Sooner or later when working with polymer clay you’ll need to glue things together. You might have already baked something when you want to add more design elements. Or you might need to add a bail to a pendant. Or perhaps you want to glue earring posts onto some neat little polymer cabochons. Or crystals to a design. What next? What’s the best glue for polymer clay?
I’ve been asking experienced clayers this question for a long time and I’ve received hundreds of responses. I’ve checked out glue websites. I’ve read glue package labels. I wish I could say that I’ve tested all these options. In some ways, I have, through sheer experience (and failure) with many of the products and strategies listed. But to do a side-by-side comparison of dozens of glues on several brands of polymer clay and then evaluate their durability over years would be quite the logistical nightmare. So in this case I just compiled what I’ve learned from all of you and will summarize here. I hope you find it helpful.
There Is No Perfect Glue for Polymer Clay
I would love to be able say, “Buy this glue, it’s perfect for all your polymer clay projects!” But I can’t. No one glue or gluing strategy is good for all situations. Every glue has its fans. And every glue has just as many people complaining that it failed.
I’ll talk about specific situations later, but the most common scenario that people want help with is the problem of gluing cured polymer clay to metal, such as when you glue a bail to a pendant. This is a very difficult bond to make. Some glues don’t cure fully when used on polymer clay, or they degrade the clay and make it sticky. So a glue that works fantastic on another material doesn’t necessarily work great on polymer clay. Also, polymer clay is flexible and metal isn’t. So while a rigid glue like super glue works great on metal, it’s notorious for popping right off of polymer the minute the piece is subjected to any stress.
The best solution for gluing polymer clay to metal is to use a physical bond, not an adhesive bond. In other words, you can’t rely on a glue. For the most secure attachment, you need to find a way to embed the metal into the the clay itself, so the clay is physically holding onto the metal. (More on this further down.) But first, I’ll talk about the glues and other products you can use to bond polymer clay.
Gluing Polymer Clay to Metal or Glass
As I said above, using an adhesive to bond baked polymer clay to metal can be quite frustrating. Many people have found that the bond will fail within a few years and the metal will pop right off. Even when a glue works wonderfully for other applications, you’ll find it quite challenging to get a good long-term bond of baked polymer clay to metal or glass.
Always Prepare the Surface
No matter what glue you use, it’s always best to prepare the surface. Always use alcohol or acetone to remove any surface oils from the baked polymer clay and the metal piece. Make sure the clay is lightly textured, so the glue has something to hold onto. And know that gluing anything to baked polymer that has surface treatments (sealer, mica powder, paints) just will not work. Any glue will bond to the surface treatment, not the baked polymer clay, leading to a very weak bond.
Super Glue is brand name (originally) but has now come to mean a class of glue made from cyanoacrylate. You might see this called “CA” in some groups and forums. CA is a fantastic chemical that can, believe it or not, act as a glue or even a sealer and surface for polymer clay. My pen from Toni Ransfield has a CA finish on it, in fact. CA is crystal clear, cures almost instantly (in seconds), and is notorious for gluing your fingers together. The most common brands of CA, the ones in those little tubes that end up being single-use because the cap glues itself on, are great for bonding ceramic, metal, and glass. But it’s a very brittle glue and doesn’t work well for anything that will flex, such as plastic or rubber. So when used to glue a metal bail to a polymer clay pendant, the bond will eventually fail given enough time and wear.
There are nicer grades of CA glue. There are some that have a flexible gel component to them, so they’re not quite as runny when applied, and tend to hold up better with polymer clay. A product known as Loctite Gel had many, many positive votes from my readers. Another excellent superglue gel is Gorilla Glue Superglue Gel.
Another favorite glue with polymer clay artists is one called Zap-a-Gap, and from what I can tell it’s also a gel-forumulated CA glue.
In general, cyanoacrylate glue cannot be baked because the bond will deteriorate with heat. But Lisa Pavelka’s Poly Bonder is a cyanoacrylate glue that IS formulated to have a strong bond even when baked up to 300°F (150°C).
