Saturday, May 26

Opinions as Strong as Glue Stick

I'm sure everyone's been paying attention, but I feel like I need to be clear about my preferences in glue stick.

Is it urgent? No. I just like to boost for good products and warn against poor ones.

Is that geeky? Likely, but life's too short to want to be like other people, to live others' lives in replacement of one's own. And life's too short to be embarrassed—for very long—about flying one's freak flag.

I use a lot of glue stick (a lot) so I have some opinions about it. I've used it to craft and seal envelopes, to cover Moleskine notebooks, to wrap presents, repair library books, flyer around town, &c. In the course of using a lot of glue stick, one may develop a curiosity about alternative brands and, consequently, to notice trends and tendencies of one product against another. This is fine and natural, and I believe it's important to share one's impressions with others.

I'm sure I've used other, generic glue sticks before, and if I were very diligent I would run out and pick some up. I know Office Depot has a house brand, and Target probably carries alternate brands. I'm only reviewing what I happen to have on hand.


I knew I would be using up a lot of glue stick on my travels throughout Southeast Asia, for example. I bought an extra-large Moleskine folio to use as a kind of scrapbook, collecting business cards, maps, tourist brochures, photos, and all sorts of odds and ends I found along the way. I just wanted to paste them quickly into the book and save them for future perusal. I like the artifacts of other nations, the details of foreign contexts.

So I packed a couple Elmer's glue sticks and went through them fine enough, but the thing about glue sticks in my possession is that they don't seem to last very long. I burned through two in two months, approximately, and I needed to shop for more. Fortunately for someone like me, SE Asia is full of stationery shops everywhere you go. Seriously! It's like paper, pens, ink, glue, and notebooks are really important to them.

It was no problem at all to find a Thai store selling glue stick (photo: center), and I was really impressed with this. Its English name is "Sticko" but it's made in Korea and I can't find a website for it. What's problematic in researching this is that not all of the rest of the world respects U.S. trademark, so Sticko could be something else's name entirely. What I noticed about the tube itself was that it was precisely identical to the Elmer's tube in every way except size: the smooth-headed cap bore the same vertical grooves, and the base grip to elevate the glue was exactly like the U.S. brand. Maybe Elmer's even makes other off-brands of its own product exclusively for sale outside the U.S. Lots of companies do that.

Eventually that ran out, and even more eventually I returned to the States. It was several months before I discovered UHU, however, and that was in the book-making section of The Loft. I figured an organization like that would know a thing or two about application-specific adhesives so I gambled on a tube of it.

Here's the salient difference between Elmer's and UHU: moisture. Using Elmer's will warp whatever you're gluing. If it's a piece of paper, it doesn't matter, but if you're applying a coat to the kraft cover of a Moleskine, say, it will bend like a bow. This is irritating for applying items to it and confounding to straighten out: I have to let a booklet dry under the weight of several large tomes or heavy appliances. Not so with UHU: no warping, and you can leave it to dry on your table top. Its glue doesn't retain as much moisture as Elmer's seems to, for some reason, so it's a very flexible and cooperative adhesive for paper projects, in my experience.

2 comments:

seijikat said...

This is awesome. I need to wallpaper a doll house diorama. I tried Elmers but like you said it was too gooey and it made the walls [inch thick foamboard] warp and curl. >_<'

Christian Fredrickson said...

I'm delighted to have helped! Not everyone needs this information, but someone does and that's why I'm here.