Monday, November 8, 2010

Of glues and solvents

When it comes to models, a lot of people talk about the quality of sculpts and how far the injection molding process has come, but few people take the time to really consider one of the most important things in the hobby. How do you plan to actually assemble that $50 piece of styrene?

When the new (and rather stunning) Daemon Prince model came out, it was praised for its quality and the many customization options. I was at the Battle Bunker the weekend it came out and I saw a younger person assembling one of these fantastic models. I asked him to take a look at it, hoping to get a close look at the sculpt. Unfortunately, I was unable to really appreciate the model under the thick layer of glue coating it. Of course, one must wonder why he was even using glue in the first place.

To consider this question, we must first know about the different types of adhesives available. Here is a short breakdown and why you should use what when.

But he seemed so mild mannered!

The first and most common glue used in model assembly is cyanoacrylate glue, commonly called super glue or CA glue. This glue bonds best to smooth surfaces and fingers. The general tenacity of CA glue makes it perfect for attaching smaller pieces of metal models together but its low sheer strength makes it very easy to torque larger pieces apart. For this reason, many in the hobby drill holes and insert metal pins into larger metal models before using CA glue to seal the deal. It is available in many varieties, from the very thin to the gap-filling gels. With so many different options, fast drying times, and versatility in bonding dissimilar materials, every hobbiest should have some sort of CA glue on hand. Just remember to be careful with it, as it tends to be very exothermic (gets hot) if it is applied (or spilled) on cotton. Significant amounts can actually start fires!

not included - clamps, a free afternoon

Many people, frustrated with poor performance of CA glues on metals, decide to go the extra mile and use an epoxy. While found in many forms, epoxies always consist of two parts: a hardener and a resin. When these two parts are mixed, the resin begins to harden and bonds metal together with a rather amazing permanence. While very attractive for this reason, even the fastest epoxy adhesives take fifteen to twenty minutes to harden significantly and upwards of 24 hours to reach full strength. That is a long time to wait and a long time for something to go wrong. Many people opt to use epoxy putties, which operate under the same principal as the liquids but in a convenient play-dough format. These are very easy to under mix and generally don't adhere as well as the liquids. Best to avoid them unless you are using them to do some actual sculpting.

Also keep out of the reach of people who like to huff things in cans.

My favorite adhesive for the hobby is not actually an adhesive at all. It's what is called "plastic cement" or "plastic weld." There are many varieties for many types of plastics, but my favorites are ones featuring butanone (also called MEK), often diluted with acetone. MEK based welds work for most plastics and are generally rather high powered. What these solvents do is actually melt the plastic slightly. When applied sparingly to each side of a joint and pressed together, the plastic melts and fuses into a continuous piece. This results in a bond nearly as strong as the plastic itself. There are only a couple of concerns when working with plastic welds. First, you must understand that these solvents will not bond anything together that isn't plastic. It is literally impossible to glue metal together with plastic weld. Second, the fumes from plastic welds are very, very, VERY bad for you. It is recommended that you use these chemicals in a well ventilated area. Inhaling all of the fumes to store in your lungs and protect your friends and family is not recommended. Lastly, you must realize that plastic welds are very powerful and very thin. If you apply too much, some can soak into the space between your fingers and your model. The solvent will soften the plastic and leave a nice (and permanent) mold of your fingerprints on the piece.

Well, at least we know it's mine.

Once you have selected your glue, it is important to decide what type to get. I prefer thin glues because they have the ability to "soak in" and carry their way deeper into a joint, but I try to keep thicker CA on hand to fill any uneven gaps and provide a nice tight grab on metal models or metal to plastic. I use plastic weld for nearly anything else. Remember that less is more with glue and the smoother the surface the easier it is to grab.

To review, my work desk has three adhesives. A bottle of "control gel" CA glue for seam filling, some incredibly thin CA glue to do any bonding on non-plastics, and a bottle of MEK-based plastic weld with a brush to do most of the model work. What's on your bench?

Tuesday, October 26, 2010


Welcome to the inaugural post of The Baron's Manor, where i shall pontificate on all things that come into my mind concerning gaming and the like. I fully intend to keep this blog going with updates on my hobby, though I also know that I am very unlikely to do so. Consider this your first and only warning to that regard. Even with the celebration of the Manor's opening, I would not start this without contributing something. In that regard, here are my feelings concerning the local Games Workshop Battle Bunker.

I entered the store whilst running other errands in the area, and was pleased to be warmly greeted by one of the employees there. This is always the case, and unlike the rather ill tempered greeters at many a retail store these clerks seem honestly welcoming. This employee, who will I will simply call M for the sake of pseudoanonymity, has been fairly helpful since I began my Ork army. Being a member of the grand Waaagh himself, he always has interesting conversion tips. Today he even had some deffkoptas he was more than willing to part with for an amazingly fair price. I mentioned needing something for boomguns on my looted wagons and, like a flash, he was there with some spare artillery free of charge. M's rather effective "I will be nice so you'll want to be here" strategy worked well and, in the end, I spent well over twenty of my hard-earned dollars on hobbying supplies.

I know many of my brethren have had trouble in the past with the GW staff, as have I. It seems, however, that the current group has stabilized into employees that honestly enjoy their jobs and their customers. The only real issue I have had with them is that they would much rather fill up the main gaming area past capacity for comfortable playing instead of opening up the second area. This makes very little sense to me, as I prefer to have a less crowded environment and the fact that they never open up the second area means that they are essentially wasting more than half of their building. Not only that, but that second half of the building is the most visible from the roadway. I doubt it helps their sales to have a big empty storefront at all times.

If you're reading this, red shirts, please. Open the doors. Let us in so that we may game in the illustrious splendor of tables that aren't the same half dozen with space so that we don't end up elbowed by little kids trying to make it to the bathroom. Please.