Some people reading this title will say “yeah, sure,” and doubtless others may say “what the heck is canopy glue?” For the latter folks, read on. But even if you know what it is, you may not appreciate all it can do.
Canopy glue was developed, as the name suggests, for aircraft modelers. They have the challenge of gluing a foil “frame” onto a transparent plastic molding of an airplane canopy. The glue that’s best has these features: it doesn’t attack or craze plastic; it glues the dissimilar materials well (metal foil and plastic); it dries clear and glossy, so any excess outside the foil is minimally visible; and it remains flexible for any differences in expansion and contraction of the materials that are glued together.
Some of these features turn out to be terrific for certain kinds of railroad modeling too. I have found canopy glue to be simply outstanding for gluing different materials together: metal to plastic, plastic to wood or cardstock, metal to wood, etc. (porous materials are no problem), just in terms of how well they adhere. And the “remains flexible” part is vital too. That’s why I use it exclusively for etched metal parts, like running boards or diesel grilles. In the many years since I first used it, I have never had one of these metal parts pop off its model, as many people have experienced with CA or other rigid adhesives. Some people have utilized canopy glue’s property of drying clear and glossy to make small model windows, but I personally have not found this to work very well.
So where do you get this stuff? Usually it’s only in the model airplane section of your hobby shop – the railroad side of the shop often doesn’t seem to know about it. Craft and art stores sometimes have it too. And yes, you can order it on the internet, with shipping no problem because it’s water-based. Amazon is just one of many sites where it is available.
Sometimes you will hear it said, “it’s just white glue.” In my opinion, that’s not even close to true, except that it’s a white color and is water-base. It is much tackier right away than any white glue I’ve used – helpful in assembling things – and is much stronger when fully dry. It sets up pretty strong in three hours and develops full strength in about 24 hours. There is an Elmer’s product called Tacky Glue, but it is definitely not the same as canopy glue, being distinctly less strong. Information I’ve found says that canopy glue contains a vinyl acetate polymer, but the same appears to be true for ordinary white glue. Maybe the quantity of the polymer varies.
The source used to be Wilhold, a big glue company, and their product was named R/C-56 (for Radio/Control, obviously alluding to model airplanes). In the 1990s, Wilhold stopped making this glue. Today, there are at least two sources: one is Testor’s, the other is Pacer. (Pacer Technology sells canopy glue under the Pacer name and also under the Zap name.) Chatting with those who patronize the airplane section of hobby shops, my perception is that Pacer is regarded as much better. Here are both Pacer containers, with the Wilhold product in the center.
I think it is no accident that the Pacer version is called “Formula 560,” given that the product which introduced many to this glue was called R/C-56. In fact, Pacer’s code name for the product is PT-56.
Here are two examples of how I use canopy glue, both being the potentially troublesome etched metal parts of some length. The F7-B unit has an etched grille, and the PFE reefer has an etched running board. Both were attached years ago with canopy glue, both have undergone a goodly range of temperature variation since, and neither has budged in the slightest.
All I can say is, if you don’t already know and rely on this glue, you should give it a try. Use it for something where CA or other adhesives have let you down, and see if it isn’t better. And any time you wrinkle your brow deciding how to join two dissimilar materials, here is your answer.
I'm curious, do you know what do you clean it with? Any idea what type of solvents attack the canopy glue?ReplyDelete
By "clean up," I assume you probably mean removal of glue outside the desired area. I wipe any excess off, and using a dampened a Q-tip is often my way of completing the clean-up. Maybe you mean "clean before gluing," and other than making sure there is no loose material, I have never cleaned up gluing surfaces.ReplyDelete
In the first few days, and certainly in the first few hours after gluing, water will soften it. But once it is well set, even soaking in water does not seem to soften or loosen it (ask me how I know). I have not noticed that paint solvents or CA attack it, but I have not done anything systematic checking for what attacks it. If I were worried about that, I might Google the topic.
