Monday, November 23, 2015

A Most Sticky Subject

This morning, as we approach Thanksgiving Day, I'd like to discuss the virtues of attachment.
Which is to say I'd like to take a moment and write about glue.
After the discovery that I failed to attach the lift blocks to my small "Mayflower's" masts before they were secured into place, I found that I couldn't sleep. My mind raced as I sought to scheme ways to correct the issue. When I first got into miniature ships, I glued everything in place. Rigging, deck details, masts, all of this was glued into place. I've been a big fan of the water soluble glues like your classic PVA and their derivatives (Elmer's Glue-All, Aileen's Tacky Glue) as well as basic aliphatics (wood glue). To my friends in the UK, who have enjoyed the wonders of Secotine for generations, the closest we have here in the Colonies is Elmer's and Aileen's, which are similar though minus the fishy fragrance. My English friends tell me that Secotine is superior, but sadly it is not readily available here. Anyway, I have seen very little deterioration in the PVA's and aliphatics. The steam paddle tug I made for my Dad, the "Uncle Sam", is largely intact, the only damage it having received being that from when it was dropped. It is still intact twenty five years later.
Clearly, those water soluble wonder adhesives will stay with me. With caveats, however.
They are all but useless when dealing with polystyrene plastic, or any plastics for that matter.
The PVA's and aliphatics rely on the porousness of the materials to work properly, and even the hardest woods still have pores on the microscopic level. Not so plastics. They are smooth, indeed with some being so-called "self lubricating" (think polyethylene, nylons, polyesters). To attach two piece of plastic to one another, one must rely on either solvents or cyanoacrylates (CA or "Super Glue"). There are other adhesives of some value when dealing with those nasty self-lubricating engineering plastics. I recall one such concoction from our friends at DuPont that was yellow and could pretty much bond anything together, but it really was a bad choice for model work. So for plastics, most of the times its the first two I mentioned with regards to them. I have to use non-toxic Testors Plastic Cement, which leaves a wonderfully citrus smell, as if one has driven through an orange grove with a snow plow. For unpainted plastic, solvents and CA are immortal. Both weld the two components together, and that's it. Using them on painted surfaces yields less immortal results, and I am tempted to say that they are indeed fleetingly mortal. For instance, the small diesel tug I built after the "Uncle Sam" is basically falling apart.
Which then brings me to another point, and this is the heart of the matter. When I read Lloyd McCaffery's book "Ships in Miniature", he stressed permanent, physical connections. By this, he meant using trenails (small wooden nails), pegs, very fine wire and line for tying, etc. While he uses glues (in his case, hide based, which I really am not fond of for a variety of reasons), his initial attachments are made physically.
Which is what I have been doing. Well, at least trying to do. While I still use Aileen's Tacky Glue for some attaching by itself, I have been striving to plan everything out in such a way that glue is not to be relied upon.
Which brings me back full circle, at last, to the "Mayflower".
I am going to have to use a surgeon's skill for what I am going to do this afternoon; strop the lower lifts into place whilst working around all that rigging that is already up. These are items that cannot be simply glued. as they will be stressed.
Having another cup of coffee as I gird my loins for this task. As they used to say whilst working the yards on those great sailing ships of yore, "grumble ye may, but go ye must".

No comments:

Post a Comment