Hot Glue Mastery Posted by 1stage on Apr 20, 2012
So, what's to "Master" with hot glue? You plug the gun in, it gets hot, you stick the glue stick in the back and squeeze it through with the trigger onto what you need to stick things to, right?

Yeah, those are the basics.

But having used a hot glue gun for 10 hours a day for months on end, having squirted hundreds of 10" glue sticks through the same glue gun over the course of nine months, and having nursed my share of burns and blisters, hopefully, I have a few pearls of wisdom to share.

Here, in short are a few that I live and work by, particularly when I'm making puppets:

  • Buy two glue guns - Glue guns are cheap, and sometimes your need for glue exceeds the capacity that one gun can melt in a short period of time.
  • Wipe your glue guns down frequently - It's much easier to clean a glue gun while the glue is hot. Using a paper towel, wipe the nozzle and sides down after an hour or two of work, or when you're done for the day. It will minimize carmelization (darkening) of the waste glue, and will allow you to deliver a cleaner bead of glue in tight spaces. Also, this helps cut down on "spider webs".
  • Remove the stupid "stand" - Many hot glue guns have a worthless fold-out "stand" hinged to the end of the gun. Get rid of it and lay it on it's side like everyone else. Some folks have even made their own glue gun holser/stands out of wire, which work well.
  • Play with the big boys - The smaller "craft" glue guns are fine for kids, but the sticks are small and expensive. Use a glue gun with at least 60 watts of power.
  • Buy in bulk - Buy large quantities of 7/16" - 5/8" diameter 10" glue sticks. You should pay no more than $0.30 cents a stick ($0.20 is ideal), or you're wasting money.
  • Use disposable gloves or grow thicker skin - The best way to keep from getting burns is to 1) stay away from the nozzle, 2) cover your skin, or 3) get very good with the "booger rolling" technique of getting the glue off of your skin. Gloves are cheap. I recommend latex gloves that fit snuggly. Vinyl gloves are fine for those with latex allergies, but they melt VERY quickly and can sometimes burn worse than the hot glue. Nitrile gloves also work, but are more expensive, and a bit thicker and harder to work with.
  • Mr. Freeze - Hot glue works because it comes out hot and then cools down. But for those of you who have waited several minutes for larger puddles of molten glue to solidify, you know what a time waster it can be. I use canned air to cool hot glue down instantly. NOTE: THIS IS NOT FOR CHILDREN OR PEOPLE WHO ARE PRONE TO STUPID THINGS. With the small straw attached to the can nozzle, I turn the whole can upside down and allow the liquid inside to spray on the hot glue I need to set quickly. It is INSANELY cold, and can cause a frostbite burn that can be worse than a hot glue burn, but if used carefully, it can cut your hot glue project work (ESPECIALLY GLUING FOAM) to 1/4 the time. Another downside is that some idiots tend to use canned air to get high (Google "huffing" if you're concerned), so manufacturers put bittering agents in the liquid. If you get it on your hands (you will) and then touch your lips, it will be like licking ear wax. Wash your hands when you're done. It's harmless, but nasty. Also, use this method in a well-ventilated room. The refrigerant dissipates quickly and reacts with other chemicals in the air, and I have NEVER gotten light-headed from using it. AGAIN, THIS IS NOT FOR CHILDREN OR PEOPLE WHO ARE CARELESS.
  • God Bless Gaffer's Tape - Gaffer's tape is a fabric tape with a rubber-based adhesive that leaves almost no residue behind. I use strips of gaffer's tape to hold sections of reticulated foam together while I have a chance to tack parts together with hot glue. I recommend getting the 60yd rolls (the 30yd rolls are a waste). I also use this tape for mouth plate hinges, but that's another post for another day.
  • Waxed or Coated Butcher's Paper - I have two small cardboard boxes I use as pedestals for my hot glue guns. The boxes are each the size of a large, thick book, but what's important is that I wrap them in waxed or coated butcher's craft paper. This keeps the glue guns from sticking to the cardboard, and make clean up (see above) a breeze, both for the glue gun and the box.
  • And One Crafty Bit - I had a scenario where I needed a bunch of boogers (or bogies, in Europe) for a scene in a skit. I got a small bucket (I think it was a plastic Trick or Treat pail) and filled it with cold water. I created the long, goopey boogers by squirting the hot glue into the water. I have also used clear hot glue as "dew drops" on plants, as replacement grips on tools, and as beads of snot on masks and puppets.
  • Frikkin' Spider Webs - The strings that come off of glue guns are called spider webs. There is no good way to eliminate them, but if you wipe down your glue gun regularly, this can be minimized. Also, having a spare, clean feather duster (or similar) near your space can quickly remove them. You can also use a lint roller, or a wrap of gaffer's tape on your hand to quickly remove them from the surface of projects.

Hope these helped.

- Sean
Re: Hot Glue Mastery Posted by Shawn on Apr 20, 2012
Those tips are great! Thanks for sharing with everyone. 

I have to ditto your Mr. Freeze tip.  Actually one reason I never really liked using glue gun to glue foam was the fact that it seemed to never cool down and stick on foam.  Last fall I was working with a builder from Seattle and he pulled out a can of air and proceeded to repair some foam wigs we where working with.  Simply blew me away how effective and fast that made the repairs go!
Re: Hot Glue Mastery Posted by Billy D. Fuller on Apr 20, 2012
Thanks for the tips............. and all are very good ones. I recently purchased Cathie Filans hot glue gun helpers. I got tired of burning my fingers and these are pretty good tools to use.

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