Glues for Miniatures and Models - What to Use and When

Miniatures tend to need particular types of glue, each with their own properties that help to compliment the style of miniature, the plastic it's made of, and the environmental conditions it will face. Here are some of our recommendations.

  • 01 of 08

    Methy Cellulose for Paper Miniatures

    Methyl cellulose glue powder.
    Photo © 2014 Lesley Shepherd

    Methyl Cellulose is a useful water based glue for dollhouse wallpapers, paper miniatures, and books. pH neutral, it is recommended by professionals as it is 'reversible' and mistakes can be easily remedied. It can be used on its own or mixed with PVA glue for more 'slip' and longer drying time of the PVA. Unlike some craft paper glues, which are based on cornstarch, methyl cellulose is not attacked by pests. Learn how to use it and you'll be able to use it for paper projects, book repairs, even as a marbling size for paper or fabric.

  • 02 of 08

    PVA or Poly Vinyl Acetate Glues - White or Yellow Glues

    Minature stoneware planter held upside down with Moveable Miniatrues Glue
    Photo ©2007 Lesley Shepherd, Licensed to About.com Inc.

    PVA glues are the standby of my workbench. Nontoxic and with low fumes they clean up with water. I have several different formulations and use them according to materials. My first choice is always an acid neutral glue. Some may occasionally use 'tacky' glue formulations to hold materials on an upright surface, or thick PVA glues which will hold metals or plastics against porous materials like wood paper or leather.

    Various Types of PVA Glue:

  • 03 of 08

    Polyurethane Glues - Glues That Expand and Foam

    Polyurethane glues like the popular Excel and Gorilla Glue form bonds which in some applications are stronger than PVA glues or Cyanoacrylate glues. These are highly water resistant glues good for exterior applications and will bond wood, as well as nonporous materials like stone, ceramics, metals and some plastics. Polyurethane glues foam and swell up as they cure.

    These glues do not clean up with water, so have denatured alcohol handy to clean up your joints before the glue sets. Most solvents are inactive on polyurethane glue, so don't ever plan on removing them without sanding once they have bonded.

  • 04 of 08

    Cyanoacrylate Glues

    Cyanoacrylate glues, also known as Crazy glues or Super glues have some special uses for miniatures. They are fast setting, but generally brittle glues, except for particular formulations. They can be used to help hold materials while other slower bonding glues set up, but are rarely advisable for use on their own with most miniatures. Be careful when using them to work only in well-ventilated areas, with eye protection. You can develop sensitivities to them. Gloves are also advisable.

    Continue to 5 of 8 below.
  • 05 of 08

    Epoxy Glues and Pastes

    Preparing epoxy putty to make a backing for a miniature mermaid mirror.
    Photo © 2013 Lesley Shepherd

    Two part epoxy glues, putties, and pastes are useful for bonding metals and ceramics, although they can also be used with wood, glass, stone, and some plastics. Permanent when set, they are available in a range of thicknesses, partially determined by the gap size they are expected to fill. Epoxies have the advantage of being very stable when cured, as they are resistant to heat and to chemicals. Most epoxies will deteriorate with exposure to UV light.

    There is a wide range of slight differences between brands of epoxy glues, putties, and pastes, based on the type of resin and hardener (activator) used. The various types and brands differ mainly by cure time, color, the ability to withstand heat, flexibility when cured, and consistency. Choose a brand which will work for the widest number of applications you will need epoxy for. Most have a short shelf life after opening. Be sure to follow safety guidelines when using all forms of epoxy. Allergic reactions to the hardener can develop.

    Kneadable epoxy putties are often used to repair large cracks, or fill areas on models for repurposing a model. They are used by model horse enthusiasts to reshape horses, and by gaming miniature enthusiasts as a modeling material for new sculpts. Retooling and sanding work differently on various brands, so experiment with a few if you intend to use them for sculpting or re-sculpting models and figures. Some thinner two-part epoxy pastes such as Apoxie Paste can be used for making casts in simple molds, as well as for bonding and filling larger cracks in broken ceramics and other materials. Specialist 'Jewelery Putties" like Enviro Tex Jewelry Clay, will accept colors and pigments to make unique shades. You can see this putty-colored and used to make miniature gnomes for outdoor gardens.

  • 06 of 08

    Plastic Glues and Plastic Weld Glues

    Plastic weld glues for tight bonds in a range of plastics for models and miniatures
    Photo Copyright 2011 Lesley Shepherd

    A number of glues will work with plastic, but there are special plastic welding cements that dissolve the plastic to create a stronger bond. Plastic glues don't work with all plastics so you need to know what types of plastic you are trying to bond together and use the appropriate glue. If acetone (nail polish remover) causes the surface of a scrap of similar plastic to become tacky, you can usually use that plastic with plastic cement or a plastic weld.

  • 07 of 08

    Silicone Glues / Adhesives and Caulks

    Small tube of silicone adhesive sold for scrabooking and decoupage.
    Photo © 2011 Lesley Shepherd

    Silicone caulk and glues are used by modelers for a range of very different purposes. They are often used to simulate flowing water in railroad terrains. Silicone is also used to hold vibrating motors in place in model airplanes and boats and is used to glue glass and metal to a range of other surfaces. One of the confusions with silicone is that very similar types are available for a range of 'specialized' applications. If you need small amounts, try pet stores where it is sold to repair aquariums, or dive stores, where it is sold to seal masks. Scrapbook stores sell small tubes of clear silicone 'glue' to hold beads, glass, and metal securely to metallic papers and cards. Automotive stores sell small tubes of gasket material, or window sealant, which are all the same basic silicone.

    If you need to paint silicone for any reason, make sure you buy a 'paintable' silicone to start with, usually found at a hardware store.

    As many silicones give off acetic acid as they cure, try to use 'oxime' cure silicones where you are working with materials that need to be acid-free.

    Why You Should Use Acid-Free Materials

    A special type of "moldable" silicone glue can be used to hold diverse materials together, as well as molded for simple flexible miniatures. Known as "Sugru" this form of silicon is a colored putty which can be blended to a range of different colors. A "do it yourself" form of this putty can be made from the instructions for "Oogoo" found on the Instructables website. This is made from silicone glue or caulk and corn startch or talcum powder.

  • 08 of 08

    Microcrystalline Waxes or Gels

    Crystaline wax used to hold miniatures to furniture, shelves or walls in scale scenes.
    Photo copyright 2010 Lesley Shepherd, Licensed to About.com Inc.

    Crystalline waxes and wax gels are sold under a variety of names for temporarily holding items to smooth surfaces. Sometimes called 'museum wax', 'tacky wax' or 'quake wax', these are good for positioning miniatures as parts of models or scenes. Model horse artisans use them to hold bits on model horses, collectors use them to hold items on display shelves, and miniaturists of all types use them to fix items into the hands of figures.

    These waxes are available in gel or wax formulations. The gels are usually clearer and are useful for adhering clear glass objects to clear shelving. They are of limited use in displays which will get hot enough to soften the wax.