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Acrylic is a strong, clear, malleable alternative to glass. It doesn’t shatter and cuts easily with an ordinary circular saw or jigsaw. Novices may find that gluing acrylic is another matter. When gluing acrylic, the best tips are to find the right adhesive, clean the acrylic, line up the seams exactly, and apply the glue quickly and accurately.
The most important part of gluing acrylic is finding the proper adhesive. Improperly gluing acrylic may cause leaking, if it is meant to hold liquid, or cause the piece to fall apart over time. Hardware stores often carry a wide selection of acrylic cements. The most hard-wearing products are two-part glues that need to be pre-mixed before application. The label on the cement should read high strength. One-part cements aren’t as volatile and don’t fuse together as strongly.
Another aspect to keep in mind when gluing acrylic is cleaning. Properly cleaning the materials before gluing them together ensures that dirt and oils don’t prevent the glue from adhering to the acrylic sheeting. Window cleaner and a soft cloth should remove most grime, but old glue is another matter. One must usually cut or scrape away old glue with a sharp utility knife, using small strokes aimed away from the body.
Properly prepared acrylic should line up perfectly. If it doesn’t, fine sandpaper should wear away just enough surface imperfections that the seams butt together without ripples or gaps. Seams that don’t line up perfectly aren’t as strong as flush seams, and may not hold for as long a time. This can be vital depending on the project, for example, those making aquariums need flush seams to create a watertight container.
Once the seams are lined up, the next best tip for gluing acrylic involves stabilizing the seam. It can be frustrating and ineffective to try holding the seam together with one hand and gluing acrylic with the other. Painters tape can provide a strong, temporary way to secure the acrylic pieces. Simple pieces, like square boxes, can be taped together all at once, while large or complicated pieces with many small parts must be taped together in sections to make for easier gluing.
Applying the glue is the last and most vital step. Another good tip is to mix a little glue together on a disposable plate or bowl, using a wooden popsicle stick to stir the chemicals together. When applying the adhesive to the seams, the finger of a rubber glove can allow for more precise control without getting glue on vulnerable skin. Most acrylic cements must be applied less than five minutes after mixing, because they harden quickly. Mixing just a little glue at a time, as needed, prevents waste and speeds application.
I frequently glue items together that are made of acrylic, and I have found that you often have to use clamps until the glue has dried. This is especially true when it comes to small items that need to be kept securely together while the bond is forming.
Any acrylic objects that you need to glue should also be completely dry. Any moisture on them will result in a weak bond once the glue bond is set. The end result will be the need to scrape off the glue and start all over again.
This rule also applies to the environment that you are gluing acrylic items in. If the weather is humid or the air is full of moisture, the glue will probably not form a good bond on your acrylic pieces. A dry environment is the perfect setting for gluing acrylic.
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