Glue Class
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Lesson 3: White Glue
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Introduction: White Glue

Polyvinyl Acetate (PVA) glue, more commonly referred to as white glue, or all-purpose glue, is perhaps the most used and beloved glue of kids, crafters, makers, and pros. This glue dries clear, is somewhat flexible, and can be bonded to just about any surface.

I have used PVA glue for household repairs, binding books, crafting, the list goes on and on. It is pretty straightforward in its use and sets fairly quickly depending on how much you apply. (I can still hear my Kindergarten teacher trying to get me to understand the concept of 'a little bit goes a long way'.)

PVA is also a bonding agent in many other adhesives, like wood glue, and has been incorporated into oodles of industrial applications, even cheesemaking!

This class will go over some application techniques, a common repair, and then a cool decorative project that turns a kid-craft item into some seriously chic decor.


Tips and Facts

White glue is water-based, this means that it cleans up pretty easy and has a fairly low toxicity. This also means that white glue should not be used in applications that require any extended water resistance.

White glue has a fair amount of flow, and can be spread easily with fingers, a fancy glue applicator, a cotton swab, a pin, even a brush with just one hair - remember anything can be an applicator if you're clever enough.

White glue is useful for so many applications, it is difficult to contain to just one lesson. Instructables Community members have even used it to make their own decoupage medium.

All-purpose white glue is safe enough to be applied to the skin, so many makeup artists have used it to enhance looks that require prosthetics, but don't have the same permanence as spirit gum.

Like all glues, bonds are not strengthened or fortified until the adhesive has completely cured. It is important to clamp or jig your parts together

Depending on ambient temp and humidity levels, white glue takes about 30 minutes to set and an hour to dry, with a complete cure in 24 hours. Building a cure box with rice in a plastic tub can help speed up the process. We went over this in the Intro Class.


Removal

Oh gosh, the inevitable happened, you got glue somewhere it didn't belong - these helpful removal strategies will clean up that mess in no time.

Excess uncured glue on your repair or project?

Removing uncured white glue is a total cinch. Just wipe it off with a paper towel and if there is any remaining, you can use a damp paper towel to get the rest. If you have an excess in a hard-to-reach spot, you can use a little water on a toothbrush, or a bottle brush or a cotton swab to clean out any extra from your join. When the glue is cured, the bond shows a clean fit.

Have a white glue spill on a rug or carpet?

First, try and get to it before it dries. Using wet paper towels or rags, you can soak up as much of the uncured adhesive as possible. Be ready to use lots of towels if necessary - you want to try and pick up as much of the adhesive as possible, and using a glue-saturated rag would only make the problem worse.

If that didn’t work or if the glue has dried a bit, you can try to remove the glue with an iron and a thin cloth, or some butcher paper (a brown paper bag works too) Set the paper or rag on the stain, and using a medium heat iron without steam, press onto the paper or rag. This will liquify the glue, and it is hopefully absorbed into the cloth or paper. This method will need to be repeated, every time I have tried to do it this way, it took me about 3-4 passes, even with the smallest stains.

Dried glue on your clothes?

If you need to remove a dried glue stain out of fabric, do not use any hot water, heat, or chemical treatments before the removal of the adhesive is complete. Instead, try soaking the garment or cloth in water for 24 hours or longer to help redistribute the stain, or soften the glue. At this point, you can throw the garment in the wash, and let it air dry. Check if the stain is still there and repeat the process if necessary. Depending on the size of the stain, your fabric may be discolored or kind of rigid.

Dried glue on your surfaces?

If you need to get a small amount of dried white glue off of a tabletop, or any other hard surface, a warm cloth can be applied to the glue stain. Leave the cloth on the surface and let it rest. After a few hours, the stain should soften, and the glue should wipe clean with a clean dry cloth. Repeat this process if any glue remains.

Dried glue on your project or repair?

If you need to get a little bit of dried white glue off the project you've applied it to, you can scrape dried excess with an Exacto blade or your fingernail. If it's really giving you a hard time use a file or some sand paper.

Aaaaand that's all the situations I could think of for removing PVA glue. Do you have an interesting white-glue-removal-conundrum? Please contribute to the discussion in this class! We can solve each other's gluesome problems together!


Example Repair

Before I started at Instructables, I was working as a gallerist and art conservator - it blew my mind when I found out the best way to repair porous ceramics is with PVA white glue!