Great post, Tony- thanks for the information. I've known about canopy glue for some time now, but I wasn't aware that it could be used as a substitute for CA. I didn't think the bond would be that strong, but that certainly doesn't seem to be the case. I have several Stewart F7 shells that need etched metal grills, and I've been looking at a number of different glue options. Looks like I've found a solution!ReplyDelete
Glad it was helpful, Tom. By the way, in my view canopy glue does not substitute generally for CA. I use a lot of CA in modeling, especially joining small items, and for things like grab iron wire in holes, where thin CA will wick into the holes better than anything. And no question, CA is stronger than canopy glue. But where you need FLEXIBLE rather than strong, canopy glue is your friend, and likewise for porous materials.ReplyDelete
Another point worth making is that white glues generally are based on polyvinyl acetate in water, so that isn't a distinction for canopy glue. I have neither the product information nor the chemical knowledge to appreciate what makes it tackier than white glue, and substantially stronger when dry.ReplyDelete
I have a bottle Formula 560 at home but haven't used it yet. It seems very thin, like watery milk, maybe I should shake the bottle? Do you clamp parts together while the glue sets? Will it work like contact cement where you coat both surfaces, let dry, and then press together?
Chuck, you should shake the bottle firmly until you have something that is like the consistency of white glue. I often gently clamp parts (clothes pins, rubber bands) but it's not vital in many cases. The glue tacks up pretty quickly and if the joint is reasonably thin, will set up well without clamping. I have not tried to use it as contact cement, and am not aware it would work.ReplyDelete
I've heard many people talk about canopy glue, but your description is very useful and enlightening. The properties, particularly the flexibility, make me think that this might be a good solution for gluing rail to Central Valley tie strips. I've tried ACC and the rails tend to pop off. It's almost like the joint is too brittle. Any thoughts on whether this might be worth pursuing?ReplyDelete
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I have had great success using Barge Cement for gluing rail to CVMW ties. Some of my track has been in for almost 20 years and it still holds great. Here are a couple important tips: Use the old formula in the yellow and red can which is now only in quarts.Delete
Thin 50/50 with MEK. Use very small one ml. injection syringe (pull out plunger and inject glue to syringe with a larger syringe). Keep another tiny syringe on hand with MEK in it. This can be used to soften glue, even after years, to adjust rail. I have my own way of laying the rail precisely but it's too involved for this post, and you will probably think it's too much trouble. My rail is c70, 60, and 55 and the latter two need to be installed carefully.
Forgot to sign my name: Jon Harrison and I am a regular on the Cajon Pass site.Delete
My only concern in using canopy glue for gluing rail is that canopy glue is not tremendously strong. But at least it is flexible and will not pop off like the CA does. I'd say, go ahead and try the experiment.ReplyDelete
So what will remove the residue I missed when gluing on my clear canopy to a Fiberglass frame?ReplyDelete
If you do it in the first 30 minutes or so, a toothpick works fine. Later it is a little harder. I would use one of my pairs of really needle-tip tweezers to pick it off. Just be patient.ReplyDelete
I should have added that the canopy glue is quite clear once it dries, and that is an attraction for jobs like canopies: anything outside the canopy frame is transparent and not obvious. But that's not usually a model railroad issue.ReplyDelete
Great post, thanks for the info Tony-. Now I know about the glue umbrella for some time, but I CA. I Stewart F7 several shells that have etched metal grill, and I'm looking at a number of different options glue. Looks like I've found a solution!ReplyDelete
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Thanks to you I'm using Canopy Glue! Great stuff for adding see through apex & morton roofwalks to my reefers!ReplyDelete
What about shelf life? After opening, do you put it in something else, such as a plastic bag or large medicine bottle. I do that with all my glues. It only helps on some. I have wasted more money on CA/Super glues than on anything else. Now I buy the single use ones at the Dollar Tree, 3 for a dollar. So this canopy glue sounds like a good choice - especially with dis-similar materials. But only if I can store it for a while between uses.ReplyDelete
I take no precautions with secondary containers. I will say, though, that the nozzle cap gets clogged early on, and thereafter I just regard it as a bottle cap, that I remove to obtain glue. It does gradually thicken with time, that is, time in years. I have never had a bottle reach the point that I threw it away.ReplyDelete
It is possible to clean the nozzle cap with a piece of basswood and warm water. The glue doesn’t dissolve but you can push the cured glue out like we do with a white glue nozzle.Delete
Thanks, Charlie, good suggestion. My remark about clogged nozzles is mostly "old news," maybe because of different nozzle materials nowadays. My last two bottles of canopy glue, I have kept the nozzle open (and useful). But good to know a way to clean out the nozzle if necessary.Delete
Hi Tony - nice to meet you. I am a big fan of you and your layout. You have a huge amount of operation on your railroad and switching Shumala? Looks amazing.Delete
One more comment on canopy glue. I also use a syringe with a #20 needle as an applicator. I store the syringe with a piece of 0.015” PB wire in the bore. It is also possible to disassemble and clean the syringe/needle. I have kept a single syringe in service for months this way. The syringe is another good way to apply canopy glue in tight spots.
