Hot Melt Glue For Crafts Or Repairs

Use hot melt glue for crafts and home repairs safely and efficiently.

Hot melt glue is popular for crafts and repairs. It sets quickly and makes less mess than other adhesives. The main drawback is that melted plastic can become quite HOT. Careless use results in painful burns since melted glue sticks to the skin. Therefore, don't even plug in a hot glue gun before putting a stable container of cold water within easy reach. Wear clothes that glue won't penetrate and eye-protection. Hand cream helps protect bare skin, but wears off. For heavy-duty work, wear leather gloves with no holes. Neatsfoot oil will keep glue from sticking to the leather. Older guns without triggers are especially risky. Be careful running any extension cords; a plugging strip with a breaker is a wise precaution.

Hot melt glue comes in various grades and types. Test each kind before starting assembly. High temperature glues can get hot enough to melt plastics. Low temperature glues may harden too quickly to allow accurate assembly. The so-called all temperature formulations are more viscous when used at lower temperatures and may become too runny at the highest. Several companies make special purpose glues with latex or other additions which remain more flexible; using these requires experimentation. There are also colored glues for decorating as well as glueing, white for caulking, and glitter filled sticks which are only useful on the surface. Such metallics are more effective if applied as a second coat on top of ordinary glue.

Glue sticks come in many lengths, from two inch mini-stick for pocket guns to several foot long pieces used in manufacturing. These king-sized rods can sometimes be bought as surplus, but must be tested to determine optimum glueing temperature. In fact, the biggest secret to successful hot gluing is more precise temperature control, discussed below.



Traditional gluing techniques work with this modern alternative. Smoothing a thin layer of glue on both surfaces, then adding enough extra glue to form an even layer can result in a sturdier bond. Hot glue does not penetrate most materials since it has no liquid solvent. The result is a layer of glue with little or no sheer (sideways) strength. Joints need reinforcement. Pin across them with appropriate materials; brads for wood, toothpicks for foam, pins or string in "arrangements." Using glue to form external fillets when possible also helps. Don't depend on glue alone unless there's no time, and the work is truely temporary. Because it will be.

Hot glue can always be remelted, which has some advantages. Projects can be disassembled with the help of a large hairdryer or a heat gun. Heat resistant gloves are a must. The heat of the sun (or bright lights) may also soften hot glue, while too cold an environment makes most types brittle. Temperature is always a concern when using hotglue in displays.

Plugging the glue gun into a temperature controller is the key to efficient use. All guns get hotter when left plugged in, even to the point of discoloring the glue. Hotter glue is runnier, more dangerous, and may melt synthetic materials.

There are various options. Autotransformers, still used as motor controllers for shop equipment, allow very precise control of the voltage, and therefore the temperature of the heater element. There are smaller electronic controllers used for soldering irons or woodburning tools which work quite well, though their calibration varies. Household ceiling fan controllers can be wired into an outlet box, perhaps on the end of a grounded extension cord. Use a "4" box designed for a switch and two outlets. Wall "dimmers", which are similar, will also work, but tend to fail if the glue gun is left plugged in too long. In a pinch, remember to unplug the gun briefly once it's hot enough to avoid over-heating, then replug as needed. As with most techniques, practice and care improves the result. Parking the glue in a "holster" made from a recycled soup can serves a a heat sink, and makes accidents with the hot end of the tool less likely.

Finally, to clean-up a glue gun, use a citrus-based solvent cleaner, available at most grocery stores, while the tool is still warm, but UNplugged. To get glue off fabric, chill it down and crack it off. It doesn't stick to surfaces slick with petroleum jelly or mineral oil, so working a little of these in will get bits of glue out. Then detergent finishs the job. A metal "teasing" hairbrush is useful to collect the thin strings of glue, sometimes called cobwebs, which may result when pulling the gun away from a glue joint.

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