plastic Weld is one that comes to mind. It has a set time of a few seconds and will reach full cure in minutes.
My preferred glue of choice is Testors Model Master Model Cement. It comes in a black triangular bottle and is more liquid like. It is more workable than Plastic Weld but will set quicker than the tube glue. The bottle recommends a full 24 hours to cure, but I’ve slapped paint down after only two hours. I am fan of the plastic cements because not only does it glue, but it also fills gaps.
Glue of any type is incredibly based on what your personal tastes. I have provided this more to help beginners and veterans gain a better understanding of the tools available to them and that there are options available.

So what glue do you use the most, and do you have any gluing tips you would like to share with the community?



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