back to article Next-generation materials for post-Christmas repairs: Reg investigates

Toys break, normally within a few days of Christmas, so most parents keep a tube of glue alongside the traditional Christmas battery selection, but that's old hat now. The with-it dad is packing flexible polymer, these days. Having torn the paper from colourful blocks of plastic found under the Christmas tree children move on …


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  1. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    What! no super glue

    What, no super glue or glue-guns.

    1. Stoneshop Silver badge

      Read again

      Superglue is old hat, and its primary use is sticking whatever it is to be repaired to your fingers. As for glue guns, those were mentioned, especially their drawbacks

    2. Steve Oliver 1


      Glue gun was mentioned in the third paragraph. Araldite is cyanoacrylate, same as most "superglues" (eg Loctite).

      A quick audit of my "fixing box" turned up a glue gun, Sugru (probably out of date now, though), Araldite (slow- and fast-setting, plus Loctite), Polymorph, and plasticine. I'm well prepared for another year of breakages!

      1. richard 7

        Araldite is cyanoacrylate

        Nuh Uh, Its Epoxy based unsually. Have been using a metalised epoxy of late for laptop repairs and its damn near indestructable.

      2. Richard 12 Silver badge

        Erm, no. Araldite is a two-part epoxy resin

        Same kind of stuff that's used in fibreglass to hold the glass fibres together.

        Superglue is correctly known as cyanoacrylate - the Loctite you are probably thinking of is cyanoacrylate, however Loctite make a great many adhesives (I *luff* 242 - medium strength threadlocker)

        As to why superglue is best at sticking thing to your fingers - it was designed to be a quicker alternative to sutures in the battlefield, so the whole idea was to stick flesh together!

        It's only an accident that it happens to be able to stick other things.

        - It's also water-catalysed, so you get a much better result by ensuring that your fingers are absolutely bone-dry before starting.

        1. mfraz


          Yep 10-1 mix of AY103 and HY951, but I prefer to use Hysol EA9396 these days.

        2. LaeMing

          Problem with superglue...

 it tends to cause 'frosting' (white residue) anywhere its curing fumes reach. You can remove this easily enough for glass and ceramics, but not so much for plasics and polymer paints, which may not be so good for toys and ornaments where the look of the item is part of its value/function. I have experimented with using masking tape to protect the area around the joins when fixing plastic objects, it works somewhat, depending on the complexity of the item's shape.

          The join created by SG, of course, is very strong, though brittle, which is good if the material you are joining is rigid, not so much if it has some plasticity.

          @Richard12: very interesting - I knew cyanoacrylate was often used in brain surgery but didn't realise it was invented explicitly for that sort of thing!

          For acrylics you can't go past one of the Acrylic Joiners (I use Acryfix and WeldOn brands*). Since this doesn't so much glue the stuff as chemically-weld it. If done right (which takes more equipment than I have access to) you end up with the origional unbroken piece. Even done at work-shop level you get close.


          *false-nail remover can work too, depending on the type - the stuff used to be exactly the same as the industrial version, but it is mildly toxic on skin-contact so it has mostly been replaced with other chemicals that don't do such a good join, but don't poision people getting frequent manicures either

          1. skeptical i

            Acetone, used to be in nail-polish remover, not sure if it still is ...

            ... dissolves cyanoacrylate. (Thus, one does not necessarily lose butch points for having a bottle of the stuff on premises; also, nail polish is good cheap model/ touchup paint). It is a bit of a neurotoxin, and that "whoo, feathery!" feeling one gets in the fingers and hands after working with/in it for a while is probably not a good thing.

            Nail polish remover (presumably acetone-based) was on the list of stuff thou shalt not pack and bring aboard aircraft, so I'm guessing the marketing powers that be created a non-flammable (and most likely less-effective) version that is considered TSA-safe.

            Thanks, all, for the suggestions for alternatives to superglue!

            1. Mermite

              Ethyl acetate


            2. itzman

              CA is also dissolved by Nitromethane

              And a few other things: proprietary CA debonders use that and acetone and a sort of gel type binder to make a witches brew. Its horrendously expensive but it works.

              Soaking in acetone does too BUT the insane volatility of it means its best done in a container with a sealable top.

              Acetone is rather hard to come by: glass fibre suppliers sell it, but its an issue as it's the solvent of choice for a lot of street drug chemical preparations.

