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More importantly, why is whatever it is the best glue for dollhouses? As a newbie, I didn’t know, but figured I should find out!
Before we dive in, you should know that I’m not a total crafting newbie. I’ve done scrapbooks and other small crafty things. I’m also a decent seamstress (and have even made a few costumes), so I know that not all glue is created equal.
For example, I’ve had to attach felt to “scratchy” costumes, and I know that doesn’t work with regular old white glue. To glue fabric to fabric, I use fabric glue. I also know that fabric glue isn’t like regular glue. Use too much, and it soaks through (and doesn’t really stick), so apply gently and with care. But, if you don’t hold the pieces together for a while, you may not get a decent seal and have to start over (protip: use a clothes pin to hold the two pieces together while the glue dries).
I figured wood glue would be the way to go. And, according to most experts, that’s not really wrong. But, there’s more than one kind of glue that works on wood, and plenty that don’t. So, I decided to take a deep dive into glue and figure out what is the best glue for dollhouses and learn why I need to use different glues for different situations.
Different Glues for Different Jobs
Just like you don’t use a butter knife to cut a steak, you don’t grab “whatever” glue you’ve got lying around and hope it works. There’s a reason why you use white glue and not tacky glue (or whatever).
Part of why you use X glue and not Y glue has to do with what happens when it cures (AKA, dries). Without delving too deep into the science of it, when glue dries, it creates a bond between the two glued surfaces. That’s what you want. But, not all glues have the same formula, so they don’t all dry the same way. Which, in turn, means they don’t form the same bond.
That’s why you use wood glue for wood and white glue for construction paper. The glues are, generally speaking, formulated to work with wood or paper or fabric, and specifically designed to create the right bond when they cure. Use the wrong glue, and you might not even get a bond.
What is the Best Glue for Dollhouses?
I didn’t know the answer to this question when I first started. I mean, I figured wood glue would be a solid choice. But, I also thought that hot glue would be another solid choice.
While some of my assumptions were right, some were wrong, and not for the reasons I expected.
Before I do the deep dive, here’s a handy infographic that spells it out:
OK. So, everyone knows about white glue, right? It’s the stuff you use in school. And, it’s perfect for paper and not much else. Which is fine, that’s it’s main purpose. But, for serious dollhouse builders (and lots of other crafters) white glue is not the right glue for any project.
It doesn’t work. Well, that’s not the right thing to say. When I say “doesn’t work,” what I mean is it doesn’t work well on wood, wallpaper, and pretty much anything you’re going to put in your dollhouse. White glue is for construction paper and school projects (mostly). It’s not for bigger projects, like a dollhouse, so that takes it out of the running for the best glue for dollhouses.
Beyond that, white glue tends to dry out over time. Sounds silly, I know. Of course, glue dries! But, white glue not only dries, as it dries out over time it gets brittle. And, when that happens, the glue bonds begin to break and that’s why things fall of junior’s creations when you look at them years later. Also, white glue can mold.
That’s not what you want for your dollhouse. So, white glue is out.
Many years ago, I worked in one of those cheap “jewelry” stores in the mall. You know what I mean when I say “jewelry.” Anyway, we sold crystal jewelry that was somewhat expensive (compared to ten for a dollar earrings), and even though it was expensive, it was still cheap. Read: prone to breaking.
Instead of sending it back to the manufacturer, we repaired it. How? With a hot glue gun. I have to say, it was pretty impressive how well hot glue could hold those “jewels” in place. The only problem I ever had with hot glue was when the glue melted; there were thin, sticky strands that hanged from the repair job. Kind of looked like spider webs. Felt like it, too. They were easy to get off, but it was weird.
I assumed that hot glue would be a reasonable contender for the best glue for dollhouses crown. But, newbie that I am, I assumed wrong. Most pros say that using hot glue on dollhouse construction is a rookie mistake.
During my research, I found several explanations of why you should never use hot glue when assembling a dollhouse. The first reason I ran across said that hot glue is mostly a craft glue and not meant for permanent sticking.
