New Glue Friends (including a UK substitute for Barge)

I used to think glue was…If Pritt wouldn’t hold it you used UHU, and if that didn’t work you used super glue (and probably glued all your fingers together). But in the last couple of years I’ve come to understand that picking the right glue for the right job makes a huge difference to the ease and reliability of your builds, and more specifically for this post I’ve discovered a whole bunch of new adhesives which I never knew existed and have transformed my making – so I wanted to share them with you all in case they can make your lives better too.

First though, a quick link: This to That is an awesome resource for finding the right adhesive. You just tell it what you’re gluing and to what (e.g. Wood to Plastic) and it recommends you 2-3 different methods, including their up and down sides. I’ve found several of the options below on the site.

The downside of This to That is that it’s a US site and some of the glues it recommends you can’t find in other countries (like for me in the UK). However, a bit of searching on forums will often find good alternatives. Which brings us to my first recommendation…

Barge Cement, or Alpha Thixofix

If you watch videos by Adam Savage or other US makers, you’ll almost certainly have seen Barge Cement mentioned. It’s a contact adhesive, meaning that you apply it to both sides, let it become almost dry then press them together, and it’s legendarily strong particularly for joining flexible materials; it’s used to build puppets, repair shoes, glue foam, vinyl, and it just doesn’t let go.

Getting hold of it outside the US can be difficult and expensive, but after much searching on the forums for a solution for gluing my laser cut rubber stamps to their handles I found several recommendations for Alpha Thixofix as an alternative, and having obtained a tin I can definitely recommend it.

Thixofix is very thick (almost a paste rather than a liquid), a charmingly toxic yellow, smells like the loss of at least 10 IQ points, and has to be applied and spread out quite quickly as it becomes touch dry in a few minutes (it says 10-15 on the tin but I find it’s usually done in 5) – however, it can then be pressed together anytime within about 25 minutes, and once the surfaces are in contact they are unlikely to come apart in any situation which doesn’t destroy the building they’re in. It’s particularly good for flexible materials where an epoxy or even superglue can crack apart.

One additional cost you should note is that a brush used for contact cement (and you will want a brush to spread it evenly and quickly) is a one use item; it’ll set solid and the cement can’t be washed out with white spirit or solvents. I buy packs of cheap acid brushes and alleviate my regret about the waste by snapping the heads off and using the handles as very useful dowels – I’ve actually attached a lot of stamp handles using them.

Poster tape

This is one of those “how did I never know about this?” discoveries, and maybe you’re all very familiar with it already. But for those of you for whom, like me, this was a total revelation: Poster tape is a double sided sticky tape (you stick it on, then peel off a backing and stick the other side) which can be peeled off and restuck multiple times and securely bonds paper to paper or card or wood or walls without hurting the surface; it’s kinder to paint or wallpaper than Blu-Tak and without the unsightly bumps.

Again, maybe you’ve all known about this for years but for me it’s been a proper upgrade and I still very much enjoy using it to put up a calendar, poster, sheets of quick notes I need in eyeshot etc. The weird multi part roll is because I bought it cheap from a borderline scam Ebay listing where they described 5 rolls and it was actually one roll cut into five slices 😆

Edit to add: A commenter has noted that she used poster tape on glass and found it very hard to remove (I found similar one time although it was on my front door and I thought it was the effects of the weather). So you may want to stick to more porous materials.

3M Spraymount and Super 77

These are pretty much two grades of the same thing. 3M Spraymount is a light spray glue for paper, card and other lightweight materials. You spray a thin layer on, give it a few minutes to get tacky and then apply it, and it can be repositioned for up to 12 hours after which it becomes permanent (although still not wildly strong). I use it to turn any sheet of paper into a sticker; it’s how I do my mailing labels, add logos to things and so on. If it had a downside, the nozzle tends to gunge up easily, so if I finish a can before that happens I always save the nozzle cap in case the next one fails early.

Super 77 is the same thing only much stronger. It can glue foam, metal or wood and it sticks hard within a few minutes, often you’ll destroy the materials before pulling them apart. I’ve only just started using it but it’s a real boon to have around for things like permanent mounting of paper to wood frames.

Frisk Repositionable spray

This is similar to the 3M Spraymount, except that it’s always repositionable – whatever you’ve stuck can always be peeled off. I use it to apply the labels to my candle and tealight gift boxes so that they can be peeled off and the boxes reused. I’ve tested it pretty extensively on various surfaces with various materials and it pretty much always peels away clean, but I’ve never had it come off when I didn’t want it to.

Spray booth

This is more of a trick than a tool but it goes with the spray glues: I hang a cardboard box off a couple of hooks under a shelf and use it as a “spray booth” for the glues (after a bit of experimentation to find a size which just catches the overspray). It’s set to hang at an angle so I can spray mostly horizontally, which the cans tend to prefer, but it’s angled enough to stop things sliding down, and the residual glue on the back surface after a few uses helps with that too.

PolyWeld Plastic weld

I’ve talked about this in a post on the old blog – I used it to glue a broken freezer drawer quite effectively. You may have encountered this type of glue before; it’s often used in kits like Airfix models, and is sometimes called “plastic cement” although what it actually does is dissolve the outer layers of the plastic so that they can merge into each other, creating a weld which can be very strong.

