How to Select and Use a Hot Glue Gun

hot glue gun
Hot glue gun. Sinisa Botas

Glue guns are the mainstay of the crafting world, making thousands of projects possible. They work with materials ranging from paper and lace to wood and metal. It’s inexpensive to get started, and with glue sticks readily available, using a glue gun couldn’t be easier to use.

A glue gun is a hand-held tool into which you feed a solid glue stick. A heating element in the body of the gun melts the glue, and the adhesive flows out the glue gun’s metal, cone-shaped tip as the glue stick is forced through the gun. 

Glue guns come in all sizes, from a mini-gun just a few inches long to industrial pistol-grip models. While some manufacturers offer battery-powered glue guns, most models are plug-in units powered by standard home power outlets.

There are a number of options to consider when you choose a glue gun. 

  • High temperature or low? If you’re working with children or on delicate materials, choose a low-temperature gun, which melts the glue sticks at about 250 degrees F. High-temperature guns, suited for bonding more substantial materials like wood, operate at around 380 degrees F—a significant difference. Dual-temperature guns offer both options and usually cost just slightly more.
  • Trigger feed or manual feed? Another feature to consider is whether you want a trigger-fed gun or a push-fed model. With the trigger feed, you slip the glue stick into the hole at the back of the gun, and each pull of the trigger advances the stick into the heater and out through the nozzle. Trigger-free models are even simpler: You simply push the glue stick with your thumb.


Part of the glue gun’s appeal is its price: you can pick one up for literally a buck or two, and a large pack of glue sticks costs just a few dollars. A glue gun has almost infinite uses and comes in handy not only for crafting but also for a variety of home repair jobs. Using one is as easy as pointing and squeezing.

The glue is surprisingly strong and has great staying power, even out in the elements. It bonds immediately and cools to the touch relatively quickly. For people bored with the usual clear glue, the sticks are available in different colors and even impregnated with glitter.


Here are just a few projects for which a glue gun is useful:

  • Add beads or other decorations to glass, wood, ceramics, stone, brick, metal, or other materials.
  • Reupholster chair seats for a fresh new look.
  • Create silk- or dried-flower crafts.
  • Glue pine cones and other natural items to a grapevine wreath for a woodsy greeting.
  • Make holiday decorations.
  • Attach corded trim or rickrack to projects.
  • Decorate picture frames with seashells from a vacation at the beach.
  • Embellish a Halloween costume for an extra-special look.​​

Safety Tips

  • The melted glue that flows from the gun’s tip—even a low-temperature glue gun—is very hot. If it comes in contact with your skin, it can cause anything from discomfort to a blistering burn. Take care to keep the tip away from the skin, and don’t touch the glue until it’s cooled, which usually takes about one minute.
  • Glue may continue to ooze out of the gun even when you aren’t squeezing the trigger. When you set the gun down, make sure to place a sheet of paper or cardboard beneath it to protect the underlying surface from drips.