A first-time gluer

Family Matters

March 07, 2004|By Stephanie Shapiro | Stephanie Shapiro,Sun Staff

It was time to face my fear and pick up a glue gun. The name itself was troubling enough for someone who didn't dare light a match until an embarrassingly advanced age. And all the glue-gun fans I know have spoken of the burns they had received while wielding this handy tool.

I didn't want to get burned.

But how can you write about a glue gun without trying it? Leafing through Wild With a Glue Gun: Getting Together With Crafty Friends, by Kitty Harmon and Christine Stickler (North Light, $19.99, 2004), I found the por-table shrine project. Manageable and fun to do, the project called for fastening trinkets and memorabilia into a tiny but meaningful tableau. Best of all, I was the proud owner of several empty Altoids tins, the ideal receptacle for such shrines. I gathered charms, sea-shells, photographs, match boxes, beads and glass aquarium stones and thought about themes: My children, my travels, my love of watery realms.

The night before I planned to build my shrines, I sprayed two Altoids boxes with several coats of textured gold paint. That morning, I sprayed them again. That night, I let the possibilities flow.

An inspiration struck for honoring my son Henry. His name means "house ruler," and he always likes to remind us of that fact. So I fashioned a tin-foil crown that I would stud with little colored stones.

It was time to plug in my high-temp Adhesive Technologies glue gun. I inserted the glue stick, waited a minute and pulled the trigger. Hot, clear glue came out.

I fastened the ersatz gems onto Henry's crown. The glue quickly hardened. Now it was time to glue Henry's photo into the Altoids box. No problem, although I could feel the glue's heat as I pressed his photo into the box. Then came the crown and all sorts of items that exemplify my 12-year-old. He liked it!

Before long, I wasn't stressing about the glue. I was eager to do another shrine. This one was an ode to a trip to Japan.

It didn't take long to handle the gun more nimbly. I was still mindful of the hot glue, but fear no longer vied with the urge to create.

I even got burned slightly once or twice and simply shrugged. I was now one of an enormous confederacy of glue-gun toting crafters, bursting with ideas and boasting the scars to prove it.

Suggestions for glue-gun use

* To avoid glue burns, plunge fingers in ice water before trying to stick things together.

* If possible, handle objects that you plan to glue with tweezers, toothpicks or chopsticks.

* Supervise children who are using glue guns.

* There are glue-gun sticks for wood, glass, fabric, jewelry and other surfaces. Choose accordingly.

* Glue-gun bonds work best for decorative projects, when long-term tensile strength is not required.

* Smooth, non-porous surfaces are the hardest to bond. Clean surface; sand it if possible.

* Never force glue through your glue gun. It will damage the trigger and feed mechanism.

* Avoid creating glue strings by pulling away from a drop of glue with a little twist.

* To eliminate glue strings on a project, blow-dry it on a low setting. The strings will start to disappear.

* When finished using your glue gun, let it cool, and clean the excess glue from the tip with a used fabric softener sheet.

Tips compiled from the Hobby Industry Association, Christine Stickler and her Seattle crafting circle, Adhesive Technologies and Aleene's craft supply company.

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