11 Hot Glue Tips, Tricks, and Hacks

Craft & Design Workshop


A hot melt glue gun is one of those essential bits o’ kit that everyone has (at least one of) in his or her toolbox. But it’s easy to limit your perception of what a glue gun can actually do for you. Yes, as the name makes clear, it’s for gluing, but it is capable of so much more. When you start to think of it as a molten plastic dispenser, you start to see a lot more uses for it, in molding and casting, sealing, clamping, prototyping, and many other applications.

Here are eleven unique uses for a hot glue gun taken from a number of YouTube video channels, namely Jeremy Broun’s Woodomain, Darbin Orvar, and Flite Test. A few tips also came from previous Make: articles.

What are some of your unique uses for hot melt? Please share with us in the comments.

Using Hot Glue as an Accelerator

hotGlue_1Want to get the best of both worlds when gluing up something where you need the long-term bonding power of say, PVA wood glue, with the immediate hold of hot melt adhesive? On Woodomain, Jeremy Broun shows you how to apply wood glue all around the outside of the surface you wish to glue, while leaving a place in the center that is dry. Now, apply hot glue to that area in the center and join your piece. The hot glue will bond immediately, holding your piece in place, while the PVA will cure slowly, leaving you with a piece that is immediately workable, but still bonded for the long term.

As a Quick n’ Dirty Mold


In Jeremy’s hot glue video, he reminds us that you can use hot glue as a mold medium for quick casting of objects. Just lay down a healthy deposit of glue, and before it dries, press your object to be cast into it. By the same token, you can use hot glue as a casting medium. For instance, silicone ice trays work really well for casting hot melt adhesive. In the Darbin Orvar hot glue video linked above, Linn casts some standoffs in a silicone ice cube tray to use for raising pieces of wood off of her workbench while finishing them.

Hot Glue for Quick Prototyping

hotGlue_4Jeremy Broun wants us to not forget to think about hot glue as a quick-assembly prototyping adhesive. You can quickly glue up the test parts for your build, have them strong enough to hold together to make sure that everything fits and works, but it’s all still weak enough that it can be easily taken apart again to make changes and before final assembly.

As a Quick Clamp

hotGlue_5If you need to hold down a piece of wood but want to keep the entire top surface clear, for carving, painting, routing, etc., you can hot glue the workpiece to your bench and not have any clamps in the way. Simply deposit some dollops of glue, let them start to cool, and then press the work into them. When you’re done, you can simply pry up the workpiece up and chisel off the glue blobs. [Via Woodomain]

To Form a Seal

hotGluue_2When Linn of Darbin Orvar needs to form a reasonably strong watertight and airtight seal, she whips out her trusty hot glue gun.

To Attach LED Lighting Strips with Ease

hotGlue_6Once you realize how cheap, handy, and useful LED strip lighting can be, you’ll be tacking strips up all over the place. Linn of Darbin Orvar recommends attaching them with a hot glue gun.

To Help Feed the Next Stick

hotGlue_9This one comes to us from the fellas at Flite Test, the aviation modeling channel. The way most glue guns are designed, if you’re feeding in a new stick and it hasn’t been grabbed by the feeder mechanism yet, it will fall out while gluing at certain angles. To prevent this, dab a bit of hot glue to the end of the new stick as you feed it in and join it to the stick currently being fed through the gun.

As Water Proofing

hotGlue_12If you want to waterproof something easily and quickly, such as electronics, strip lights, project boxes, etc., hot glue works perfectly well. Just make sure you get a complete seal. [Via Darbin Orvar]

To Insulate Electronics

hotGlue_11Wireheads have known about this trick for a long time. You can use hot glue to hold wires in headers, insulate wires and components on a PCB, and otherwise encase your electronics in plastic. If you decide you want to remove the glue, a small amount of denatured alcohol along the edges of the glue blob will break its bond. [Via Flite Test]

To Turn a Hot Glue Gun into a Pistol Applicator

hotGlue_8This old Make: post links to a Brazilian site that’s in Portuguese, but you can get the basic idea of the hack through the images (and can feed it into a translator, if need be). It shows a process for combining a disposable syringe and a hot glue gun, sans heating element, to make a pistol-powered applicator for delivering solder flux paste. I also don’t see any reason why the same process couldn’t be used for dispensing other types of room-temperature goo.

To Seal the Edges of Foamcore

hotGlue_10If you’re working on a prototype, craft, or modeling project where you want the edges of your foamcore to be sealed, one easy way to do this is with hot glue. As the Flite Test guys demonstrate, you simply have to make a little tool out of scrape foamcore that spans the width of the foamboard you wish to seal. You then run a bead of glue down the edge and use your tool to scrap off all of the excess and to get a complete seal with the glue.

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Gareth Branwyn is a freelance writer and the former Editorial Director of Maker Media. He is the author or editor of over a dozen books on technology, DIY, and geek culture. He is currently a contributor to Boing Boing, Wink Books, and Wink Fun. His free weekly-ish maker tips newsletter can be found at garstipsandtools.com.

View more articles by Gareth Branwyn
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