          2. Anonymous Coward
            Anonymous Coward

            Nail polish remover

            Laboratories and factories have stringent controls on fumes, yet walk into a nail bar and you're overwhelmed by the stench of solvent. I'm amazed the workers remain conscious.

            1. Anonymous Coward
              Anonymous Coward

              Re: Nail polish remover

              P.S. I'm abroad, I'm not posting at 23:30 on New Year's Eve.

              P.P.S. I can't believe El Reg is making its moderators work tonight. I hope you're suitably sloshed!

        3. Stoneshop Silver badge

          a quicker alternative to sutures

          - Use brand spanking new Stanley blade to open thumb

          - Look bemusedly at inside of thumb, notice lack of profuse bleeding and cleanliness of cut

          - Grab superglue, close thumb, apply two drops across incision

          - Apply bandage against ingress of dirt, continue working


        4. Random Handle

          >it was designed to be a quicker alternative to sutures in the battlefield

          Nope - it was designed by Kodak as an extra strong transparent plastic for gun sights during WW2, but was a fail.....after which they repurposed as a general adhesive initially with optics.

          Use in medicine didn't begin til the 60's and the toxic nature of earlier brews was such it didn't actually get FDA approval as a skin adhesive until the 90's.

      3. itzman

        Araldite is not Cyanacrylate .is EPOXY

        .. and as such is NOT a very good quick bodge material nor is it suitable for use on olefin type polymers.

        As a fairly serious model maker at some points in my leisure career, and someone whop built with assistance his own house, all the glues known to man have passed between my fingers, and stuck them together.

        I mean, how much time have you got?

        The most ubiquitous D-I-Y repair compound has been omitted however, so famous for its ubiquity that it raises a cheer and with the most ubiquitous tool, whenever suggested as a solution to any D-I-Y problem on that well known man-in-a-shed discussion group nntp:uk-d-i-y

        And that is CAR BODY FILLER and the ANGLE GRINDER.

        Car body filler/'liquid metal' is easier to mix, and goes off quicker and more reliably than epoxy - its based on polyester - and is the nearest thing to industrial strength gap filling stick anything to anything..except polystyrene foam which it dissolves. That remains the hot glue province.

        Oh and by the way, china repairs are best done with a fast setting epoxy - and also are best stoved in an oven at 60-100C.

        For earthenware pots a loaded and stiffer and colored alternative exists as Milliput.

        But in both case do use exactly equal amounts - epoxy sets by chemical reaction, not catalysis, and improper mixing and unequal quantities result in a glue that never sets.

        1. Stoneshop Silver badge

          polystyrene foam

          Conventional wood glue works quite well, as does chewing gum.

  2. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    I normally take all my broken things to work to fix, where I can use structural adhesives used on aircraft. Only trouble is they take a fairly long time to cure.

    1. Chris 3

      The fumes are/were also used...

      ... for revealing fingerprints.... at least they were during the late 1980s when a forensic chappy lectured at university.

      1. MarkB

        Re: The fumes are/were also used...

        Watch enough episodes of CSI and you'll know about superglue for fingerprints...

  3. adnim

    Hey kids...

    You broke it, you fucking fix it!

    Happy new year. Prosperity, tolerance and peace to you all regardless of IQ, religion, political persuasion, creed, color, sexuality etc. etc. You know all that stuff that makes one an individual or a sheep.

  4. Anonymous Coward


    Didn't the Polymorph star in one of the better episodes of Red Dwarf, back when it was still funny?

    [I'm too lazy to look it up myself but I'm sure there'll be a SciFi geek along any minute now]

  5. Arctic fox

    The only preparations you need are......... gag and one set of handcuffs per child. -:P

  6. jon 72

    Polymorph == new_tech?

    Been using it for years myself to make custom pistol grips

    and hear it's quite popular with those creating implements

    & devices amongst the 'Adult' toy enthusiasts.

  7. Cliff

    Worth an honourable mention, even if only for posterity, is milliput - this sugru stuff looks like a soft-finish milliput (which sets hard) - moldable, slightly sticky, cures into something custom. I use it for when cheapo micro-usb adapters break leaving vulnerable little wires in the useful plug bit, but needing protecting. Oh, and being hard, it is also good for when you need to modify bits of machinery, like a worn bit of vending machine that can get an extra years life for a few pence.

  8. Bsquared

    Buy British!! (erm, shurely shome mishtake?) - Sugru was invented by an Irish woman working in London. It's bloody awesome, but as the article points out, it has a very short shelflife - bizarre, considering it comes in tiny little sealed packets.