I am retired and live in Norwood MA near the Amtrak main south to New York and model O scale trolley mainly and RR a bit. I have model operation and dispatching in my past and developed our Club’s O scale OPs sessions. Our son lives in Napa and we will be out that way the end of the month.
Does any viewer know what happened to the Wilhold Glues Inc.?ReplyDelete
They are evidently out of business. No current listings for them can be found on the Internet, and their trademarks have expired.ReplyDelete
Can you tint canopy glue with paint to simulate gray rivitsReplyDelete
I don't know if this would work or not,and haven't tried it. It certainly could work, but sounds like quite a project if there are a lot of rivets to be simulated.ReplyDelete
You can tint canopy glue.ReplyDelete
Thanks to this post I got turned on to it.
in the last couple of weeks I have used it a lot for installing smd LEDs (1206 and 402s to headlight light pipes, and the backs of numberboards and reverse lenses on my Nscale decoder installs.
I did experiment with tinting it, but not in the way you are thinking as a color visible. Instead I experimented with tinting it to change the color output and luminosity of A 402 I used a a cab light, from warmer white to warm(er) white.
My first attempt was a 50/50 mix with khaki acrylic, but reduced the luminosity by about 60% and made it a deep amber color, like an old Edison lamp with poor voltage supply. Way too much. I managed to peel it off (which is why is is great fro LEDs, it dries to a peelable texture similar to clear silicone caulk) and then tried jsut the tip of a toothpick in light grey, with two drops canopy glue, mixed. This worked to give me the 25% reduction and made the light a slightly warmer but natural color.
As far as using for rivets in HO or O. Try a 50% mix, and a sharpened toothpick. Wait a couple of minutes for it to start to tack slightly and try it on a test piece of material. Walk away for an hour or two and come back. See if you lik the results. It will be harder and harder to remove at that mixture based on my experience of a few nights ago.
I use this stuff all the time to form lamp lenses on headlights and classification lamps, etc. in both my traction and mainline models.ReplyDelete
I use a pre-wired chip LED and squirt a little ball of hot glue onto it to make it almost the size of a grain of rice bulb, then brush a little tamiya transparent yellow onto it to give it a golden glow. I then install the LED/glue wad into the headlamp (or whatever kind of lamp) housing and fill the remainder of the space with canopy glue. After it dries, I add one more layer of canopy glue to account for any shrinkage and give the flat or convex lens look.
Replacing the LED hasn't been an issue, and the few times I've had to, I've just grabbed the glue/bulb wad with some needle nose and it yanks right out.
Coming to this thread pretty late, but I know from experience that the Pacer Canopy glue is used by some guitar repair folks to glue binding onto guitars. Binding is made from plastics, usually, and the glue grabs nicely as you put it on (which is pretty tricky). Good stuff!ReplyDelete
I have 2 glue topic comments,ReplyDelete
1. First Walthers GOO - when the screw cap gets sticky and stuck long before the tube is done it can be rescued by cleaning up the tube nozzle with a rag wetted with lacquer thinner till the glue residue is gone.
2. Laminating styrene to plywood bridge abutments - I had this task at the club and successfully used water based, not solvent based, contact cement to laminate 0.015 Evergreen styrene to the plywood. Paint both the plywood and back of the styrene with contact cement, let dry, apply the styrene and trim the edges. Seal the styrene to styrene edges with styrene cement.
The abutments were sprayed with Floquil concrete and are still in place after 40 years.