Wargaming Tradecraft: Just Glue It

Just Glue It

"Neglect" by Carlyle Micklus
"Just" is a word that's often overused - especially in a hobby like ours with a largely diverse group of people... age, experience, specialties and even geography end up having an affect on how we hobby. Because I'll never assume any knowledge is too simple, I create tutorials like these to try an cover even the basic aspects of hobbying.

Glue is very important to our hobby. The VERY LAST thing we want is to create a masterpiece and have an arm snap off. (Which is sometimes unavoidable when Lictors plunge from precarious perches, defenestrating down to dangerous depths.) But what glue should you use when? What dangers should we look out for and what things should we test before assuming everything will work out?


Common Features of all Glues

Most glues ARE toxic in one form or another. Other than White or Wood glue, most of them will melt through styrofoam. These toxic glues can also damage paint - enough that getting glue on your mini allows paint to accidently rub off.

For particularly nasty glues like PVC (not PVA) and some super glues, try to keep them off you, be aware of cleanup options, see a doctor if you get any on sensitive areas and remember you can always look up an MSDS sheet so you know all the possible problems and cleanup options.

You should always use glue sparingly. Too much glue actually creates a weaker bond because while glue is often designed to bond to various objects, it's not designed to bond to itself. I also list uses of glues with each of them... failing to follow this will lead to joints failing. (like if you used plastic cement on pewter)

The steps to glue most things are pretty similar.

  1. Make sure parts fit together nicely.
    1. File and shave if necessary.
  2. Surfaces should be either smooth or rough. (see below for differences)
  3. Place a SMALL amount of glue on one side. (sometimes both as described below)
    1. Too much will create a weak bond.
  4. Press the two parts firmly together.
    1. If any glue squishes out of the cracks, it can fill details and glue fingers to the parts.
  5. Hold the parts in place for a short amount of time.
    1. It should be firm enough to hold itself shortly, unless you used too much glue or you used a cheap brand.
    2. Larger or heavier parts might need to be held longer.
  6. Once dry, cut or file away excess glue.
    1. Only required if you used too much glue.
As reader ChaosHeade points out, and I'll swear to as it's worked for me on many occasions, a little extra glue can be a good thing. Rather than using filler putty for small cracks, let the glue do the work.

  • When parts don't fit together too well, you'll get empty cracks that need to be filled.
  • Either from excess glue on application, or using a little super-glue to fill the crack. (flowing in naturally)
  • Once the glue dries, file or shave the join to smooth together the two parts.




PVA Glue (WHITE Glue)
use: paper, cardboard, cereal boxes, styrofoam, felt, cloth, etc to each other
use: basing figures and terrain

I'll start out with the simplest. When I was a kid, I WISH someone had told me that PVA glue was White glue. It's so simple, but I always thought that if they're making a point in calling it PVA instead of White, there must be something special about it. Nope. This is just your every day, run of the mill, hobby glue. You'll find it anywhere from hobby to office, school supply or dollar stores. Often in small bottles with a nozzle, but REALLY cheap in large gallon jugs too for the serious hobbyist.

While great for basically anything involving making simple terrain, banners, icons, badges, etc., it`s also often used for basing. When you`re basing, take a 50/50 water/glue mix (add more water for finer coats like for sand and other types of flock)

Since it dries smooth, you can also use it to cover a rough surface you want smoothed out. Such as the wheel wells in my postapocalyptibuggy project.

TEST IT. Before your project, test your bottle of glue on some white paper and let it dry. Then, place it in the light for a few days to a week or so. Do this for two reasons:
  1. Not all white glue dries clear.
  2. Some white glues will quickly (or slowly) age and can yellow.
Paper mache skull via
This is a non-toxic glue and while you shouldn't eat it, you don't have to worry about fumes and ventilation.

As TheWife points out, PVA glue is also the primary ingredient for making paper mache incase you want to get really creative with your terrain. Run (ripped) strips of newspaper through a mix of half/half water and glue (if the glue's thick, otherwise use more glue) and lay it over balled up paper or a wire or mesh frame. Let each layer dry, and create a few layers until it's sturdy enough.


Wood / Carpenters Glue
use: paper, cardboard, cereal boxes, styrofoam, etc to each other and wood

Maybe regional, but Elmers
is a common brand
Very similar to white glue, but not great for basing since it's usually a yellow or beige colour. Anything you plan on priming though, this'll give you a stronger connection than white glue, but you'll pay a little more for it. Usually you`ll find this at hardware stores.