I found this explanation a little odd. Isn’t dollhouse building a craft? And, isn’t hot glue for permanent gluing? If not, I have some old customers to apologize to!
Digging a little deeper, I discover that hot glue used to be recommended for dollhouse building. It may not have been the best glue for dollhouse building, but it was up there. However, apparently the formula for the glue sticks have changed, and now they just don’t dry like they used to — meaning they don’t form a solid, lasting bond. Apparently, they leave gaps, which makes it more likely the dollhouse won’t hold together.
The experts said you could use hot glue as a temporary application. Meaning, you hot glue the pieces together to help hold them in place while the real glue dries. I’m not going to lie, as a newbie, I have not attempted this yet and may never!
I feel like I don’t have to explain this too much. Wood glue is for gluing wood. If the dollhouse is wood, wood glue is probably the best glue for dollhouses (specifically, assembling them). And, I agree, in theory.
However, the one problem with wood glue is that it dries yellow. That’s no big deal if you’re covering the joint with wallpaper or baseboard. But, if you’re painting or not covering the joint, you might get funky results.
One other recommendation for the best glue for dollhouses I kept running across was tacky glue. (I’ve been using tacky glue to build my Keeper’s House, and I have thoughts). I got tacky glue mainly because it was recommended. Also, it was on sale the day I bought the kit.
Yes, sometimes price wins over everything else.
But, why is tacky glue considered a best glue for dollhouses?
For starters, tacky glue doesn’t dry out or get brittle over time. That’s good because that means the dollhouse won’t fall one day when you aren’t looking. Or someone knocks the display table. Or, whatever. It also dries clear, which is good for painting or just leaving a natural wood look.
I will say from my experience with tacky glue, that stuff dries fast and holds pretty well!
Related: I tested tacky glue and wood glue when I did the balsa wood floor. Spoiler alert! Tacky glue wins.
What About Super Glue?
Or Krazy Glue, or Gorilla Glue, or whatever you want to call it.
Yeah. I know. I purposely kind of omitted it from the list, but with good reason.
I’ve used that kind of glue (it’s actually called cyanoacrylate, in case you’re wondering) on other projects and I have mixed feelings on the product. But, I think that’s because I can never get the right amount out, end up with too much on whatever I’m gluing and then it’s just a mess.
That said, I checked into using cyanoacrylate (I just like saying that!) on dollhouses.
Could it be the best glue for dollhouses?
Yes, in the sense that you will get a good hold and a strong stick. Because, you know, it’s pretty darn permanent.
But, and here’s the problem, that stuff dries fast! Faster than tacky glue. Some of those products will dry in as little as 10 to 45 seconds!
That’s awesome when you’re trying to glue grandma’s china back together (don’t ask) and you don’t want to stand there for even 5 minutes holding the pieces together. You can’t use a clamp, and you can’t tape it together while the glue dries, so you have to act as the clamp. Which sucks.
But when you’re putting together a dollhouse, faster isn’t necessarily always better. What happens if you put things together wrong (like I did!) and you have to pull it apart and start over. Then what? Or, what if you change your mind later and want to take the thing apart to re-do it or use it in a dollhouse bashing?
You probably could get the dollhouse apart, but at what cost?
Yeah. Cyanoacrylate is great for some things, but it’s not the best glue for dollhouses (if you ask me).
That’s Just the Beginning
I only looked at the best glue for dollhouses. And, by that I mean, the dollhouse shell. Like the floors, the walls, and the staircase. Apparently, there are other glues for other parts of the dollhouse: the shingles, wallpaper, carpet (which, FYI, probably needs tape!) and other stuff I’m not remotely ready for.
I’ll update this post as I move along, and probably create new ones, but wow. Who knew that finding the best glue for dollhouses was so complicated? Not this newbie!
And, the Best Glue for Dollhouses is…
If we’re talking about just the house (which we are), the answer is tacky glue or wood glue. I guess, in the end, it’s a personal choice. I’m starting with tacky glue (since it dries clear), but as I progress, we’ll see what happens.
Thoughts? Advice? Hit me up in the comments.
Image credit: Canva