When I first started to use glues in my art work, I reached out to other artists for advice. I also tested several glues, just like I tested glazes in college. Under a time constraint working on “Spring For A Doughnut” my dad volunteered to test a glue I had never used for an element with little contact area. Now artists contact me for advice on which glue to use when they begin exploring mixed media art. A complement indeed. That got me to thinking, I teach the Activity Director Course to share my knowledge with others perhaps a little information on glue would help an aspiring Artist.
Before I jump ahead into sharing what glues I use, let me preface the article with a few fine points. I do not recommend any particular glue. I am not a paid spokesperson. I am only sharing my personal experience with the products I am sharing with you. Only you know the piece you are working on and only you can choose the glue that is the best option for that work. Always read the label for specific directions regarding the particular glue. It’s not a bad idea to obtain the MSDS (Material Safety Data Sheet) on the product. Protect yourself. Test first if possible. I always keep scraps to use for testing. I will include some tips I learned at the end that will save you some time and agony.
Let’s start with a must have in your glue arsenal: a reliable all-purpose glue such as Aleene’s Original Tacky Glue. It truly is versatile and durable. It dries clear and excess glue can be wiped away with a damp cloth. The bottle says water clean up. This is before it dries, just an FYI. It does not list a set up or drying time. Allow 24 hours for wood or glass, or heavy items. A paper product will dry within 6 hours but if you have multiple layers, increase the drying time. Aleene’s products are wonderful and I have several for specific uses such as fabric. While I have several, this is a staple in my glue arsenal when it comes to all-purpose glue.
My next must have is a dependable wood glue such as Titebond or Gorilla Wood Glue. Wood glue works best when the wood pieces you are gluing together are not painted, stained or sealed with a varnish or polyurethane. It is preferable the pieces be clamped or weighed down. Contrary to what you would think wood glue should be generously applied so that it seeps out from the joint (or both pieces of joined wood). This ensures the glue spreads evenly between the two pieces you are joining so there are no air pockets or weak points in the joint. Use a damp cloth to wipe away this excess glue before it dries and check back to wipe away the little bit that will continue to seep out as the glue sets. It usually takes a full 30 minutes for the glue to set and 24 hours for it to fully dry. Do not work on the piece until it is fully dry or you will weaken the glue joint. Wood glue dries with a yellowish tint, can be sanded and painted over. If you intend to stain the wood, stain it before you glue it unless you are going to run the piece through a wood planer. Wood glue seals the wood fibers so it will not absorb the stain.
Fairly new to my glue arsenal is the industrial strength adhesive E6000. This glue was recommended to me by a ceramicist when I could no longer find a similar product. It works great on ceramic and glass but is also effective with metals. I do not recommend it for wood. It is a clear adhesive that dries clear and cannot be cleaned with a damp cloth. A little goes a long way so test first and avoid seepage. Use this product in a well ventilated space as it is harmful to your health due to it containing perchloroethylene. It usually sets up within 15 to 30 minutes and dries fully within 12 hours.
My first love was Liquid Nails! It was recommended to me by another mixed media artist. I have used it successfully and it is still in my glue arsenal. However, I have learned there are more reliable products. I intentionally included both the multi-purpose and clear Liquid Nails products in the picture above. I no longer use the clear. It is, in my opinion, a great sealer but not a great adhesive for the work I do. But it does work on foam. Foam does not like glue so if you don’t have the expensive Styrofoam specific glue, use the clear silicone Liquid Nails. The multi-purpose Liquid Nails is white, has a creamy consistency and dries white. It spreads so be aware of seepage and use the applicator if you need to target a specific spot. It can be wiped away with a dry cloth but is not water friendly. It works best on wood, tiles, glass, concrete type materials and more. It’s not my choice for metal objects. I have had it fail (should have read the instructions right!). It sets up within 30 minutes but does take a full 24 hours to fully dry. The package says it is sandable but I have not found that to be the case. It is paintable.
A quick fix must have in your glue arsenal is a super glue such as Gorilla Super Glue or Loctite (not pictured above because I ran out). The only drawback I have found is that like most super glues, the Gorilla Super Glue is so sensitive to the oxygen in the air that it dries in the bottle. Loctite seems to have a better lid design so I carry it with me to each show just in case. Things happen when you are moving art. In the middle of show set up or dropping off a piece for an exhibit, something might need to be re-glued. It’s a reliable quick fix. You may have to repair it when you get it home but I have found these two glues work great and the customer has no issues later. They are both easy to work with, have a rapid set up time and dry time. It’s super glue, so don’t get it where you don’t want it!
My last and most important glue to share with you is J-B Weld. There are a few varieties including the Quick-Setting Epoxy and Original Cold-Weld Epoxy. I have both but usually use the quick-setting. You have to work fast! When they say quick-setting, they mean it. It sets in 6 minutes and is fully dry within 4 hours. It’s a hardener that’s grey and what they call steel that’s black. It has a strong odor when mixed together so use in a well ventilated area. It is black in color and dries black, cannot be sanded because it dries to a glass or ceramic hardness, but can be painted over. There is a ClearWeld Quick-Setting Epoxy in a plunger style container that is easy to use, has a set time of 5 minutes and a full dry time of an hour. It’s their strongest of the three J-B Weld products and it dries clear. If you need more working time, I suggest the Original Cold-Weld version. It gives you more working time with a set time of 4-6 hours and a full dry time of 15-24 hours. It also dries black. Refer to the Strength PSI that is listed on the package when determining which J-B Weld product to use.
There are many choices in glues. Too many to list here. And we haven’t even talked about working with paper or fabric! Only you can determine what is the best product for your work.
As promised I will leave you with some tips: What everyone needs to know about glue
Thank you for taking the time to read this article. I hope you found it helpful. I know I appreciated other artist’s being willing to share their knowledge with me. Best wishes on your creative journey!
Jennifer Nichols, Mixed Media Artist
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For upcoming show information, visit my website http://www.jnicholsart.com/exhibitions.html
I'm Jennifer Nichols, a mixed media artist from North Carolina. I enjoy capturing the essence of nature through a variety of materials. I incorporate found objects such as strainers and bottle caps into my work. I am drawn to these items but it is also important to me to do my part to protect our environment by keeping things out of the land fill.