It's My Glue And I'm Sticking With It


November 16, 1991|By Rob Kasper

It has been a big year for glue.

First of all, a glue guy won the Nobel Prize for physics. According to news reports, Pierre-Gilles de Gennes of the School of Chemistry and Physics in Paris won the prize for finding underlying order in the behavior of molecules in a wide range of solid materials.

I'm not sure just what that means. But I do know that when De Gennes was told of the honor, he quickly talked about glue. He said that all of his research was motivated by practicality. And as an example, he talked about the "super glues" he had developed that were strong enough to be used to assemble airplanes.

What a guy! What a glue!

The Nobel Prize winner also mentioned his children. He has seven of them. I figure his kids helped him in his glue research. If his kids are like mine, they provide him with a steady stream of broken items to experiment with.

The other major news in adhesives is somber. Ashworth Stull, the developer of Elmer's Glue-All, the man many of us credit with holding the households in this country together, died this week at the age of 74.

I don't know what kind of man Stull was. But I do know he made a good glue.

Over the years I have squirted Elmer's into uncounted cracks. Time and time again, what was once asunder -- china, glass, paper -- was joined together by the good white glue.

But other times the fix wouldn't hold. I would heal something only to have the item quickly backslide to its former fallen-down condition.

It used to frustrate me. But I have learned the error of my ways. I was asking the glue to bond beyond its bounds. In other words, I was using the wrong glue for the job.

I found this out after a repair had gone wrong. That is when I uncover many home truths.

In this case I found out the reason the rubber gasket wasn't staying in place around the car door was that the glue I used to hold it there was designed to make ceiling tiles stick to ceilings. I didn't know this when I bought it. I didn't buy this glue just because it had a picture of a glue-wielding cowgirl in a miniskirt on the tube, even though it is fun to squeeze her.

I used the wrong glue because I didn't know any better. But T. J. Byers has set me straight about adhesives. This another is another guy into glue. He is author of a fascinating chapter on fasteners in a handy book called "The Home Hardware Handbook," published by the Fireside book division of Simon and Schuster ($11.95).

Thanks to him I learned about the distinctive aromas of glue. There is the horse glue that takes its names and odor from the animal hides it is made from. It is a favorite of cabinetmakers. And there is the "pungent vinegar odor" of the silicone adhesive.

I learned that the white glues, or polyvinyl acetate, come in a variety of strengths. Moreover, they are stealth glues -- they do their work without leaving any evidence.

I learned that epoxy, the adhesive that comes in two parts that you mix together, is a good glue to use on broken china. Cyanoacrylate is the adhesive you want to use when you suspend a guy in a hard hat from a construction beam, but it is not so good for fixing plastic eyeglass frames. I never did find out what to use on eyeglass frames.

But I did narrow the list of likely adhesives I can use on the car-door gasket. The wood glue is definitely an inappropriate bonding choice, as is the hotmelt glue, even though I could apply it with a neat-looking glue gun. And since the neoprene cement seems to prefer bonding with glass, I am left with the silicone adhesive.

It may smell like vinegar, but it adheres well to metal and rubber, the two surfaces I am attempting to join together.

And so thanks to the work of the glue guys, the research of men like De Gennes and Stull, and the enthusiasm of people like Byers, I will soon stride purposely into the hardware store a grab a tube of silicone, my sticky stuff of choice.

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