Until recently, Gator's Grip was an adhesive that I'd heard of, but never had the opportunity to try out. Some reports made Gator's seem little short of a wonder glue, but I could never find the stuff on the shelves of my local hobby shops to give it a try. So, when The War Shop
kindly offered a sample, I was quick to say yes!
Gator's Grip is a water-based acrylic adhesive and is sold in a handy 1.5 oz plastic bottle with a screw top. The bottle seems pretty stable and not likely to tip over, but if you do have an accident clean-up is quick and easy with soap and water while the glue is uncured. Being water-based, one thing you do have to watch out for is temperature - too cold and the glue will freeze in the pot.
When the sample duly arrived, I have to admit my first impression was that it was white wood-glue! Surely this couldn't be what everyone was so excited about? Throwing caution to the wind, I had a good sniff with my trusty Mk.1 Nose and, contrary to expectations, it definitely wasn't the pong of PVA that greeted me. Dipping a brush in also showed that Gator's Grip is much thinner than PVA straight from the bottle - roughly half the viscosity of standard DIY "wood glue".
I decided to try out Gator's Grip on one of my current builds - a mixed media kit with a useful combination of styrene, resin and etched metal. From what I'd read elsewhere, I thought I might be able to totally dispense with the CA and epoxy glues I'd normally use on a model like this. That proved rather over-ambitious - Gator's was very useful in allowing extra time to position parts, but it didn't have the rigid structural strength I needed for that particular project.
So, somewhat more realistically, I went back to square one. Seeing as the glue had originally reminded me of PVA, I decided to treat it the same way, and compare the two side-by-side to see what the advantages are. I performed a series of basic tests using sheet styrene and scrap sections from a photo-etch fret.
Test #1 - A drop each of PVA and Gator's Grip left to dry overnight on styrene.
In the cold clear light of day the dried glues looked identical at first glance, but it was soon apparent that the results were actually very different...
The most basic difference was that Gator's Grip simply stuck better! Being water-based, it obviously wasn't going to bond like a solvent, but whereas the PVA test had no shear-strength at all and flaked straight off the styrene, Gator's Grip put up a decent fight and had to be picked off with a scalpel. Gator's Grip was also noticeably more flexible, curling as I peeled it off, before returning to its dried shape. I usually use PVA for attaching canopies, but Gator's Grip promises a stronger bond, while sharing the same benefit of not clouding transparencies.
Finally - and this was really obvious once the glue was removed from the white card - although the PVA bottle stated it would dry clear, the result was actually quite milky (even two days later, that's still true). On the other hand, the Gator's Grip test really was clear - something that inspired a later test.
Test #2 - Butt-joining 2 pieces of styrene or metal at a right angle.
I'd heard that Gator's Grip is a good substitute for CA because it dries quickly - not quite an "instant" glue, but certainly fast. In the test, it cured enough to grip the styrene in about 10 seconds, and the joint was strong enough to pick up by the glued section after about 30 seconds. The PVA was far slower on both counts, also needing support while the glue dried.
Again, Gator's Grip proved much more flexible than the PVA - but both joints failed quite easily with a minimal side-load, so I wouldn't recommend Gator's for a structural joint on a kit. However, it would be very suitable for tacking parts in place while you adjust the fit before applying a solvent adhesive or CA.
Test #3 - Flat-joining 2 sheets of styrene or metal.
Gator's Grip was again the easy winner. While the PVA joint failed straight away and flaked off, Gator's Grip held quite firm. Again, while I wouldn't use it for anything bearing a major load, it would be very good for assembling items like multi-layer instrument panels or attaching photo-etched details.
The extra drying time allows for repositioning, which is a real plus compared with CA, and in further tests I found it great for attaching items like resin cockpit sidewalls where you often have to adjust the fit - and of course there's no risk of fogging nearby transparencies.
Test #4 - Glazing
Encouraged by the clarity of the dried Gator's Grip in test #1, I tried using it to "glaze" a small window aperture. The resulting film was very good - thin and very clear. The makers state that Gator's Grip doesn't yellow with age, so it should be ideal as a glazing medium. The limiting factors are the surface tension and the size of the hole - basically, the bigger the hole, the harder it is to get the glue to form a film across it. Gator's Grip will also be ideal for glazing the bezels on an instrument panel.
Some of what I'd read and heard had perhaps left me expecting too much of Gator's Grip, but like everything else in modelling it's a question of finding the right application and I have certainly ended up a convert. Where I previously would have used PVA, I will now use Gator's for its superior bond-strength and flexibility, while the great clarity of the dried adhesive immediately opens up further uses. The speed with which it dries also makes it a good substitute for CA in cases where a rigid joint isn't required. Recommended.
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