When using this with wood, it`s best to only rely on it for ADDED support. Use screws and/or nails as normal, PLUS the wood glue. Be sure to press wood together strongly, (like screws and nails will do) or use some type of clamp or vice.

Wood surfaces being glued together should be smooth, so sand them first. This'll make a stronger bond.


Hot Glue
use: paper, cardboard, cereal boxes, styrofoam, felt, cloth, etc to each other
use: heavier terrain plastics.

Very similar uses to White and Wood glue, Hot Glue comes in solid cylinders that have to be squeezed through a hot glue gun. The gun melts the glue, which comes out as you pull its trigger. Sometimes the glue will seep through when the gun's plugged in, so keep a piece of paper or cereal box under the nozzle.

Another use is that this glue comes out hot enough to melt plastic. This is great for bonding large pieces of terrain. Even if you're connecting metal to the plastic, glue the plastic first and push the metal against it - you'll find the metal may make it's own groove and fit snugly. Just work quick because hot glue does cool fast.

While it won't melt metal, it is globby and sticky enough that you'll be able to glue metal and other materials together as well. It won't be as hard as super glue or specialty glues, but still works for the average hobbyist.

WARNING - don't burn yourself! The glue comes out hot, and the nozzle is usually also heated!

WARNING - TheWife points out that temperatures in a car during the summer can reach high enough to melt hot glue... so don't leave things you create outside.


Plastic Glue / Plastic Cement
use: Hobby Plastic to Plastic, rubbers, etc
use: light terrain bits to bases, water/blood/ooze effects.

Testors brand is the stuff I swear by, found at most hobby shops in little tubes. Games Workshop has their own as well. (Which to be fair, I was impressed by when I had a chance to use it at Games Day) These glues are perfect for plastic because they actually MELT the plastic. When the glue dries, the plastics end up fused together. Science! I like Testors brand because it`s a little thicker than the GW stuff, so I don`t have to worry about it running and melting the wrong places. This glue won't melt harder plastics quite as well though.

Follow the steps above, and:

  • Surfaces should be rough and grooved.
    • Scratch them up with a coarse (rough) file or a knife.
  • Just a small dab of glue on each part
  • Wait a few seconds for the glue to start eating and melting each piece.
MISTAKES ARE BAD - because the parts are fused together, this will usually create a stronger bond than super-glue. (but only for plastic on plastic) Cutting them away becomes an issue I'll cover later on using used minis.

You'll find a few different applicators for this. Sometimes it's out of a nozzle, other times you might have a brush applicator.

When using plastic glue for terrain, you can use a little more. Super glue is still best for gluing heavier terrain pieces together.

Water Effects


Another reason I like Testors is because it will actually pool, self-level and dry like water and other liquids. I will go into more detail on another post, but be aware you can use a tooth-pick to mix in some overall colour such as blue, or swirl in some foreign flowing liquids like red blood.

Resin looks like Plastic


If you have any issues using plastic glue on what appears to be plastic, then it's probably some form of resin. Basically, the glue will dry and get crusty and your parts won't stick together. You'll have to take them apart and scrape off the plastic glue, then switch to Super Glue.


Super Glue / Krazy Glue
use: when not gluing plastic to plastic. (pewter to pewter, pewter to plastic, resins, etc)
use: shaping paper, felt, cloth, etc in place.

Super glue will glue just about anything. (Other than smooth plasticy surfaces) The fumes can get to you after a while, so don't leave caps off and take a breather now and then if you're doing a lot of gluing. I've talked before about preventing your superglue from drying out. Out of all the brands, which should you buy? I usually see what's most expensive in the area and try it, then stick with it if it's strong enough - don't cheap out on what will be holding most of your minis together.

Follow the steps above, and:

  • Surfaces should be smooth and flat.
    • Unlike plastic glue, file the glue points so they're smooth.
    • Make sure they're flat (no gaps or roundness) by scraping them.
    • While smooth is good, finished is bad. Super glue won't stick to surfaces that are REALLY shiny/glossy and super smooth - you'll need to file these a little first.
  • Place a SMALL amount of glue on one side.

Haven't tried this myself, but apparently
gel superglue may cure when wet.
There are two types of superglue - liquid and gel. Be aware of this as the packaging usually looks the same. Liquid is what I prefer to use because I've found it to be stronger and dries quicker. However, gel superglue will bead instead of running; meaning it stays in place if you have weird angles to turn the mini OR you're working with an absorbent material.

Thin nozzles are very useful for getting small amounts of superglue into tight areas, but they'll dry out faster. Some bottles will come with squeezable sides to help push the glue out. Use gravity when you can though, because you don't want to squeeze out a whole lot.

