Stick It: Glues Vs. Epoxies (Or How to Fix All Your Stuff)

Stick It: Glues Vs. Epoxies (Or How to Fix All Your Stuff)

As a man, your drive to build something is equaled only by your urge to destroy things.  Whether you’re building a monument to manliness or just repairing one, knowing which liquid steel to use is your ticket to doing it right.

By Steven Stafford

As you get into your twenties, you learn that duct tape is useful, but it won’t always work.

Men build things. They always have; but, as Yeats once wrote, things fall apart. Because of this, men also have to be able to fix things. Let’s face it, you don’t want to have to ask your girlfriend to it.

We’re all pretty familiar with glue, but certain projects are too big or too tough for some good old Elmer’s. That’s where epoxies come in.

Epoxies are a type of glue that binds things by setting, or hardening. They can be used for a variety of projects, all of which we men are eventually going to have to deal with. Since there is a diversity of uses, there are many different kinds of epoxies and glues. I mean, certain epoxies are used in building aircraft, some are opaque, some transparent, so, you’re going to need to know your stuff if you’re going to be handy.

One of the difficult parts about buying adhesives is that every company uses the same marketing techniques: they all say that they are the strongest and hardest. In this way, they are kind of like rap stars. But not everyone can be the best. Maybe they didn’t play teeball.

Now, you don’t have to know the chemistry behind how adhesives work. You do, however, need to know what to use when and where.

As a general rule, prefer glues to adhesives; they are easier to work with and require less cleanup. And if glues fail, you can always take the step up to epoxies.

Adhesives can be classified or judged by a few criteria: viscosity, setting speed (how long it takes to “cure”), strength (usually in psi), and temperature range. Now, if you’re normal, you’re not going to memorize all of the statistics on every adhesive you buy, but these are the ways you can compare products by breaking down their individual attributes.

While there is no such thing as a universally effective adhesive, there are some that can do double duty. Superglue is often too fast-setting, so do not use it for filling gaps. Sumo Glue or Rhino Glue are famous alternatives. They are generally pretty reliable for small tasks and are a step above superglue.

As far as glues go, I recommend Gorilla Glue. They make, in addition to regular Gorilla Glue, superglue and woodglue, both of which are some of the most versatile and water-resistant that you will find in either category. Few glues can claim to be 100% waterproof; fewer still can claim to be unaffected by extreme temperatures. Gorilla Glue can, and that’s pretty impressive. Furthermore, it is transparent, so it can be used even on glass and ceramics just as well as on wood.

If you’re looking for an all-purpose epoxy adhesive, I recommend Loctite’s 83200 1C Hysol Epoxy Adhesive. The only problem is that it is opaque and white. So steer clear of this or any similar product if you’re looking for a “finish” look.

When you’re dealing with ceramic, or one of your girlfriend’s heirlooms that you broke, some superglues are useful, but two-part epoxies are better. Remember that ceramics are delicate; you probably don’t want to use the same adhesive you just used on concrete on a vase you just cracked.

With woodwork, look for something sturdy that sets quickly. Of course, there is such a thing as wood glue, which works well in small uses, such as filling gaps. Because wood is less dense than, say, metals, you can get away with using something fast-curing or fast-setting. Woodwork is probably the most common type of job you will do around the house. One great product for woodwork is PC Products’ Superepoxy, which is fast-curing, fast-setting, and translucent, making it ideal for minor repairs.

You also may want to consider paste epoxies with wood. You can even find adhesives that are made of wood. And obviously, this gives them advantages when you’re dealing with wood (filling gaps, for example) both in function and in appearance, the two things you should always keep in mind on any project. You don’t want to fix something only to make it look horrible.

Another common use of epoxies is in plumbing. Unfortunately, we all know these happen, so we have to be ready. Here you will want to use putty epoxy. It won’t cure quickly; it will take about an hour. However, this is a job even more heavy-duty than woodwork. PC Products makes a putty epoxy that is par for the course; they also make plenty of other good adhesives.

For further information, and an indispensable guide is adhesives.org. Also, Consumer Reports is always useful, no matter what type of product you’re looking at.

Steven James Stafford is a magna cum laude graduate of the University of Massachusetts-Amherst, with Bachelors Degrees in English and in Political Science. He resides in the suburbs of Boston.