Monday, October 20, 2008

Tack Tips--Which glue to use

Which glue works best for making small scale tack is a topic that comes up regularly on different model horse mailing lists and forums. Having used a variety of products myself, I've come to the conclusion that there isn't any one right answer. In fact, my experience has been that you can use a number of products successfully. The key is to find the one that suits you best. Here's a brief rundown of my personal experience with different glues.

When I was a kid, my models had a variety of tack items made from various found fabrics, scraps of leather and embroidery floss. I just used whatever I could find in my parents' house and didn't give it much thought.
All that changed in the early 1990's when Carol Williams of Rio Rondo started selling her wildly successful Western saddle kit. The idea of being able to make a saddle that actually looked like a real saddle was beyond exciting to me. I bought a kit. The instructions said to use 527 Bond Glue (now sold as Beacon 527), so I bought a tube of that and continued to buy that type of glue for the next fifteen years.

There's a lot to like about the 527. It's easy to find and inexpensive. It dries clear and creates a strong but flexible bond. On the downside, it's stinky. You really have to use it in a well ventilated area or the fumes can be overwhelming. I used to get a lot of headaches after spending several hours working on tack. I attributed that to the close-up, concentrated work. However, since I stopped using 527, the frequency of my headaches has gone way, way down. Late last year, I started having trouble finding the 527 Glue with the precision applicator. I was still able to find the tubes with the bigger opening, but I'm messy and I really don't do well with that type of packaging. I started looking into other types of glues and came up with this one--Tanner's Bond Leather Craft Cement. It's a white glue and at first I wasn't sure that I wanted to use a white glue. However, it wasn't long before I was completely in love with it. Like the 527, it dried clear and flexible. Additionally, it had better "grab" and wasn't stinky. I used it for several months and was completely happy with it, except for one thing...

The warning label of the back of the bottle was a little bit scary. I don't always know how seriously to take those, but it recommends contacting a doctor just for skin contact. I work messy. There is going to be skin contact with glue on every single project. I tried wearing disposable gloves while I worked, but that was a disaster. I kept gluing the fingers together! I never did feel any ill effects from working with this glue, but eventually the warning label got to me. I went back to the hobby store to find something else.So this is what I've been using for the last several months. It's a bit hard to read the label because my current bottle has seen a lot of use, but it's Aleene's Tacky Glue. Again, it's a white glue that dries clear and flexible. I find it's very easy to clean up mistakes and it says NonToxic right on the front of the bottle. It has a lot of grab and seems strong enough. My kids often sometimes like to make "tack" of their own (although not usually for use on horses) and I don't mind them using this glue. It is completely odorless. Here are some other glues, I have on my work area right now. I bought the Jewel-it to attach all the tiny crystals to my Arab costume and it worked very well for that. I've also used it for crystal browbands. I bought the OK to Wash-It for some fabric projects and couldn't seem to get it to work at all. It seems "slippery" to me and every time I used it, I ended up finishing the job with Tacky Glue instead. I haven't used the Thick Designer Tacky Glue yet. I'm going to give it a try when I run out of the other bottle. I don't use a lot of Super Glue when I'm making tack. It usually dries white and stiff, and if you want to take something apart, you can't without tearing the leather. However, I do find the Loctite Super Glue gel to be useful in certain circumstances. It's my first choice for attaching silver plates to halters or saddles and can be used instead of the Jewel-it for securing crystals. The gel has a bit more working time than the liquid super glues and is a lot less messy. It also does a good job of attaching horse shoes to plastic hooves!

All these glues can be found at hobby shops such as Hobby Lobby and Michaels. I usually buy the Loctite at Target and I'm pretty sure you could get most of them at Walmart as well. Tandy and the Leather Factory carry the Leathercraft Cement.

Although I'm pretty happy with what I'm using now, but I'm always open to trying new things. If you've tried something not listed here and think it's wonderful, please let me know about it.


  1. I seem to be having pretty good luck with Duco Cement, which I buy from Rio Rondo. It dries quickly if you hold it together for a about 10 seconds. It is also clear and will not tear the strap if you have to pull it apart. I do not know how well it adheres compared to other glues, it is the only one I have used for tackmaking so far. I was thinking of trying the leather cement but that warning kind of scares me... I am messy with the glue as well.

  2. I'm new to tack-making, but I've been using Mighty Mend-it for full-size costuming applications for a while. That stuff's really strong. Naturally, I reached straight for the Mighty Mend-it when I started making tack.

    You can get it at most stores that have an As Seen On TV section. It's clear, goes tacky quickly, and dries flexible. It's meant as an emergency clothes mending glue, and so far, I'm very impressed. The big downside is that it comes in a bottle with a large applicator tip, but I have no trouble using a toothpick to apply it to small items. It comes in a big bottle, and it's well priced, and it'll last a while for miniature tack-makers.

  3. I just love the original Tacky Glue. It hasn't failed me yet, and my only complaint are the little white flakes of the label that come off with use! Hardly a major issue ;)

  4. Thanks, this is very helpful! I would have used superglue otherwise!

    1. Superglue is unforgiving. It doesn't bend and flex with the leather, and it smells bad. I try to avoid it whenever possible.

  5. Personally I use Aleen's. What I've noticed is, because sometimes with superglue, you have to hold it in place for a little while, which can take up time better spent elsewhere, so I've used paperclips to hold the leather in place :) Albeit, I know next-to-nothing about tackmaking, and I only started earlier this month, thanks to IMTM, so I might be giving misleading tips, which I hope I'm not doing! Regardless, I figured I'd share it just in case it would help :)