Gettin' Sticky: A Guide To Hobby Glue

Writing is like a muscle: you have to exercise it for improvement.  I haven't written routinely since graduate school, and I'm trying to keep to a daily  writing schedule in order to make myself better (and hopefully be able to one day freelance).  One of my self-proposed projects is creating a humorous but useful beginner's guide to building dollhouses, so the following is the start of a segment on choosing glue.  Please be gentle on me, I certainly don't use materials or do things the way most people would... 

There may be no other material that you will use more in miniature-making than glue.  It may seem simple, but the type and brand of glue you use is extremely important and can determine the longevity of your project.  The following is my unbiased opinion of different types of glue.

Tacky Glue

Perhaps the glue that I use most often is tacky glue.  There are so many pros for tacky glue that make it almost perfect.  First, it lasts a long time…well, sort of.  I’ve had projects pasted with tacky glue that have survived over a decade, while other projects seem to need regluing on a regular basis, BUT usually only because they hit something as opposed to just falling off by themselves.  With that being said, another pro for tacky glue is that for most pieces, the adhesion is very strong, but not strong enough to resist pulling apart if slight force is applied.  This is especially helpful if, a few days later, your project needs “editing.”  The other key pro for tacky glue is the price.  Most major craft stores carry generic tacky glues, and even my favorite name-brand (Aleene’s Original Tacky Glue) is only about $4 - $6.
Pros:  Adhesion, price, non-toxicity
Cons:  Sheen (most dry glossy which is okay for some projects but not for others), dry time (allow at least 2 hours to dry)

 Mod Podge

The glue I use second most often is Mod Podge.  The popularity of Mod Podge exploded in the 1960s and its packaging label has barely changed since then.  The best thing about this glue is its versatility: it’s a glue, it’s a sealer, it’s matte, it’s glossy, it’s awesome!  Likewise, the popularity of Mod Podge makes it available in almost any shop: from craft to big box stores.  However, Mod Podge doesn’t come without cons.  One of the main cons of this glue is its long dry time.  Mod Podge is runny, thin, and takes a while to dry completely.  It also doesn’t hold pieces together very well, which is why I primarily use it as a sealer versus an adhesive agent. 
Pros:  Versatility, availability, application color (it goes on cloudy white, but dries clear which allows for an even application), non-toxicity
Cons:  Dry time, texture (it’s difficult to achieve a non-textured finish with this glue, but adding texture is great for certain projects)

Wood Glue
When gluing wood (even finished wood), this glue is perfect.  The adhesion lasts a very long time and creates a strong seal.  Likewise, it can usually be sanded and/or stained; however, this is also a con since you never truly get a matching finish to the project you’re gluing.  It’s been my experience that even if I stain the wood glue seam the same color as the actual wood it’s bonding, the stain comes out much lighter on the glued portion.  Similarly, wood glue is very runny and bleeds/leaks easily before drying.
Pros: Adhesion strength, finishing ability, availability (wood glue comes in many brands and prices grades  especially when buying from a home improvement store)
Cons:  Finishing ability, watery consistency, dry time, toxicity   

Gorilla Glue
Gorilla brand makes a variety of glues including wood glue, super glue, and epoxy; however, my review pertains to the classic, light brown version (Gorilla also makes this type in a white, faster drying formula though I have yet to try it).  The best thing about this glue is its adhesion strength.  This stuff is strong (like a gorilla!) so don’t expect to be able to change your mind after it dries.  It can also be used on a variety of surfaces including wood, metal, and glass.  Although I frequently use Gorilla Glue, it has many drawbacks and you need to be very careful when using it on smaller pieces.  Gorilla Glue expands 2-3x its original size while drying.  So that little dot of glue you put on your piece may become the size of a quarter the next morning.  Also, Gorilla Glue recommends a step-by-step process for gluing that is more time consuming than complicated.  This process includes wetting the surfaces and tightly clamping the two pieces together.  Personally, I have never dampened the surfaces I've needed gluing and rarely clamp, and I've achieved the same strong results.
Pros: Strength
Cons: Expansion when dry, suggested gluing steps

