Five Tips on Glue

Top 5 tips on Glue

Adhesive, who knew there was enough to talk about, let alone put it in a newsletter. Well, in 2018 this subject has come up in several discussions so I thought it would be good to share what I know about this topic. 

In the world of glue there are a plethora of choices from Super Glue to Elmer’s to Flex Glue (as seen on TV). And there are glues for EVERY job imaginable. So lets just narrow down the field to adhesives used for jewelry making, because I could talk about this until 2020 and still not be done. I, who has an entire drawer dedicated and labeled, “Glue”. (Don’t judge me.)

But wait! You thought gluing was a bad thing. There is much argument in the jewelry world against gluing. I would like to make the argument FOR glue. There are many times when there is no way around it structurally. I would also like to point out that the likes of David Yurman, Sephora, Brighton, etc… all use GLUE for many of their pieces.  If they can make millions using it, who are we to dispute it? In the end, you need to make a choice the right for your design. And if you need to feel better about using it, call it “chemical bonding”.  So what’s the hang-up? I call the naysayers snobs. Somewhere in there they got the idea that it makes them "better" than you if they don't use glue. Well, as far as I am concerned, they are wrong. As long as you disclose what you are doing when someone asks, there shouldn't be a problem. Moving on.

The tips:

1. Something you should know before you get frustrated, all adhesive products (as far as I know) have a shelf life; this learned the hard way. What this means is that over time, even if they are still liquid, the glue will lose its effectiveness and will not have the integrity that it once did when it was “fresh”. Yes, there is such a thing as “fresh” glue. Thus, how do you know where you stand with the tube of glue in your hand? Unfortunately, you don’t. Though, I am sure it is out there somewhere, no glue I have ever handled has had a “best if used by” date.

It is hard to know how long the retailer had it on the shelf before you bought it or even how long the manufacturer had it before the retailer bought it. So if you were using one type of glue and it worked well the first time, but then used the same type again a year later (new tube) and it didn’t work as well, it could be that it sat on someone’s shelf a long time before you purchased it.

 At this point there is really not much you can do about it. My best advice is throw it away and try again. With this knowledge, I no longer buy large quantities of any glue. All packages are purchased in the smallest increment, unless of course I am making slime. (A story for another day.)

2.      A tip on application. Instead of using the tip of the tube/bottle, I squeeze some onto a scrap piece of cardstock (like a business card) and use either a toothpick or a straight pin to apply the glue onto my piece. This usually allow me to control the volume.

Apply it to the smaller piece then attach. This will also help control the mess. If there is a void that needs to be filled, I would apply it to the void to ensure that there is enough glue to fill it, there is less guessing this way. Then apply the piece to the glue.

3.      Let it cure overnight. Not all glue needs overnight, but most do. Many adhesive state a setting time 5minutes and up. But most have a longer “curing” time. Which means it needs more time to rest before it is considered 100% effective. My rule of thumb is 24hours/overnight. This will build in some insurance.

4.      Stop checking it! Every time you check it while it us setting you are detaching the pieces and not allowing the glue to work. This will rear its ugly head later down the road.

5.      As permanent as some adhesives are, they are not. If you have incorrectly attached something, you can always use a solvent to dissolve it. Rubbing alcohol or acetone are commonly used. If there are no stones involved, I just heat it with a lighter. Makes a mess but very quick removal. Always test the solvent in an innocuous place if there is a stone involved. Sometimes stones are stabalized and the solvent may dissolve that too. 

The next question is, which glue is right for my job? As a matter of common sense we all know that not all glues are meant for all jobs, yet somehow it all goes wrong. Here are the things I consider when I need to do a little chemical bonding.

1.      Is the part I am trying to glue structural? If it is, I need something strong.

2.      What is the material I am trying to bond? Glass, metal, stone, textile. This helps me determine how goopy I need it to be and whether or not the glue needs to be flexible when it is dry.

3.      How much surface do I need to cover? Do I need to “fill” a space or just tack it together?  This too will determine the viscosity I need in the product.

Based on the answers to these questions I choose my product. Usually the most important question for me is number 1. Because when if it is structural you will need the strongest glue you can get. For those projects I use 2 part Epoxy. I really don’t care which one, because even the quickest drying one has a test weight of several hundred pounds, and really, we make jewelry not building a car.

Though there are many options to choose from and everyone has their preference, here is a list of what I keep in my studio on any given day.

E6000 – I like E6000 because of the volume, it is goopy. When there is a void I can use E6000 and don’t have to work at filling the gap. Great general use. Buy the small tubes because once you open the large tube it starts to dry up and you will likely be wasting your money.

2 part-epoxy – I am not particular about brand nor setting time. When I feel like I need more strength I use epoxy. The downside is that you have to mix it, and if you get the ratio wrong, it will not work correctly.

New Glue – literally named “New Glue”. I use this in place of Super Glue because it is stronger. But this is a watery consistency so I only use it for things like flatback rhinestones.

Loctite Super Glue – Much like New Glue, but can be purchased with a brush applicator. It also comes in a gel form, so it doesn’t run everywhere.

GS Hypo Cement – This is the most common adhesive in the jewelry world. BUT what people most people don’t know is that there is a sister product that is in the Purple tube. The Red tube is listed for watch repair, whereas the Purple is for fabric. So if you are using glue for your knots, you really want the GS Hypo Cement in the Purple tube. It will dry flexible, making it more appropriate for thread and textile.

Henrietta's® Gum Arabic – huh? What is that? This product has been around for a very long time. People like to use to affix things on fabric. In my world, you can use it to keep granules (silver, gold, etc) in place while soldering.

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