    Polymorph looks good, and much cheaper than Sugru. I particularly enjoyed the warning on the website NOT to mould it around any body-part, as it might harden and be difficult to remove. *smirk*

    1. Local Group

      Just curious

      Are the packets too tiny for an International Do Not Warning Sign with a stick figure illustration of the unwisest use of the product inside a red bordered circle with a red stroke through it?

      1. Stoneshop Silver badge

        @Local Group

        Sugru, silicone-type rubbery stuff - tiny packets

        Polymorph (polycaprolactone), comes as granules - larger packets. This is the stuff they don't want you to mould around body parts.

        Even though you prepare polymorph using hot water (> 70C) you can handle it without scalding yourself; it doesn't conduct heat very well.

  9. Craig 28

    Rubberised superglues are available, I believe there is one available called "filla glu" here in the UK that works fairly well. Significantly stronger than normal superglue, slightly more working time but not so long as to require you to hold the parts still for long, can fill gaps and is sandable.

    Superglue is indeed catalysed by water, this does however weaken the bond noticeably and can release an amount of heat. I've heard anecdotal reports of people getting superglue on their fingers and feeling burning when they try to wash it off. I never experienced this with superglue myself, and the water does tend to make the resulting mess on your fingers more crumbly than it would be otherwise. Not something I will recommend to others though, I wouldn't like to risk being sued.

    Two part epoxies like araldite take several minutes to set but remember they can take anything from 24 to 72 hours to completely cure. The longer the curing time however the stronger the bond generally.

    If you ever need an overview of domestic adhesives you could do worse than try finding someone you know who assembles model kits, whether this is airfix type or wargames type. Polystyrene cement is only suitable for a certain plastic however so those working at a very basic level aren't much help.

    I'll have to investigate Sugru. Depending on its properties it might be a viable modelling alternative to Araldite when working with resin miniatures.

  10. DF118
    Thumb Up


    Love the stuff. Used it on many an occasion to replace cracked plastic equipment casing where the cracked part has been lost (usually around laptops' power sockets). Build up rough replica then, once fully cured, drill/mill with rotary tool to get back to the correct shape.

    1. TeeCee Gold badge
      Thumb Up

      Best Araldite moment for me was using it as an emergency repair to a punctured carburettor float.

      Most satisfying, both from the point of view of working out that the problem *was* a punctured carb float and that of working out that I could fix it with Araldite and get to use the car while I ordered a replacement[1].

      Another common use for Araldite on cars was fuel tank repair. Steel petrol tanks rust through at the bottom due to water condensation accumulating over time. Rust pinholes are easily fixed by brushing off the rust and Aralditing a coin over the hole. One lad I knew had a car with a fuel tank base almost entirely constructed out of 2p bits and Araldite.

      [1] Although with hindsight I could probably have stuck (hah!) with the Araldited one.

  11. Mike Flex


  12. John Tserkezis

    I don't know what families you're talking about...

    Glue? Batteries?

    Around here, the earlier it breaks or the earlier the batteries go flat, means the sooner the toy will stop making those infernal noises, or stop moving or stop projecting whatever projectiles.

    You make it sound like you WANT that to keep the toys operational for as long as possble.

    Even my parents had the right idea. They only ever bought two sets of batteries (months apart) for my favorite toy train, which blew a whistle and rang a bell. I went so far as to steal the seemingly endless supply of torch batteries my father kept, to force-charge the flat batteries in my toy train.

    Hey I was 6, what else did you expect?

  13. cretaceousera

    it's all alchemy

    I met one of the inventors of Araldite once - it was designed to glue mirrors into tank periscopes during 2nd WW - [apparently no other method held the glass tight so it didn't vibrate, while also not cracking the glass while it was installed]

    that website that sells polymorph also sells quantum tunneling composite !

    they'll be selling matter transmuters next...

  14. DanceMan
    Thumb Up

    Thank You, thank you, thank you.

    for both the article and the replies.

    I've been using two-part epoxy and cyanoacrylate for decades here in NA but I was able to learn from this. It's why I read el reg despite having nothing to do with IT.

    OT -- for cleaning goo off things I start with alcohol and move up to kerosene or paint thinners and use lacquer thinner as a final resort (will dissolve plastics and paints). Lacquer thinner seems closely related to acetone.

    Happy New Year all.

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