Stick Em' Up! An Easy Glue Reference Guide

There are many types of glues to choose from on the market. However, there is a group of tried and true adhesives most of us have been familiar with since childhood. All these adhesives work best when they are used specifically for the job they were made for.

People often use glues incorrectly, then get upset when it doesn't do the job. But with some simple guidance and instruction, anyone can correctly make an adhesion on their project or repair a broken piece.

First off, it must be said that anyone working with any glue should read the manufacture's instructions and, for in the case of some adhesives, work in a ventilated space. With that said there are some key terms that are useful when working with glues, and that you will come across when reading the instructions they came with.

OPEN TIME: Sometimes also called "Working Time" refers to the time you have to spread the glue before clamping the two pieces together.

TACK: The amount of stickiness or also the strength of a bond between surfaces.

CLOSED TIME: This refers to the amount of time pieces need to be clamped so they can adhere to each other.

CURE TIME: This is the amount of time for a bond to occur fully.

TOOTH: Tooth refers to the surface of what is being glued. All surfaces need "tooth" for proper adhesion. Smooth surfaces need to be roughed up so the adhesive can bond both pieces.

The following are the most used adhesives and a short description:

GLUE STICKS: A long-time favorite of children, mom, and teachers, glue sticks have been around

since the late 60's. This handy adhesive applicator is primarily used for light weight paper. Since their "dry time" is a couple of minutes and their "open time" is equally short, they should be used for small surfaces and spread quickly. Make sure to give the corners an extra swipe and then burnish the two pieces together. They come in all sizes, shapes, and stickiness. Glue sticks are great for scrapbooking and prototyping with card stock. Since they dry out quickly, make sure you replace the cap every time you use them.

WHITE GLUE: Sometimes referred to as PVA glue or all-purpose glue, white glue might be the most often used glue since it dries clear and flexible. This is a very versatile adhesive capable of bonding many surfaces. It's important to use clamps when using white glue, since it has a long "open time" and takes about a day to completely cure. I have fond memories, you probably do too, of spreading white glue on my hand and letting it dry so I could peel it off. No need to worry if your kids do this too, white glue is safe and even used by special effects make-up artists.

HOT GLUE: This glue most often comes in tubes in a variety of sizes and is used with a glue gun which heats the glue to melt it. Since the glue is extruded from the gun at high temperatures, you must take care not to get burned. I always keep a bowl of ice water around when working with hot glue in case that happens. A quick dip in the water cools the burn down immediately. In order for this glue to work well, the surfaces must have "tooth" for the glue to grab onto. Low-temp glue is great for lightweight materials such as paper and fabric, while high-temp glue is more suited for materials like wood. There are also a variety of glue sticks ranging from colors, to glitter, to sculptural medium, to glow-in-the-dark!

RUBBER/CONTACT CEMENT: This is the glue with the distinctive smell and the little brush. Whenever I smell it, It still takes me back my art school days. Rubber Cement, and it's cousin Contact Cement, are made from polymers and are "drying adhesives," which means their bonding power is best when it is applied to both parts, let to dry, then placed together. The glue works best on non-porous materials like paper. My dad was a cobbler, he used contact glue quite often when making shoes. Contact glue is used for a more permanent bond and should be used in well ventilated areas.

FABRIC GLUE: This awesome glue is great for the lazy sewer. It's a great alternative to sewing and, depending on the brand, can make either a temporary or permanent bond. They are wonderful for fabric crafting with kids that are still too young for a needle and thread. You can use fabric glue for a quick mending project or crafting. Fabric glue comes in a variety of thicknesses and strength, so read the label carefully.

WOOD GLUE: I love wood glue because there is no

mistaken its purpose. It's very close to white glue because of its PVA DNA, but its specifically made to bond wood pieces together. Their "closed time" dictates that you use clamps when glueing two pieces together, with some being more than an hour. After it cures, the bond is incredibly strong.

SPRAY ADHESIVE: I have a love/hate relationship with this type of glue. I love the ease of using it, but hate the overspray potential. Always use this outside, or in a spray box. It dries quickly and can be used in place of many other glues such as white glue and hot glue. Its great for bonding paper, fabric, plastic, and foam, depending on the brand.

EPOXY: This is the "big boy" of adhesives. This glue comes in two parts; a resin and a hardener. The two parts are combined just before it is used to form a strong bond. This is strong stuff so its great for bonding two unlike materials together. Wear gloves and be careful not to get this stuff on yourself, its unforgiving.

Recent Posts

Follow me on

  • Twitter Long Shadow

I'm always happy to get to know my readers and share insights and ideas. 


Drop me a line 

All website content is written, photographed, and maintained

by Rick Funes.


© 2016

Rick Funes

PO Box 141166

Coral Gables, Florida 33114-4445