Hopefully the “Conventions in Gaming” posts have provided some insight and maybe even a new perspective into just why it is we take for granted certain aspects of our hobby (I’ll admit the Army List one was a little ropey). In order to break from that series and hopefully provide something a little fresh and new I thought I’d kick off a series regarding the more basic aspects of our hobby. Lots of places discuss the hobby but some people really would like a tutorial on how to go about doing certain things, hence this will be the first in a series of How-to articles that will hopefully educate. Any feedback is of course gladly received, we are all still learning after all.
To break the ice I want to take a look at a few fundamentals first, today’s post therefore will be looking very much into one of the first tools you’ll need to use when venturing into the miniatures gaming hobby. Glue.
Now, I could start with taking a model and cleaning it up ready for assembly, but for some reason I feel like I want to discuss this item first before going on to cleaning models and the tools you use there. So, it’s my blog and I’ll blog what I want to, sit down, pull up a chair and get ready for some sticky action.
You might think that glue is rather mundane and certainly not worth dedicating an entire blog post too, well, in my book you’d be wrong. Things aren’t just as simple as picking up a pot of whatever is lying around and trying to bodge things together (try sticking together a Chaos Greater Daemon with a tube of Pritt-Stik.) There are many more options than you may even have heard about. So, we’ll discuss each one of these and then go onto some other options that you might not even know exist. We’ll discuss strengths and weaknesses but none of this should really be new to you unless you’re just starting out.
Strengths: Cheap, strong bond
Weaknesses: Messy, bulky, difficult to apply
Use on: Plastics
So, our first star is the favourite of anyone that has ever bought, or been bought, an Airfix kit. If you’ve built a model aeroplane then chances are you’ve come across this stuff. Also, if you’re anything like me you’ll find that it is evil incarnate. You’ll really only be able to glue plastics with it as it literally melts the plastic together to form a bond, normally you apply it to both sides of whatever you are glueing and then press them together. There is one problem with using this glue to do that however. Have you ever been about to brush your teeth of an evening and had some kind of unnatural hand spasm that has caused you to apply a little too much pressure to the tube of toothpaste? Only to watch with horror as you catch the far edge of the toothbrush but coat your significant other’s favourite rose-scented, fifty quid a throw, made from seal cubs, moistourising soap and half of the bathroom tiles with a line of red, white and blue Aquafresh? I think we’ve all been there. Imagine doing that with a product that works by heating up the plastic to melt a bond… You can see where I am going with this, it’s not pretty and even when great care is taken the application from the tube is that imprecise that you normally end up with massive glue strings conspiring to form some kind of elaborate spiders web between the model parts, the nozzle on the glue and various parts of your body. You could squeeze some out onto a tooth pick and use that as an applicator but that’s still not a great way of doing things when there is a better way.
Polystyrene Cement gets a ZombiePirate rating of 1 out of 5 Harpoons.
Liquid Polystyrene Cement
Strengths: Cheap, Accurate in application, forms strong bond
Weaknesses: Glue can dry in applicator, liquid can run to undesired parts of model
Use on: Plastics
First of all I have to declare a bias. I love this stuff. If you have any plastic models to build this is my go-to glue of choice. While the normal Poly Cement is like a gel, Liquid Poly is exactly how it sounds, it’s the same glue but in a liquid which makes it a lot easier to control and the packaging doesn’t really allow for many unwanted glue ejaculation model wreckers. All my plastic models over the past almost 20 years have been put together using this. I tend to not bother putting a dab on each side of the bond, one small blob on a piece and press it to where it joins and within seconds you’ve got a strong bond that is pretty unbreakable. In many cases the plastic itself on a point of stress with give way before you can break the bond the glue has formed, it’s solid stuff. One thing worth mentioning though is that if you do put too much on, with it being a liquid it will run off when you press a piece together, this can actually leave you with glue blobs outside the join.
I actually use the exact stuff shown in the picture, it has a long metal tube used as an applicator to deliver the glue, because this is stored upright and you may have the top off for extended periods while building a unit or vehicle there is a tendency on occasion for the glue to dry in the top of the tube. This can be a pig to clear and is probably the only bad point that I can raise about this stuff. You might also want to use a well-ventilated area as with it melting the plastic you get some fumes given off. You may of course be into that kind of thing but we can’t condone it here, especially as fumes from plastic are toxic, so if you sniff a Space Marine’s armpit after gluing his arm on and you end up dead, don’t come knocking on my door complaining. I’ve seen enough movies/played enough games to know how to deal with Zombies!
Liquid Polystyrene Cements gets a ZombiePirate rating of 4 out of 5 Harpoons.
Strengths: Will (literally) glue anything, easily available at most stores
Weaknesses: Will (literally) glue anything
Use on: Metals, Resins, Plastics
If you can’t get anything else than Superglue will of course suffice. The various Polys are designed for plastic to plastic, but for plastic to metal and anything else to anything else, you will use nothing else. Superglue is freely available from many places and may therefore be the easiest to get eager fingers on and you can guarantee it will stick what you want stuck, however, dealing with metal models is vastly different to plastic. Whereby the two glues previously discussed will bond the plastic to itself by melting the plastic together superglue is just a medium that will bond one piece to another. This means that overall you are getting a more brittle joint, there are various methods that you can use to strengthen this, I’ll cover those a little later. Another thing to mention is what I have already put in the Strengths/Weaknesses above, superglue is strong stuff, you’ve maybe seen the scene in American Pie 2, yeah, this stuff can be nasty. It has been used in field dressings in combat theatres (be careful with it though, it contains cyanide) so you will at some point glue fingers together, various parts of models to various parts of your body/the cat etc…
The good thing about this glue is that with a reasonable amount of time soaking in hot water the glue tends to lose its bond and makes things easier to pry open. Superglue is normally a liquid but I have recently come across Loctite Gel and have to say that I’m quite impressed with it. The gel (unlike Poly Cement) is easy to apply and doesn’t run everywhere like a liquid can, I’ve been using it to good effect on the last few items I’ve built and the bond seems nice and strong too, so you might want to try that out as well.
To state the obvious metal models are heavier than plastic ones and superglue takes longer to cure than the Polys. You’ll tend to find that some particularly heavy pieces (such as wings) or anything that has a small surface area to bond too can take a long time to actually set in place. A search around the internet will not take long to find models that people have had a nightmare trying to put together for some, or all, of these reasons. As I said before though, there are a number of tips that can help with your gluing.
With metals one of the best things that you can do is to score the areas to be glued. This is as easy as taking a modelling knife and making a cross hatch pattern (kinda like #) over the area to be glued. This actually marks the metal and provides more surface area for the glue to bond too, thus getting a stronger bond. You can also pin a joint, although this is a topic that could go into a topic of its own so I won’t say too much about it now.
The other things you can do is to buy something called Accelerator. This is a liquid product that causes the glue to cure much faster meaning you are not sitting there for ages waiting for the stuff to go off. I have never used it so cannot offer any opinion of my own on it. Just be careful though as it’s pretty easy to glue yourself to a model anyway without making it stick faster.
Superglue gets a ZombiePirate rating of 5 out of 5 Harpoons.
So, there you have it, a run down on the most common options for sticking your loot together. If you can only go for one then it’s going to be the superglue obviously, however, if you have a large amount of plastic I really do recommend getting some Liquid Poly it’s much better suited to this task than superglue. I look forward to getting into the next topic of just what to do with your bare metal/plastic before you go around slapping the glue on and putting it in an awesome action pose.