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Model Kit Glue

Article by Paul Nortness

By now, you have probably heard me mention a few different types of glues for use in model rocket building. Today, I would like to discuss those glue types in detail. This article will cover the best application for each glue, their pros and cons and cover various brands.

First off, let's discuss the tried and true "Wood Glue", also known as "yellow glue". It got the moniker "yellow" glue to differentiate it from Elmer's other product "White" glue. Elmer's sells it in a few different versions based on its application. Most versions are based on where the glue will be applied, for example "Wood Glue" is strictly an interior glue, while "Wood Glue Max" is a interior and exterior product that is waterproof. In rocketry applications, both versions would suffice as they will be covered by primer and paint so waterproof is not necessary. Both products offer excellent hold, however they do tend to "bubble". This is especially noticeable while applying fin fillets. As the glue dries, air bubbles come to the surface leaving your fillet looking a bit like swiss cheese. Elmer's is also prone to shrinkage. That is why I prefer using another brand of wood glue called "Tite Bond II". You can get Tite Bond at any home improvement store in similar bottles. It does not shrink as much as Elmer's, nor does it exhibit the air bubble issue. Yellow glue is great for low power rockets where you will not be pushing the envelope of physics. It is light weight, yet offers excellent strength. It is more common to break a fin in half as it is to break a fin at the joint if applied correctly. Yellow glue is water soluble, so any excess can be easily cleaned up in the sink. Also, if it dries on your hand it makes an excellent "peeling skin" effect that is great for freaking out the kids!


Another type of glue is epoxy. Epoxy is a two part glue that requires mixing of equal parts hardener and resin. It smells pretty bad and is very sticky even before being mixed. Be very careful not to touch epoxy with your hands once mixed. It is a chemical reaction, and the epoxy can get hot. Epoxy comes in a variety of applicators. Commonly found in hardware stores or auto parts stores, these versions of epoxy typically come in a syringe style applicator. You simply push down on the plunger and equal part hardener and resin come out. Some even include "instant mix" nozzles that allow you to lay the epoxy down in thin beads. These nozzles are very handy for making fillets on mid power rockets. However, these syringes are not very cost effective. A syringe will just barely finish a decent size rocket and runs about five dollars. On the flip side, hobby shops often sell epoxy in bottles. They come in a set of two bottles, one hardener and one resin and can typically be had for around ten dollars.


The downside to these bottles is getting the mix right can be tricky. A little trial and error and you will be mixing epoxy like the pros! Epoxy is a great adhesive for larger rockets that fly on composite motors. Once it dries, it is stuck for good. Which is a good thing and a bad thing. With wood glue, it's easy to pop something off if it isn't perfect. With epoxy, you better make sure it is positioned correctly because it is not going anywhere once dry. Speaking of drying, epoxy comes in various formulas ranging from quick setting 1 minute to 30 minute formulas. While 1 minute epoxy sounds nice when it comes to mounting fins, it is a real pain in the booty and I would not recommend using it for the construction of a rocket. I use a 5 minute epoxy for most jobs and find that mixed in small batches it is very manageable. When it starts to get "stringy" it's time to mix a new batch. That is an indication that it is getting close to setting.

As mentioned before, epoxy has a nasty smell to it so make sure you use it in a ventilated space as it will make you sick. Epoxy is much heavier than wood glue so I would only use it on mid power rockets. Epoxy can be cleaned up using rubbing alcohol, typically found in the nail care section.

I hope you have found this informative and will help you select the right adhesive for your next project!

Until then, have fun and happy building!

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