You have time to work with the white glue before it sets and cures, allowing you to nest your parts precisely. Often, super adhesives and ceramic glues aren't viscous enough and they dry too fast to nest parts properly. The following will go over repair a ceramic figurine.

Ok, so check out this broken wizard my friend found, his eyes are horrifying.

I decided to use good 'ol fashioned Elmers White glue for this repair because it is the most common PVA glue available.

I gathered up the parts of the figurine and some tools needed for this repair:

  • White glue
  • a glue brush
  • a pencil
  • rubber bands
  • some small spring clamps.
  • I also used the cure-box that I went over in the Intro.

For this repair, I had most of the pieces, but not all. So, using the pieces I did have, I figured out how the parts needed to nest together, and determined an order of operations. Establishing an assembly order for your repair ensures that you will be able to fit your pieces together without issue.

I dry-fit the large back piece of the wizard, then marked all the borders of the edges that I would have to apply glue to with a pencil.

For this repair I needed to trim down a glue brush so I could accurately apply a thin bead of glue to the raw ceramic edge of the fractured pieces.

After I nested the parts and cleaned off any excess glue with a barely dampened shop towel, I secured the pieces to with a few rubber bands and placed it in the cure-box. The cure-box is a great way to jig parts to one another, you can move the rice around to support all kinds of shapes and hold parts in place while glue sets.

If you have lots of small parts, sometimes it is best to re-assemble shapes separately and slowly. I used a small spring clamp to hold together part of the wizard's footing before I reincorporated those parts back into the figurine.

Important! Each time I ran a bead of glue down a fracture, and reassembled two pieces together, I let those glued parts sit for at least an hour before adding the next part. I know that sounds tedious, but a good repair takes time :)

Look at this wizard now?! Good as new? No. But certainly in one piece. :D


Creative Project

For this project you will need:

I've included some handy paper patterns for this class project that are easy to print on 8.5"x11" letter sized paper. Download the PDF attached to the bottom of this step.

Carefully place three sticks around the perimeter of the paper pattern. Make small glue dots on the ends of the sticks where they will be mated with the next tier of sticks.

Remember, a little goes a long way - but if you gloop a little bit over the edge, its no big deal, PVA dries clear.

Be patient between layers, I waited about 3 minutes in my chilly workshop before I applied the next layer - if you're crafting in a hurry, bust out a hair dryer to speed up the process.

Keep going til you get your desired depth. Mine ended up being 12 rings stacked at every vertice.

Allow to cure overnight, then hit the form with some clear coat to give it some shine - and you're done!

If you want to add mounting clips to hang these on the wall, we will go over that in our epoxy class.

That's a wrap on white glue, remember a little goes a long way and always leave your parts completely still while they are curing. A good cure is a motionless cure.

Our next lesson explores hot melt adhesive, aka hot glue. We'll go over the basics of how hot glue guns work, and why they are the handiest adhesive to have in the house.


Quiz

{
    "id": "quiz-1",
    "question": "What does PVA stand for?", 
    "answers":[
        {
            "title": "Potentially Volitile Adhesive",
            "correct": false
        },
        {
            "title": "Poly Vinyl Acetate",
            "correct": true
        },
       {
            "title": "Paper Vellum Adhesive",
            "correct": false
        }

    ],
    "correctNotice": "That's correct",
    "incorrectNotice": "That's incorrect"
}
{
    "id": "quiz-2",
    "question": "What is the CURE TIME of PVA?",
    "answers":[
        {
            "title": "2 hours",
            "correct": false
        },
        {
            "title": "30 minutes",
            "correct": false
        },
       {
            "title": "24 hours",
            "correct": true
        }

    ],
    "correctNotice": "That's correct",
    "incorrectNotice": "That's incorrect"
}
{
    "id": "quiz-3",
    "question": "What is the best way to get a fresh glue spill off of your floor or carpet?",
    "answers":[
        {
            "title": "Spread it around, wait for it to dry, then peel it up",
            "correct": false
        },
        {
            "title": "Soak up the uncured adhesive with damp towels, with blotting motions",
            "correct": true
        }
   
    ],
    "correctNotice": "That's correct",
    "incorrectNotice": "That's incorrect"
}

CLASS PROJECT

Share a photo of your finished project with the class!

Nice work! You've completed the class project