Hot Glue

Hot glue has been a favorite adhesive of crafters for many years, but when it comes to building dollhouses, I absolutely hate this glue.  Okay, hate is a strong word, but I refuse to use a hot glue gun in any of my projects for many reasons.  First, the strength of the bond is the biggest con for hot glue and also its biggest pro (stay with me).  Hot glue does not last.  It just doesn't.  Ask any miniaturist who has rehabilitated a pre-made dollhouse, and he or she will tell you that it's the easiest process when the original builder used hot glue because everything can be taken apart without much effort. To be fair to hot glue, the other pro besides the ability to refurbish projects over time is its dry time. Hot glue dries very quickly (probably why it has become a favorite).  Once that liquid glue hits your piece, you only have a few seconds before it hardens again.  As for more cons, I guarantee you that anyone who has used a hot glue gun can gladly reminisce about the time he or she burned the living heck out of his or her finger...or hand or arm or any combination thereof.  Hot glue is literally molten liquid glue coming out of a scolding metal point.  It's like crafting with a baby volcano.  Plus, preschool has hardwired me into thinking I'm able to manipulate the glue with my fingers when it's on the surface, which I do especially when trying to wipe away glue that has leaked or bled.  So not only have I personally burned myself on a hot glue gun, but also on the hot glue itself.  That's a lot of pain to endure for something that will break apart a few days later.

Pros:  Weak strength, dry time
Cons: Weak strength, burn scars, smell (it has the odor of a tire fire)

Of course, there are a multitude of other glues out there, but these are the ones I use most often or heavily dislike.


  1. Thanks for the review ;)

    I dunno Maria, I personally think that I might start using titebond ultimate wood glue for facial masks soon

    < Jane loves the wood glue ;P >

    1. People love the wood glue! I gotta seriously rethink my tacky glue obsession.

  2. Thank you for all the information it is very helpful though I don't know the gorilla glue and as far as I know we don't sell the mod podge here either. I did get a bottle of it in America but as yet have not tried it :)
    Hugs Maria

  3. This is really helpful, thanks, Maria! Of course, thanks to you I have to go on a trip to Michaels and get myself some Mod Podge now!

  4. Hello Maria,
    Great glue guide. When I started the hobby I thoguht everything could be done with hot glue I have learned. I wish I had read helpful blogs like this at the time.
    Big hug,

  5. Hi maria,
    My husband and 9yo daughter started building a HUGE dollhouse, which may be sort of an heirloom for her to pass down. The instructions call for a hot glue gun, which I went out and bought an Aleene brand, and was looking on here to see if I can use any name brand hot glue sticks or if they are equal, but now you have me scared and maybe we should use a different type of glue? They have the staircases complete, and foundation complete, so we could change glue at this point.... what do u recommend? And help would be much appreciated... Thank you!

    1. Hi Nicole,
      I would definitely recommend using wood glue for the structural pieces and most of the actual build. I use tacky glue for little projects, but recommend wood glue for most of the building. Hope that helps a little, and I wouldn't worry about the already glued bits.

  6. Thank you so much! I was worried about the hot glue from the beginning, because I'm a crafter and I know how it is in temp changes, but the instructions called for it, I've never built a dollhouse b4, so this is a new adventure, and I really want it to last! How do u hold the pieces together till the glue dries? And my previous comment was supposed to say, Any help would be appreciated, sorta sounded like I was demanding, lol. Gotta love typing from your phone. :)
    Thx again,

    1. I use adjustable clamps and spring clamps that you can buy at home improvement stores, and I also use masking tape because it peels off without ruining the surface. I'm a member of the Greenleaf Dollhouse forum , it's a wonderful resource for any dollhouse you're building (even if it's not Greenleaf brand). Every time I use my phone or tablet to write something, I make a ridiculous typo so you don't have to explain :)

  7. Ahhhhh. Thank you, you are awesome, I will look up that forum. We are building the Greenleaf Garfield house. The masking tape probably keeps the glue from running too.... hmmmm. Thanks again for your help!


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