The glue you choose to use on your model bridge (or model airplane) can make or break it. I’d venture to say that glue choice is just as important as your wood choice, which makes it pretty important.
This article compares and contrasts different types of glues, showing the strengths and weaknesses of each so that you can make an informed choice for what glue to use on your bridge.
All These Glues I’ve Personally Used
All the glues on this page are ones that I have used extensively, both in model bridge building and other wood working creations. While some might be better in specific situations than others, all of these are solid choices. The links below are Amazon affiliate links, which allow me to help support this site when you make a purchase.
What you want to look for in glue:
Generally speaking, these are the factors that you need to consider when choosing a glue. You will need to strike a balance, since there is no such thing as a perfect glue. Or is there? Let me know in the comments.
- Drying time
- Ease of Use
CA Glue (cyanoacrylate) aka Super Glue
This is a very common glue used for a variety of projects. It generally dries in seconds. It is also widely available. You’ll find it in virtually all big box stores, online, and most hobby stores. However, it is not cheap and doesn’t have a super long shelf life.
CA glue can be bought in three types: thin, medium, and thick. The thin stuff is very light, but not especially strong. The thicker stuff is heavier, but stronger. I have known people to build extremely efficient bridges using CA glue. It is also handy to have around the house for other things as well.
Lately I’ve been trying out the Gorilla Glue Gel CA, and it has proven useful in a number of cases.
CA Glue Pros:
- Dries quickly
- Strong when used correctly
- Good strength to weight
- Bonds to most materials, especially wood
CA Glue Cons:
- Dries quickly (see what I did there)
- Very easy to glue fingers together
- Bottles can get clogged and dry out completely in a relatively short amount of time
- Relatively expensive
Official Wood glue, such as Elmer’s or Titebond
Wood glue, just like it sounds, is great for wooden model bridges. Also known as PVA glue. I’ve used both Elmer’s and Titebond, both for model bridges and other wood working projects and to be honest, I can’t tell a difference. (Titebond does make a waterproof version). Both seem excellent at what they do.
For model bridges, the main downside to standard wood glues is that they are relatively heavy. However, you can reduce weight by thinning the glue with a bit of water. In some cases, this allows the glue to seep into the wood, creating a stronger joint.
Wood Glue Pros:
- Gives time to work before setting up
- Readily available
Wood Glue Cons
- Takes time to dry (sometimes this can feel like forever)
White Elmer’s glue
Not to be mixed up with the brown wood glue version, this glue is perhaps the most common glue on the planet. Well, I’m not 100% sure about that, but I do know it is used everywhere from schools, arts and crafts, to general use around the house. It usually dries in 30 minutes or less, depending on the amount used.
It is, like the marketing says, an all purpose glue. It is a good enough adhesive for a lot of materials. However, it isn’t what I would call a performance glue.
White Glue Pros:
- Good enough for a lot of things
- Dries fairly quickly
White Glue Cons
- It wasn’t made to be a performance glue
The first glue I ever used in building model bridges was 30-minute epoxy. I liked it because it was very strong and could be bought at many stores. Epoxy comes in several different “setting times”. You can get 90 second, 5 minute, 15 minute, 30 minute, and up to 4 hour epoxy. Generally speaking, the slower the drying time, the stronger the bond.
The trouble with epoxy is that you have to mix it. While I had great success with it for my early bridges, I stopped using it due to one bridge breaking because I didn’t mix it correctly once. I discovered that it was hard to mix it correctly in small amounts, and I ended up wasting a lot of glue because I never knew exactly how much I would need.
- Very strong when mixed correctly
- Can be hard to mix correctly
- Feels wasteful when you mix too much
Probond / Gorilla Glue
This is polyurethane based glue and is super strong. I think Probond came out first, but I’m not completely sure about that. Since then, Gorilla Glue has taken over in popularity. It is not light, but you don’t have to use very much of it. It is also somewhat expensive.
It takes at least 4 hours to set, and your pieces have to be clamped together while drying. I still keep a bottle of it on hand, because it works for about anything.
Gorilla Glue Pros:
- Super strong
Gorilla Glue Cons
- Requires clamping
- Takes forever to cure
Weldbond is in a similar class as wood glues, but has some unique properties. Namely, unlike the typical PVA wood glues, Weldbond is white and dries completely clear (wood glue dries yellow). I really like this feature because I think it looks nicer.
I really like using this glue.
As I mentioned at the top, these are the glues I’m familiar with. If the type of glue you use is not listed, leave a comment below and let us know about it.
Chart Comparing Glues (obviously biased by my experience)
|Wood Glues||CA Glue||Probond||Weldbond||Epoxy||White Elmer’s|
|Ease of Use||4/5||3/5||3/5||5/5||2/5||5/5|
I’ll summarize with a few scenarios. If I was…
- Building a high efficiency bridge: I’d probably use one or both of CA and Weldbond
- Building a for fun bridge, or building one with my kids: Elmer’s White Glue
- Building for speed: CA Glue hands down