Glue for plastic models and buildings

I saw a question for the millionth time on a forum about what glues to use on plastic models and buildings. So I’ll cover the topic here, where it won’t get purged after 8 months.

Ask the question at a hobby shop, and the answer comes down roughly 50/50 whether to use some type of super glue (cyanoacrylate, often abbreviated CyA or CA), or some type of MEK-based plastic weld, such as Tenax 7R. Every once in a while, someone pipes up about the tube cement I used as a kid. You don’t want to use that stuff. If you’ve ever tried, you know why–it’s messy, dries slowly, and the bond isn’t as strong as it could be. Read on and I’ll give you the advantages and disadvantages of both alternatives, plus some secrets.

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How to fix modern plastic toys

How to fix modern plastic toys

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.
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A cheap and lazy way to make insulated track sections

An old trick for automating a Lionel or Marx train layout is to power accessories off an insulated rail section. Run one wire to the center rail, then run the other wire to a rail that’s been insulated from the other rail and the two adjoining track sections. A passing train completes the circuit, causing the accessory to activate.

You can buy insulated O27 and O31 straight tubular sections. If you want a curved insulated section, or if you just want to save some money, you’re better off making your own.

The usual way is to take a piece of track, pry up the pair of tabs holding the rail on one side of each tie, and then insert some kind of nonconducting material–a piece of electrical tape or a piece of cardstock are popular options–and then mash the tabs back down onto the tie. Then you insert a Lionel o27 insulating pin or o31 insulating pin into each end of the rail you just insulated. I’ve also made my own O27 insulating pins out of bamboo skewers from the grocery store. (I don’t know about anyone else’s schedule, but most hobby shops aren’t open at 9 PM, which is usually when I get time to work on my layout.)

But there’s another way that you might like better. Pry up all of the tabs on the metal ties and set them aside. Cut similar-sized ties from a piece of wood. Popsicle sticks are close enough for O27 track ties, or you might want to buy a strip or two of basswood of appropriate size from a hobby shop. Nothing stops you from cutting extra ties, if you like your track to have more than the usual three. Stain or paint the ties the color you want, and then glue the ties right to the rails. Cyanoacrylate (superglue) or epoxy is best. Insert insulating pins (store bought or homemade) and you have an insulated track section.

What to do with the extra metal ties you just removed? If they’re in reasonably good shape, you can put them on other pieces of track to improve their appearance a bit. If you don’t like that idea, save them and once you get a decent quantity, sell them on Ebay so someone else can put them on other pieces of track to improve their appearance a bit.

Super glue tips and tricks

Super glue tips and tricks

If you want some secret super glue tips and tricks, I have you covered.

I just read a great tip about how to store Cyanoacrylate for long periods of time without it drying out on you. Cyanoacrylate (often abbreviated CA or CyA), sold under the Krazy Glue, Super Glue, Superglue, and a number of other brand names, is cured by the moisture in the air. Moisture in the air also causes a tube or bottle to dry out quickly after you open it.

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