Yesterday my son handed me a piece of broken toy train track. Last night I fixed it. At first I figured it would be easy–wood’s just a matter of gluing and clamping. But this one had a funky plastic connector. I got a lesson in how to fix modern plastic toys, and the best glue for plastic.
The plastics used in today’s toys are less brittle and arguably stronger than the polystyrene they used when I was a kid. The downside is that when they do break, it’s a lot harder to glue them. Normal super glues won’t work well, and the plastic cements for gluing model kits together–my old secret weapon–won’t work at all.
The best glue for plastic
Another hobbyist clued me in on Surehold Plastic Surgery. It works. I’ve used it before, because my son’s given me plenty of opportunity to test it. It’s my new secret weapon.
So far, I’ve fixed a a printer paper tray, the plastic base of a Hot Wheels car, a piece of toy train track, and one or two other things that I can’t remember with it.
You use it like any other super glue. And since it does contain cyanoacrylate, it will happily bond skin, so you have to take exactly the same precautions with it as you would with ordinary super glue. This property is good, by the way–besides gluing plastics to itself, it also means it can glue other materials to those plastics.
Since toys tend to get rough play, it’s a good idea to reinforce the joints that you re-glue with this if you can. You can cut a thin piece of plastic from a disposable food tray–such as the food trays from frozen dinners–and glue it behind the break to reinforce it, if there’s a side that isn’t normally visible. Or if the piece is thick enough, you can drill a small hole inside the two broken pieces, insert a piece of stiff wire, then glue it all together. That will usually result in a repair that’s stronger than the original piece was.
Another reason for reinforcements is because super glues have extremely good up-and-down and side-to-side strength, but extremely weak twist strength. If you twist a joint glued with super glue, it will usually come apart easily. Keep the glued joint from being able to twist to get a strong repair.
If you have a severe break with missing pieces, find a flat sheet of something that regular 2-part epoxy will readily bond to. A piece of soft aluminum from a disposable pie pan comes to mind. Use the Plastic Surgery to glue the sheet to one side of the repair. Then mix up the 2-part epoxy, work it into the gap, and smooth it with a putty knife. The repair will end up looking really crude unless you paint it, but if you paint it with some plastic-bonding paint like Krylon Fusion or its house-brand equivalents from a hardware store, the repair will be hard to detect. Here are some spray painting tips if you need them. And here’s how to remove old paint if you need to.
I’d much rather fix toys than throw them away, and I’ve even been known to buy broken toys on the cheap and clean them up and fix them up.
I know an even better option than fixing toys all the time is to teach your kids to respect their toys and take care of them so that they don’t break in the first place. That’s coming. My two-year-old doesn’t always get that message, especially when he’s tired and winding himself up to keep himself awake.
And if you do accidentally glue yourself to something, or worse yet, glue your fingers to each other, a bit of vegetable oil supposedly helps. Work it into the affected area and peel apart as slowly and gently as you can.
And by the way, before you go, I have some help on how to fix diecast toys too.