Sometimes super glue comes in packs of lots of little bottles. These usually aren't sealable. What're they good for? Not much... maybe if you have a lot of glueing in one sitting and you find these cheap - but why buy something that will cause anything you don't use to dry out? So avoid these.

Speaking of absorbent materials, things like paper, cloth, felt, etc will soak up liquid superglue, (and usually dries quickly) making it unusable to attach to something else. HOWEVER, if you're using these absorbent items and want them to stay in a certain position, superglue is the perfect thing to use. For example

  • A banner made from paper or cloth could have a thin layer of superglue added to make it look like it was blowing in the wind.
  • A cardboard base could have superglue added so that cut out "exploding" sections would stay in place at the angle you glue them at.
  • The bedroll in my postapocalyptibuggy project.
You can also find liquid "accelerators" for super glue that you add to the area after or before gluing to speed up the drying process. I've never used them... never really needed them. Usually the solution to "It's taking too long to dry" is "use less glue"... but they're out there if you want to try them.

WARNING - most super glues will quickly bond your fingers together... or more likely, the part you're trying to hold to your finger.

Fogging

Worth noting is that super glue vapours can fog nearby clear things like glass and gel. To de-fog, you can often put another layer of super glue, gel or gloss varnish on top.



Epoxy
use: larger, heavier items... such as metal. (in theory)


Epoxy is a glue that works like green stuff. There's 2 parts that you mix together and it activates, starting to dry over time. Problem is, I've never really found a use for it - personally, it works about as well as hot glue minus the melting Epoxy's supposed to be really strong, but whenever I've used it, haven't been impressed. It gets really hard, sure, but I find it tends to pop off whatever you use it on. (Smooth surfaces are the worst, but even on roughed up ones.)

Either way, it tends to be very thick and not so great for our scale unless you're working with terrain. In theory, you'd use this when you're gluing heavier items together and don't want something very toxic.

There are some glues that work epoxy style, but aren't epoxy. Read the instructions to do it right, but basically cover each part with glue, wait a bit for the glue to bond to the parts, then push the parts together and let the glue bond to the other glue.



PVC Glue
use: gluing heavy plastics together.

via
DON'T confuse PVA glue with PVC glue. PVC glue is found at hardware stores for gluing thick PVC pipes. It's highly toxic, the fumes will make you dizzy and it's very permanent. It's also terrible to work with for small projects - very thick and globby. This stuff is so strong, it'll eat right through styrofoam FAST.

If you've got a large terrain project and need to join some thick plastic parts, you might go this route... otherwise, avoid it.

The bright side is the lid is usually some form of applicator - either a brush or a sponge.


Caulk
use: Attaching woods, metals and plastics.
use: Creating heavy terrain

Caulk is usually used to create seals on windows and doors. (And as such, it's weather proof, usable outside) It's generally a silicone putty looking stuff that gets squeezed from a tube using a caulking gun. You'll find it in white, grey, black or even clear and it's extremely hardy stuff. It's quite sticky and useful when attaching different materials together. When it's dried, it's a little rubbery too, giving a little flexibility.

For our purposes, this is a great and inexpensive way to assemble heavier terrain that you want to be really sturdy. Wood, metal and heavy plastics can all be attached together.



Specialty Glue
use: varied

The main types of glues have been listed, but there are other brands out there. Reading packages, reviews and experimenting is the only way to figure out if they're be useful. For standard kits, you probably don't need to worry about anything other than plastic and super glue. You might need to hunt these down for special terrain projects where you're using large, heavy, thick or sturdy objects that normal glues don't work too well on.


For example, there are epoxies for joining metals that are supposed to be weld-strong (cold welds) or for already tightly fitting parts, thread lock can make sure that NOTHING will move. There's even silicon sealant that works like a glue and will waterproof objects. (all at reasonable prices)



Welding
use: heavy / hobby metal on metal

Not quite a glue, but fits in somewhat. If you're looking to connect two pieces of metal, welding is an option - somewhat. First off, pewter isn't weldable... this is strictly for vehicle, monstrous or terrain projects. It's possible to use a soldering iron or a small pen-torch to connect LIGHT pieces of copper, brass and other thin metals by using solder as a "glue". Read all about it.

Actual welding - melting through these metals and letting them fuse together isn't practical for our scale.

Be VERY careful not to burn yourself.

