Guide - Essential Glue Review

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Article by James Funnell (Ilpala) posted Friday 15th July 2011

It’s pretty common to look on cosplay forums and see people asking basic questions about what glue to use for what. If you pop into a DIY store you will find a bewildering array of glues but really there’s only a few that you need in your cosplay toolbox and often they can be used for more than just sticking stuff together.

So here’s a rundown of your essential glues and what you should be using them for!


PVA

pva
  • Bonding Paper, Card, Foamboard and thin/lightweight Wood, Polystyrene
  • Sealant
  • Filler
  • Varnish

Everyone’s familiar with this stuff, you used buckets of it at primary school. It’s cheap, white, takes a while to dry and washes out of clothing if it hasn’t dried.

PVA quality and properties can be very variable and there is no way to be sure until you have bought and tried a particular brand. Some PVA has trouble adhering to plastic or shiny surfaces, others don’t. Some PVA dries flexibly while other brands form a hard but brittle surface.

Using PVA is very straightforward: Apply to one surface, press the pieces to be glued together and leave, it can take a while to dry so be patient, you may need to support or clamp your pieces to make sure they stick exactly in the right place.

PVA can also be used as a sealant or as varnish (as it dries clear), simply paint it onto your item and let it dry. If the item your painting with PVA might flex in use it is important to test the PVA your using first to make sure it is flexible when dry.

PVA is quite thick so if your using it as a sealant prior to painting you can apply several layers and use it to fill imperfections in your surface.

PVA is highly waterbased, if you use it to seal thick cardboard, foam board or thin hardboard always paint both sides. If you don’t your material will warp.

If your using it as a varnish water it down a bit and apply in thin coats.


Copydex

copydex
  • Bonding Fabric, Paper, Card, Foamboard, Foam and thin/lightweight wood, Polystyrene
  • Sealant
  • Filler

Copydex is a mix of PVA and Latex, it’s intended to be a fabric glue but works quite well on a variety of materials. It only forms a high strength bond on porous materials like fabric however. Copydex dries quicker than PVA and is difficult to get out of clothing even when wet, so be careful. Copydex smells but isn’t toxic.

To use, apply to both surfaces, wait till tacky and stick together. On fabric apply sparingly as the glue will soak in and leave an obvious mark on the other side if your not careful.

In a pinch you can use copydex as a substitute for latex, you can even colour it by mixing in acrylic paint, it is however no where near as good as latex and the coating is not as durable.

Like PVA it can be used a sealant and filler.


Impact Adhesive

  • Bonding Foam, Plastazote, anything but polystyrene, test before use.

My Personal recommendation is EVOSTICK, A tube of this goes everywhere with me if I’m cosplaying. It’s solvent based so dissolves some plastics and polystyrene and should always be used in a well ventilated area or with suitable respiratory protection.

To use apply to both surfaces, wait till it’s dry and press together, it forms a quick, high strength bond but takes 24hrs to fully cure.

Impact adhesive can be used to bond most materials, and will form a much stronger bond than PVA or Copydex, but to be honest it’s comparatively expensive, toxic and complete overkill. It’s best used on Funky Foam or Plastazote, where this stuff is essential and what you should be using to assemble your armour or props.

If working with porous material like fabric I’ve found you can speed up the process by applying generously to one surface only and pressing together while it is still wet.
Doing it this way gives you more time to press out air bubbles or remove creases etc before the materials have bonded.


EvostickTube

Evostick – the red tube

Easily bought on the high street, the tube makes it a highly practical tool for applying to foam edges and small pieces etc.




EvostickTX528

Evostick – TX528

Bought in 1litre minimum, TX528 spreads like butter and is amazing for covering large surfaces. If your making armour by covering foam with PVC or fabric use this. Normal impact adhesive is very difficult to spread on large surfaces.




Solvent free
You can buy solvent free impact adhesive that works on things like polystyrene, these adhesives take longer to cure so only use them if you can’t use the others.


HOT GLUE

HotGlue
  • Quick fixes
  • Raised detail
  • Casting

Hot glue comes as sticks that are loaded into a hot glue gun, there are two types; low and high temperature that are intended for different materials. Unsurprisingly hot glue can burn you and should be used carefully.

Hot glue can be used to instantly stick things together so it’s really quick to work with, however the bond formed is often poor and will not hold up to the stresses your average costume is put under – in short, only use it in emergencies.

Hot glue has other interesting uses though, it’s great for creating raised filigree style detail (you effectively draw with the gun) and if you create a mould it can be used to create things like cloudy gems or even pieces of solid armour!



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Araldite?

I'm more in the process of making more solid props but I've found Araldite to be a good complement to the process since it has a few good things:

1. Won't melt the plastic I'm using (unlike Evostick, which I tried :D )
2. Is not too sticky when mixed
3. (Usually, if you get the right one) Can dry clear (unlike the Evostick I got :( ).

It sticks acrylic really well as well. Well worth thinking about and is reasonably cheap if you get to Woolworths or somewhere like that.

Also a related item might be double sided sticky tape - with hard surfaces which you can't have a bumpy surface it is surprisingly good at sticking wood to plastic or plastic to plastic or foam to plastic. You can lay it all out in the right way beforehand too, which helps. I wish glue didn't dry so fast sometimes!

by Andrew Armstrong on Tuesday, 2 April, 2013 - 20:51