When someone on a polymer clay on group or forum asks about the best glue for polymer clay, the most commonly recommended product is E6000. It is a clear gel-like glue that you squeeze out of a tube. It’s a superior glue for jewelry-making, in general, and does a fine job of gluing stone cabochons into a metal bezel, for instance. So most crafters have it on hand and are already familiar with it. But when used on polymer clay, it doesn’t seem to perform nearly as well. I have found that it takes a long time to cure, if it does at all, and the bond can easily be pulled apart a month later. That’s my experience. But other people report that the glue cures nicely but then has the same trouble as the CA glues…it is brittle and the bond will pop apart at a later date. If you’re having good luck with E6000, then great. But don’t feel badly if you don’t.
E6000 does have a strong solvent component and is pretty noxious to breathe. While it doesn’t degrade polymer clay, it can give you a headache so make sure you use good ventilation with this one. Know that you cannot bake E6000, the bond will degrade with heat. Also, the shelf life, once opened, of a tube of E6000 seems to be pretty short. If it’s rubbery and gummy coming out of the tube, toss it and buy a new tube.
G-S Hypo Cement
I used to love G-S Hypo Cement. It is a solvent-based glue very similar to E6000, but it comes in a tiny tube with a needle-tip applicator. It’s a wonderful glue for putting a pinpoint of glue on beading thread knots, tiny bits of metal, and when gluing jewelry. But the last several tubes have disappointed me greatly. For one thing, the needle tip seems to come out of the tube. And it behaves in just the way that E6000 does…it fails to cure and stays goopy for a long time. (Note: It does occur to me that the formulation of polymer clay has changed, and perhaps some brands and some colors have something in the clay causes the glues to fail to cure. This is just a guess, but it might explain the wide variation in results. I swear, this glue used to work and now it doesn’t.)
You might have used Urethane glues such as Gorilla Glue. In general they expand and foam while curing, making them messy and frustrating to use. But there is a really nice urethane glue called Liquid Fusion. It comes in a bottle, is about the same consistency of honey, has a mild fresh odor, is non-toxic, and dries clear and glossy in about 2-4 hours. Liquid Fusion doesn’t get foamy like Gorilla Glue. In fact, you can use Liquid Fusion as a resin substitute to make a thick clear coat on polymer clay. This dries hard, clear, and durable. I think it holds great promise and would like to explore it further. Let me know in comments if you’ve used this glue.
Epoxies are a general class of adhesives and coatings where you combine equal parts of two resins to create an activated product that hardens within seconds to hours, depending on the formulation. You probably have tubes of epoxy glue in your garage or workshop as it’s an excellent all-around glue for bonding all sorts of things. The simplest epoxy glues are those little tubes, that look like super glue, that you mix together with a toothpick and apply to your project. Epoxy glues are often packaged in a double syringe form that dispenses equal amounts of each resin component. Epoxy glues actually work very well with polymer clay. They bond well and hold tight. But I DO have bond failures with this glue. Perhaps some of the higher quality epoxy glues will work better, such as this plastic-specific epoxy, another one called Devcon, and a highly recommended glue called Epoxy 330.
By the way, you might wonder if Epoxy glue is related to Epoxy resin such as Envirotex Lite. Yes, it is. It’s the very same thing. The difference is the “open time” or the time that the material is workable before the bond starts to set. Epoxy glues can be used as a clear coating, but because their open time is short, there’s not a lot of time for bubbles to rise to the surface and for the surface to self-level as with a coating epoxy resin.
PVA is short for poly-vinyl acetate, and PVA glue is just white glue. Like Elmer’s Glue-All. Now Elmer’s is a pretty basic glue and not particularly strong or water-resistant (which jewelry needs to be). But there are stronger PVA glues. My favorite is one called Weldbond. I first used it for gluing glass mosaic tiles onto a glass mirror. It works great for that, and it even holds up in the weather. But it’s also a good glue for polymer clay, IF you can get it to stick to the clay without peeling. I haven’t done a lot of work with this, but I have had a couple of people say that Weldbond works great with polymer clay. Your mileage may vary, of course. The beauty of Weldbond is that it’s non-toxic. This is a material that needs to be explored further in the future.
