Adhesives For Model Building

This list explains some of the basic types of adhesives commonly used in model and prototype building and should serve as an overview to guide you in the right direction. Please do your research for specific application techniques and safety procedures for chemicals and adhesives before using them. Always work in well ventilated areas and wear your personal protective equipment if necessary.


More information on adhesives can be found on

PVA Glue

Polyvinyl Acetate Glue is typically sold as white glue and used on various materials – mostly paper and wood. Objects that must be joined permanently need clamping pressure to form an acceptable bond. PVA glue is stronger than wood, meaning that the material will fail before the glue does. The glue is excellent for gluing edges of the cardboard and is fast curing if applied in small amounts. Model builders typically apply PVA glue with a toothpick to the delicate edges of the card to avoid excess moisture and slow curing.

Materials: Wood, MDF, Paper, Cardboard, Leader, Foam Board

Further reading...

CA Glue 

Cyanoacrylate Glue is the go-to glue for professional model builders. It typically comes in three types of viscosities. Low viscosity for fixing cracks and applications that rely on capillary action. Medium viscosity for general purposes and low viscosity for applications where the glue needs to fill small gaps. CA glue can be used with a dedicated accelerator to speed up the curing process. For special purposes, the glue can be mixed with talcum powder to form a soft putty for filling and sanding or baking powder to instantly cure the glue and form a hard, durable joint.

Materials: MDF, Wood, PU Block, PS

Further reading...

Contact Adhesive

Contact Adhesives can join a wide variety of different materials. The process typically involves applying the glue to both sides of the joint, waiting for a couple of minutes for the glue to dry, and then pressing the two parts together. The glue is activated by pressure. This technique lends itself to applications where large surfaces must be laminated together and are not used in wood joinery or constructions where edges are joined. Typical applications are laminating some top layer to a substrate like in veneering or for joining foam.

Materials: Laminates, Foam

Further reading...

PU Glue

Polyurethane Glue is activated by moisture and tends, depending on the type of glue, to expand (foam). The foaming action helps with filling any voids in unregular surfaces and parts. Typical applications range from installing door frames to manufacturing plywood prototypes. PU Glue is a niche product in model building and is primarily used for laminated plywood or difficult glue-up situations. 

Materials: Wood, Plywood, Veneer

Further reading...


Dichloromethane is a clear, water-like, odorless solvent that can be used to join acrylic glass and polystyrene. It creates an almost clear joint by opening the chemical bond of the plastics to fuse them back together once the solvent is gone. Dichloromethane is extremely toxic and volatile. It should be used sparingly and with caution only in well-ventilated areas. Alternatives to Dichloromethane have specially formulated CA Glues for PMMA that have reduced off-gassing characteristics.

Materials: PMMA, PS

Further reading...


Two-component epoxy glues are in model building most commonly used in the form of 5min epoxies when dissimilar materials like wood and metal need to be joined somehow. Epoxy glues, in general, have a wide variety of applications ranging from boat building and the aviation industry back to the hobby market. Remember that epoxy produces an exothermal reaction during the curing process that can lead to extreme temperatures and even fire. Always mix small batches of epoxy (<100g) and spread excess glue on a flat surface for curing. 

Materials: Wood, Aluminium, Composites

Further reading...

Spray Adhesive

Spray Adhesives come in high strength and positional variants. In modelbuilding, the prepositional one is mainly used for gluing paper layouts to parts for cutting and sanding. The high strength or permanent type can be used to clad volumetric models with paper, veneer, or fabric.  Besides these two main ones, you can find an assortment of more specialized spray adhesives on the market, for example, for gluing polystyrene or foam.

Materials: Paper, Veneer, Fabric

Hot Glue

Generally speaking, hot glue has a bad reputation among model builders because of its strong association with bricolage. Nothing could be further from the truth – hot glue, applied properly, is fast and clean. Model builders use hot glue for all sorts of applications where water-tight joints must be created, like in mold building and in situations where you have to speed up an assembly process. For example, when you join wood, a drop of hot glue holds the parts together while the PVA glue dries. Not a method employed by fine furniture makers, but a valid way to get things done in the model shop.

Materials: Foamboard, Corrugated cardboard, PMMA, Leather

Further reading...


