How To: Glue Selection

Recently, I had a customer ask about what glues I use.  Of course, much of the answer would be a personal preference, but what if you didn’t know where to start?  I reviewed all of my adhesion requirements and was surprised to find that I use a wide variety of glues – at least seven, as shown below.

***NOTE – these are what *I* use – other modelers may have different opinions***


When I am building, my primary glue is Thick (medium) CA.  It’s what I have used since the beginning.

Recently, I have started using DUCO.  I only used it for primary construction on my Indoor NoCal Cessna 195 Turbo.  But it definitely has working its way into my building more and more.  People tell me this builds lighter than CA.  Note that “DUCO” includes Ambroid (no longer available), DUCO, Testor’s Wood Glue, Sig-Ment, and probably others.  This type of glue can be thinned (or de-bonded) with acetone.

TISSUE PRINTINGI use Scotch Restickable Glue Stick for sticking tissue to carrier (bond) paper so that I can print on the tissue.  I print a sample on regular paper and use that paper for the backing.  Then I cut the tissue to size that covers the printing, flip over to the dull side and put stripes of this glue stick around the perimeter and about every 1″-2″ to keep the center of the tissue down so the print head doesn’t drag on the tissue.


I only use UHU Glue Stick to attach the tissue to the balsa model frame.  I use the blue variety (they no longer make/sell purple), but I assume the clear is just the same, but without color added.  I don’t use other brands, but they probably do the same job.  I do NOT use dope or white glue.


Sometimes (most of the time), lettering, insignia, and even trim stripes, have to be stuck on the plane.  I use this type of glue – I am not sure what it is, but maybe is it like old time mucilage.  It is very thick and sticky.  I flip the letter or insignia (usually tissue, sometimes paper) over and put a drop or so in the center and spread the glue with my finger, usually thinning with saliva.  This stuff sticks very well.  The only issue is that if you leave a smear on the tissue, it will show amber, even after drying.


Canopies have always been a problem for me.  I can’t seem to get anything to stick to plastic.  I have tried all types of glues, but I keep coming back to “canopy glue” – R/C 56 or the equivalent.  I have started to have success by using a large bead inside the canopy where is won’t be seen (so much).


One exception is flat windows on the sides of cabin aircraft.  I use the thin plastic from business envelopes – most people receive more than enough in a week for their modeling needs.  The best, simplest, and cleanest glue to use on these is UHU Glue Stick.  Rub the glue on the back side of the tissue and stick the tissue to the film.


For repairs, I use Thick CA, Thin CA, Kicker, DUCO, and sometimes even white glue to repair tissue tears.  Note that I almost never use Thin CA and Kicker in the initial build.

That’s about it – I don’t think I use any other types of glue for my model airplanes.