12 comments:

  1. Wow, what a fantastic post. It covers them all, very useful for the beginner and expert alike.

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  2. Accelerators, in my experience, have one major use. You have several parts that are quite awkward to stick together, like... well, like the arms on any Privateer Press model that's holding a double-handed weapon and has that stupid four-part join between separate limbs and body. The longer you're there holding them, the more likely they are to slip, or just not tack properly, because they're small parts and they will dance in your hands, following movements you don't even know you're making. That's what accelerator is for. The resultant join is more brittle than one with ordinary superglue, but at least 'tis done.

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  3. @Frugal Dave: Thanks :)

    @Von: Yeah, I've noticed that PP models have some awkward joints as I've started working with them... but I've been pinning instead. I just couldn't use something that would make things brittle because I've had enough arms fall off in the past from cheap glue.

    Have tossed a few updates on there.. things like PVA and paper mache, hot glue melting in cars, mini unsealable super glue containers.

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  4. Very nice write up. Personally I stay away from plastic glue because I don't want to have to chop up my figures if I decide I want different weapons/other options or if a new book comes out and makes my current configuration worthless... or if I just screwed up and want to fix something. But that's just my preference.

    I also like the liquid super glue and I've actually found it useful to use a little extra to let it fill in cracks between 2 pieces and file it down for a smooth surface. For example lots of Tyranid heads come in 2 parts split down the middle of the face and filling in the cracks where they are not completely flush can be a huge pain if not almost impossible. A little extra glue *with gap filling properties* squeezed out the side with the excess wiped off fills in those annoying cracks with hardly any hassle.

    I was under the impression that roughing up the surfaces is also helpful when using super glue. Was I misinformed on that?

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  5. As an Eldar player, plastics with options was never a luxury of mine.

    However your crack points are excellent - I've done that on many an occasion and forgot to mention it. Will have to update the article.

    A glossy surface is bad for super glue - like shiny plastic or finished metal... but a smooth surface is good. (Like if you take a file to shine or finish)

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  6. @Dave G: OK I see what you were saying about the smooth surfaces and super glue. I have a friend who played Eldar so I know what you mean about the lack of plastic options. Aside from vehicles and wraithlords there are not a lot of different war gear configurations.

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  7. heh, "Why in my day..."

    ...when we used to play practically all the time, Eldar had 1 vehicle in their codex, the Vyper, and no models for it. Space Marines had speeders, rhinos and raiders... and my Wraithlord were called Dreadnoughts and made out of pewter. :)

    There were more wargear options back then, (Vortex Grenades!) but still only 1 full pewter, pre-posed model. That's when I built the bulk of my army.

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  8. That was way before our time. I wouldn't want to start eldar or any army that is mostly pewter, or even the new fangled "finecast" stuff. Price is high on both and metal is much harder to work with than plastic. That and the whole "space elves" thing doesn't really float my boat.

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  9. This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

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  10. @War Frog: It's an interesting suggestion... but I'm not too crazy about promoting hobby methods that actually involve super-heating chemical reactions. I try keeping this blog appropriate for all ages and there are safer, cleaner and more consistent options for filling holes, like putty and green stuff.

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  11. Nice article! The beauty of Old Stuff Day is getting posts like this out to people who missed them.

    I have two super glues that I prefer. The first is the Loctite liquid in a bottle, as you show in your post. It's much easier to work with than the tubes. You can set it down without is leaking everywhere and it lasts forever because the tip almost never clogs. I've left bottles like this open for days without them drying out! I wouldn't recommend it but it's a nice feature. My other preferred super glue is from Gorilla Glue, also in a bottle. It's a little thicker than the Loctite liquid and designed to be slightly flexible so it isn't so brittle.

    I also have two tips for super glue (also known as cyanoacrylate or CA.) The first is that it works by reacting with moisture. It bonds skin almost instantly because of the high moisture content. Because of this you can use water as an accelerant. If you need something to bond more quickly add the glue to one side of the bond and touch the other end to a damp cloth before bringing the two pieces together. The faster the bond the weaker it will be though so keep this in mind.

    My other tip is that it reacts with green stuff (Kneadatite epoxy putty.) When you have an awkward joint mix up a little Kneadatite. Add a dab of super glue to one side of the join, push a little ball of putty into it, then add a small dab of glue to the other side and push it into the putty ball. Work the join a little to mix everything then shape the putty mix around the outside to smooth the gap. You'll need to work quickly and use a lubricated tool to work the join, it sets quickly and is super sticky until it does. If you use too much putty you may need to file/cut the excess after it cures.

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  12. First comprehensive analysis and suggestions for gluing stuff. Thanks.

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