Silicones are available in various formulations that highly depend on the use case. Silicone which is important as glue, comes in the form of caulking and is used in the building industry as an elastic sealant for different materials. In the model building shop, silicone adhesive is used for mold making and joining glass and mirrors. Ensure that the parts that need to be joined are grease-free before applying any silicone and allow for drying overnight for best results.

Materials: Glass, Mirrors

Further reading…

Construction Adhesive

Construction adhesive as a very high initial tack that eliminates the need for clamping, making it ideal to fix something to a wall or a ceiling without any extra work. In the model shop construction adhesive is mostly used to join concrete parts or to mount an exhibition piece to a wall.

Materials: Concrete, Plaster Board, Wood

Double-Sided Tape

Double-sided tapes have become more and more capable in the last couple of years. They are useful for provisionally attaching facades or other parts to a model and permanently joining parts. Being on the lookout for new applications and types of double-sided tapes is always a good idea. The vastness of different types of tape for different applications demands a good technical understanding to find the right tape for any application. In the model shop, the simple double-sided tape used for carpets is the most versatile one and is frequently used to hold parts on jigs for sanding and gluing down sheet stock to different substrates. 

Materials: various


Plaster - General Overview


Plaster (calcium sulfate dihydrate) is commercially available in many different qualities. The type most commonly used for architectural model building is called Plaster of Paris, Alabaster Gips, or Modellbaugips 0, and combines good workability with a reasonable amount of strength.

Plaster, due to its white color and homogeneity, is an ideal material to study the proportions of a building and to study light and shadow. Furthermore, it is dimensionally stable, and only a few cheap tools are required to work with it.

Model by: Annsophie Vogt

Preparing Plaster


Plaster transitions from a pourable liquid to a pliable solid to a dried mass throughout a couple of days. The most exciting stages happen during the first 45–60 min after mixing plaster and water.

Liquid Stage
The most practical time for pouring plaster happens right after mixing within the first few minutes. Not much can be done in this state except for pouring.

Putty Stage 
The plaster starts to get creamy 10-15 minutes after mixing and eventually reaches a toothpaste-like consistency, ideal for extruding profiles or working additively. This phase lasts for about 5 min.

Rigid Stage
After around 15-20 minutes, the plaster becomes rigid and very fragile. Avoid moving or vibrating the mold during this period. 

Set Stage
The plaster gradually heats up and hardens at this stage. The exact rate depends on the mixture and the size of the casting. It is time to remove the casting from the mold when the plaster cools down. The set stage starts mostly between 45-60 min after mixing.

Cure Stage
This stage starts when the plaster cools down and lasts until completely dry. It is at this stage when most of the post-processing is done, even if the tools get clogged and need frequent cleaning.

Dry Stage
After several days, the plaster enters the dry stage and no longer contains water. At this stage, plaster can be sanded or painted.


A few basic techniques are used when working with plaster during the different stages of the material. Each method can be combined to generate various expressive material gestures.


Liquid plaster is poured right after mixing. Pour the plaster as a steady stream into the mold. Lightly tap the mold after pouring to release any air bubbles.


During the putty stage, plaster can be used as a sculpting material. Materials like steel mesh, wire, hemp, linen, polystyrene, or even paper can be utilized as an armature to build large organic shapes quickly.


The putty stage allows you to extrude plaster into complex profiles that can be assembled into almost any shape. The following post outlines the process of making your own extrusions in more detail: Extrusions


The isotropic properties of plaster make it ideal for subtractive post-processing. The implications for mold-making are substantial, and many features can become a mixture of additive and subtractive techniques, leading to more efficient model-making.

Tools for post-processing


Any knife can become a simple carving tool to shape edges or to carve features that are difficult to achieve with mold-making.


The surform removes unwanted parts of a model efficiently without clogging. It can create beveled or chamfered edges or dress up an uneven surface. 

Hand saw

Using a hand saw is efficient for cutting plaster into smaller parts. The cut can also be a split line for more massive castings. 

Surform plane

The surform plane dresses up surface imperfections and leaves a flat but rough surface behind that needs a final pass with a scraper for smooth results.


Instead of sandpaper, a scraper is used to flatten and smooth surfaces. 

Sculpting tools

Metal tools with numerous shapes can be used to carve or scrape specific forms or details like coves, ogees or organic shapes.