What glue to use for different materials | ModelRailwayEngineer.com

What are you trying to glue?

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Glue is a key component of any railway modellers tool kit. But there are so many different types available. Here’s a quick run down of the major types of glue you’ll need for modelling and what to use for different materials. 

polystyrene cement - Revell 39604 Contacta Professional Glue Polystyrene Cement

When to use:  Hard plastics; creates a solid join that’s often stronger than the plastics it’s joining.

When not to use: On surface areas or detail elements and on materials other than plastic – it dissolves the surfaces of the plastics, bonding them together before hardening again – so don’t use on any area where you want to keep the finish.

Epoxy Resins

When to use: Like superglue, good for joining just about any material to any other material but can be messy. The most commonly known brand in the UK is Araldite, made famous when a Ford Cortina was glued to a billboard in London, but

When not to use: Its application usually involves mixing a hardener and adhesive liquids so it can be messy to use and it’s judging the amount needed is difficult. It can also have a long drying time and for these reasons it’s not a favourite glue amongst modellers but is useful for securing large scenery items to baseboards.


Model Railway Engineer Quick Tips

Looking for a glue for a particular material, look no further.

  • Paper/Card: PVA or Uhu
  • Plastics: Superglues / Epoxy resin / Uhu
  • Clear Plastics: Clearfix
  • Cork (track bedding): PVA
  • Scenery Items (Figures etc): Uhu, Epoxy, PVA
  • Polystyrene (Hills, etc): PVA / Solvent-free glues
  • Different Materials (Plastic to Metal etc): Epoxy Resins or Superglue

Uhu Glue

When to use: Uhu is a great general purpose glue which most modellers have in their tool box. It’s good for plastics, paper and card. As a clear glue that doesn’t destroy the surface of the material it’s also good for joins that will be visible.

When not to use: Some modellers find the bond it creates can be weak and it can become stringy when being applied.

Superglues

When to use: Great for pretty creating a strong join between much anything except (including fingers!) and a quick dry time is required (most main brand glues of this type set in about 30 seconds, being permanent in 2 hours). Great for delicate plastic models that need holding in place until fixed.

When not to use: The rapid fix time of ‘Super glues’ makes it difficult to work with, once glued it’s hard, if not impossible, to separate without damage.  Keep away from Children in particular.

Tip: Superglues, or Cyanoacrylate adhesives,  once opened have a short live span, typically under a month so don’t open until you really need to use them.

‘Clearfix’ Glues

Humbrol ClearfixWhen to use: For windows, clear parts or surface detail areas where it’s important no traces of the glue is visible. Also good for applying chalks during weathering (see chalk weathering tips). Humbrol Clearfix is the most common but other makes are available.

Clearfix can also be used to create windows; on brass etched window frames for example. A tutorial to do this is shown in the video clip below.

When not to use: Clearfix glue doesn’t create as strong a bond as the above glues so don’t use on the structural joins of buildings.

For windows etc however they can’t be beaten.

PVA – Polyvinyl acetate – Glue

When to use: Applying to large areas for fixing landscaping materials into place and for paper and card, Metcalfe models etc. Also good for holding wood in place prior to screws during baseboard construction.

When not to use: Tends to be a weak, doesn’t work on plastics/metals etc.


Extra: How To Use Clearfix To Make Windows

Clearfix doesn’t have to be used just to glue windows in place, it can also be used to make the window itself – perhaps on a loco cabin. Here’s a tutorial on doing this in Clearfix.


If you found this article useful, you might also find 17 essential model railway tools helpful.

My grateful thanks to @BURTONBRADSTOCK for help and expertise in producing this post.