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Choosing the Right Adhesive

Choosing the right adhesive for joining two parts is often a challenge - especially when the parts are made of different materials such as wood and plastic.

White glue is the most common adhesive used for constructing model rockets.  It works well for joining the most commonly-used materials for model rockets - cardboard, paper, and balsa wood.  It doesn't stick at all to non-porous materials such as plastic. It dries reasonably quickly. It usually dries clear.  And it isn't very messy.  So, it's ideal for use when kids are building rockets.

Carpenter's glue (or "wood glue") works much like white glue.  In some cases it may create a stronger bond than white glue.  It usually dries to a yellow color and isn't much harder to clean up than white glue.  Be careful, however, when using wood glue when one part slides into another, such as when gluing a coupler into a body tube.  Wood glue tends to "catch" which might prevent you from sliding the coupler all the way into the body tube.  White glue or epoxy are usually better choices for gluing couplers into a body tube.

Epoxy is commonly used for larger rockets.  It requires mixing to prepare for use.  It's more expensive.  It smells bad.  But, in some cases, the extra strength of epoxy is needed when joining wood or paper parts.  For rocket parts made of fiberglass, epoxy is the right choice.  Epoxy can also be mixed with a filler, such as microballoons or "wood flour," which allows it to be used to fill seams or other spaces.  The fillers usually make the epoxy thicker and, once dry, easy to sand.

Joining parts made of non-porous material, such as plastic or metal, to anything else is a challenge.  Since there are some many combinations of materials which can be joined, the following links are provided to other web pages with more information.



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