This one is a multi-plastic formula (most others will only work on one or two types) and I haven’t yet found plastics that it can’t weld, although joining two different types of plastic still won’t give as good a join as two surfaces of the same type. One downside of it is that it will dissolve nylon brush bristles; mine is tinted slightly purple because it dissolved the colour out of a cheap purple paintbrush I used with it!

Cordless Hot Glue Gun

Most of us have enjoyed the speed and convenience (and, sooner or later, pain and swearing) of hot glue at some point. But the new renaissance in cordless power tools has brought a new joy: Cordless hot glue guns.

This one from Bosch is about £40 and the battery life isn’t staggering (maybe a half hour or so of steady use) but the convenience of being able to whack together a few pieces of cardboard, plastic or wood in seconds with a super lightweight gun and without maneuvering an awkward cable over everything while you’re dripping white hot glue on your fingers is not to be underestimated.

I hope some of these tips have been useful to you, and if you have any experiences with them you’d like to share or adhesives which have surprised and delighted you, please drop them in the comments below!

If you’re enjoying these articles and would like to say thankyou, the best way is to get yourself something nice from my webshop Uncommon Works, or you can Like my Facebook page or subscribe to my newsletter to get more articles, news and special offers! I make beeswax candles, laser cut stamps, leatherwork and much more to come.

Much love,

Mark

10 thoughts on “New Glue Friends (including a UK substitute for Barge)

  1. Hi! Quick question that’s totally off
    topic. Do you know how to make your site mobile friendly?

    My blog looks weird when
    browsing from my apple
    iphone. I’m trying to find a theme or plugin that might be able
    to correct this issue.
    If you have any recommendations, please share.

    Cheers!

    1. Hi John, sorry for the slow response. Is it a WordPress site? If so it’s down to the theme, and they should all say on them whether they’re responsive (ie mobile friendly) or not, although some do it better than others. Only thing to do is switch to a few different ones and see how it displays.

  2. I suggest using silicone kitchen spatulas for controlled application of contact adhesives available in the UK, rather than brushes. Reusable and long lasting, simply wipe clean immediately after use with strong cloth. Works particularly well with “thixotropic” types, no drips or stringing.

  3. Dear Mark,

    Very interesting treatise on glues which I accessed though the Puppeteers UK letter. I havn’t heard of quite a few of those.
    Just to say I have been using the double sided tape you mentioned to stick posters on glass windows and have found it nearly impossible to remove later even with ‘sticker removal’ liquid :/
    Do you have any suggestions for glues for sticking polystyrene?
    Also I notice that evo stick, which used to be my favourite, seems to have weakened and a newer one they brought out which is transparent turns into jelly and doesn’t necessarily stick (except to the nozzle!)

    1. Hi Julia, thank you for the lovely comment, I’m glad you found it interesting. I didn’t know it had been mentioned in the Puppeteers UK letter, how exciting! You wouldn’t be able to forward me a copy, would you? (mark@uncommon.works) 🙂
      Sorry to hear you’ve had a bad experience with the poster tape. Now you come to mention it I’ve just remembered I used it to stick a poster to the glass in my front door and it was tough to get off, but I’d assumed that was the effects of the weather. I’ll edit the above with a warning in case it catches anyone else out. My go-to for removing lingering sticker residue once you’ve scraped off the sticker itself is a half and half mixture of oil and baking soda – you mix it to a paste, spread it on and let it sit about a half hour, it’s remarkably effective.
      I haven’t actually had a need to stick polystyrene yet (I assume you mean expanded polystyrene foam, rather than the more hard plasticky kind?) so I don’t have an informed opinion on that one. I know 3M make a spray glue specifically for polystyrene (3M 78) which looks well designed but I haven’t tried it. A lot of things dissolve it so something specifically intended for the use is probably a good idea.
      Good tip about the Evo Stick, haven’t used that since I was a kid but it seems a lot of similar formulas aren’t as good these days, usually because whatever made them effective was actually quite toxic and has now been removed! 🙂

  4. Dear Mark,
    I have a pair of Birkenstock sandals, not the ones with the cork, but Ethylene-vinyl acetate (EVA).
    Where the front strap meets the base they are cracking.
    Have tried Araldite and then Evostick contact adhesive but to no avail.
    Will Alpha Thixofix work?

    1. Hi Andy, good question! Funnily enough I’ve just tried to repair a crack in a trainer sole with the Thixofix; it started to separate again quite quickly, but to be fair on the sole it was under a lot more mechanical strain, also the edges were very ragged so there wasn’t great surface area for bonding, so it might work better for you, but bear in mind because it’s a contact adhesive you’ll need to open up the crack enough to get it spread evenly on both surfaces and allow it to cure before pressing together. However, there’s something called Shoe Goo which I think might be more suited to your needs, I’ve never used it myself but a lot of people seem to swear by it for exactly this type of application and it looks like it can be squeezed into a crack and then set and seal which sounds more like what you need?

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