PVA glue is also a nice glue to seal paper boxes and forms if you’re going to cover them with polymer clay. Doing this makes the paper non-porous and gives a surface the clay will bond to easily. It’s also nice when gluing polymer clay to glass. By the way, you can bake PVA glue at polymer clay curing temperatures. Another well-known brand of PVA glue in the polymer clay community is Sobo Glue. Aleene’s Tacky Glue is another well-known PVA glue.
Glue Crystals or Stones to Polymer Clay
When you want to include crystals, gems, or stones in your polymer clay creations, just push them directly into the raw clay, then bake. After baking, you can lift the edge of the stone or gem and it will pop right out. Use your glue of choice and glue it back in, then it will stay permanently. Because the “seat” for the gem is perfectly matching the shape of the gem, the bond will be good with almost any glue. If the foil backing of the gem peels off when you do that, just glue a new gem back into the hole.
Glue Polymer Clay to Polymer Clay
Perhaps you’ve underbaked a project and a piece has broken off and you need to re-attach and bond two sections of cured polymer clay. Or maybe you want to attach some raw clay to an already baked project. The best solution is always to use a baked bond. There are several materials that are essentially made of the “goop” or base of polymer clay, that can be used to “glue” two pieces together, creating a very strong and stable bond. You do need to rebake the project to cure the “glue”. Since the bond doesn’t happen until the project is baked, you will likely need to support the weight of the two pieces, holding them together in some way, until you can bake the project. What are these materials? You likely have them already.
Liquid Polymer Clay
There are four brands of liquid polymer clay: Translucent Liquid Sculpey, Kato Liquid Polyclay, Fimo Liquid, and PVClay Gel. All are a thin, slippery-feeling, honey-textured liquid that are essentially the same thing as polymer clay but without the fillers, binders, and pigments. All of these brands bake nearly clear and work well to bond raw clay together, to bond raw clay to baked clay, and can be used to “glue” baked clay together. Because liquid clay can be a runny, though, you’ll get a better results with the next options if you’re needing to bond baked clay to baked clay. Liquid polymer clay can be used for many more applications, though. Gluing is just one many, many uses.
Sculpey Bake and Bond
Sculpey Bake and Bond is quite similar to Translucent Liquid Sculpey but is a bit thicker and more opaque. It’s designed to be exclusively used as a bonding agent and doesn’t work as well in other liquid clay applications.
Kato Poly Paste is a thick paste made from the same basic materials as the liquid clays, but in the form of a thick paste. It will not run, does not dry out, and will cure by baking. It cures without color, though not completely clear. The big advantage to Poly Paste is that it stays exactly where you put it.
Genesis Thick Medium
The Genesis line of heat set paints and mediums are made of heat-cured (thermosetting) materials very similar to and completely compatible with polymer clay. This line of products is a favorite of polymer and doll artists worldwide. The Genesis Thick Medium seems to be the same product as Genesis Thick Medium – Extender (as far as I can tell, anyway). Thinner than the Kato Poly Paste, and having more of a creamy consistency sort of like mayonnaise, this medium comes highly recommended as being excellent to glue cured clay to cured clay, such as when you attach two halves of a hollow piece together. But remember, like all Genesis products, it must be baked to cure.
By the way, Genesis also works well to bond metal to clay.
Creating a Physical Bond
As I discussed above, when you glue metal to polymer clay, the bond is likely to be weak. So the best solution is to create a physical bond where the polymer clay itself holds the piece securely. If you want to use a metal bail on a pendant, don’t rely on glue to hold the bail on. Use the polymer clay to surround or cover part of the bail so that it is physically holding the bail. This way it’s far less likely to come off.
This works for barrettes, pin backs, earring posts, glue-on bails, and making polymer settings for glass or stone gems. If you plan ahead, you can make it part of the design. When you add a little tab of clay over a glue-on bail it is a perfect place to put a signature stamp, the year, or a decorative cane slice. I even have used this method for securely attaching button backs to polymer clay buttons.
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Many Thanks for the Reviews
And speaking of thank you, I am humbled and grateful for all the wonderful reviews that were left on the product pages in my new tutorial shop. I asked for customers to “flesh out” my new shop with reviews of tutorials they’ve purchased and I was overcome with the number of people who took the time to help me out. I know that the polymer clay community is generous and helpful, but I’m honestly so grateful to be on the receiving end of it. Thank you, thank you!