Make Your Own Custom Hot Glue Sticks

Hot glue guns can be very handy tools for bonding all sorts of surfaces, while getting you accustomed to plastic burns. The one thing they lack though is color, and while yes, you can on occasion find colored glue sticks, there is usually only a limited selection and they cost way more than the normal amber or clear sticks.

[Ken] solves the blandness problem of hot glue sticks in his kitchen, as shown in this cool slideshow. In a melt and recast process, glue sticks and crayons in a 3:1 ratio are slowly heated on an electric stove in a old can. Metal tubing is lined with silicone parchment paper to act as a release agent. The now vivid and scalding hot glue is poured into the tube and left to cool.

You might be wondering how mixing colored wax into ethylene-vinyl acetate effects the glue’s strength . According to the author if you need  decrease the mix viscosity, you can add up to 10% paraffin wax by weight without effecting the bond strength. Color and viscosity control? Hot glue just keeps getting better!

Comments

  1. Love this website! I will definitely use the black glue stick on one of my projects. Is the strength difference noticeable?

  2. baobrien says:

    I was playing around with hot glue sticks and toner a few days ago. That also makes a pretty strong mix.

  3. _glytch says:

    I lub it :) and I just bought my first glue gun yesterday. Awesome.

  4. Dan B says:

    My main problem with hot glue guns is a lack of adhesion. I want something easy to apply but the devil to get off and apart. I like the color idea – I know some crafters that would be standing in line to get some color glue sticks.

    • brad says:

      I’ve had the best luck with high temp guns. low temp guns don’t stick for me at all.

    • Josh says:

      A lot of the bond strength depends on the temp of the adhesive, the substrate it’s used on, and the type of application.

    • Josh says:

      I work with hot melt adhesive and its machinery as my line of business, so I’m getting a kick out of this.

      It may take some digging, but you can find the MSDS for hot glue sticks. Most of them are fairly inert and can be used in closed environments. If you’re going to make a lot of these, I suggest buying the glue in bulk as it would be cheaper and you can find a wider range of tack, flexibility, and color. Glue sticks in the store are very expensive if you’re going to do large batches. Just get a slow cooker and set it to 350F, which is the normal application temp for hot melt and let it melt in that. Better control of temp makes for less smoke. I’d also add a tub full of water to speed the cooling process.

      Also, you could use this same idea to make paraffin sticks to flush out the colored stuff. If that doesn’t work, try running some cooking oil through the gun. A small syringe should do the trick.

      • Ken Quast says:

        Some really good info here. I did find a generic MSDS but it is such a variable product that the information is not useful. I guess that I just like to err on the side of safety but you are right that the fumes should be no problem. Thanks for all of the insight and ideas!

    • The Ideanator says:

      I know its not hotglue and it takes a full day or 2 to set and harden generally, but E6000 is the best damn glue I’ve ever used. very viscous, about the same as semi-cool hot glue, its a fairly solid rubbery compound when set and it pretty much wont come off without a heavy duty solvent.
      I’ve used it as a hinge for a remote control battery door and after 3 or so years its still going strong, repeated flexing has not affected its structure in the least.

  5. Hackerspacer says:

    How to avoid bubbles in the colored sticks?

  6. Hackerspacer says:

    I also imagine that “switching over” to a new color requires a lot of flushing of clear sticks – and for some colors it’s just not possible (black to white).

  7. william says:

    I use hot glue in molds to make all sorts of things never thought of recasting them back into sticks though. I generally carry a few 1/4 round ones without the glue gun in my emergency electrical kit they are so versatile esp for waterproofing electrical connections just use a lighter r soldering torch. ill use the silicone paper idea for sure and the coloring seems like a good idea too.

    • Willaim says:

      Another handy thing dealing with waterproofing electrical wires is to place a dab at both ends of the connection or just thinly coat the whole thing and slide your heat shrink tubing over it while still hot and shrink the tubing it resembles the very expensive water proof heat shrink tubing and haven’t had any failures in 2 years and counting so far on cars that are in the worst conditions 24 hrs daily (cop cars)…

      I think we need a write up on 101 uses for hot glue I love this stuff…

  8. Hackerspacer says:

    “According to the author if you need to increase the mix viscosity, you can add up to 10% paraffin wax by weight without effecting the bond strength.”

    Actually, he said 10% of paraffin wax will *DECREASE* the viscosity, not increase it.

    “You can also add up to 10% by weight of paraffin wax to reduce the viscosity without sacrificing bond strength.” is what the author wrote.

  9. Techartisan says:

    a trip to any local art store can yield an array of dry pigments that can be incorporated into a glue stick with far less effect on the adhesive quality than crayons would have.

  10. neimad says:

    Tip for not burning yourself (as much) with hot glue: get a can of compressed air and turn it upside down, and gently spray the freshly applied hot glue. Gradually increase the spray of ice-cold compressed chemicals as the blast can come out very fast and distort the molten hot glue. Only do this in a well ventilated area. The frozen spray will instantly freeze your hot glue into solidity. It makes working with hot glue so much faster, as you don’t have to wait for anything to cool down and this reduces the chance that you will burn yourself if you come into contact with the hot glue in the melted state.

    • Jeff Kincaid says:

      Most of that canned air is propelled by difluoroethane or omething similar. Keep in mind that this chemical BOILS at -13°F. While I understand your idea, the possibility of a severe frostbite burn from the propellant is pretty high. That being said, I have used this technique myself, but I think ice cubes would be safer.

      • neimad says:

        yeah, this is true, it does give you two ways to burn yourself, one from heat and one from cold. I find that it is significantly easier to get burns from hot glue than from the freezing spray though.

  11. Jay says:

    If you rub an ice cube over a pool of hot glue (while still hot) it will dry clear like glass. I’ve used this technique several times and I am very curious to know how this process would turn out after coloring the glue sticks. I’ll have to try it sometime.

  12. Jason Knight says:

    since colored crayons are typically just pigment powder and wax, why not cut out the middle man?

    Typical cost is around 75 cents an ounce for most normal colors, and one dram of pigment powder would probably be overkill for hot glue. (since that’s how much I use to color my own home-made oil paints for around a quarter cup…)

    You can even buy some really powerful glow in the dark powders. — Though those tend to run anywhere from ten to thirty bucks an ounce!

    • mjrippe says:

      Glow-in-the-dark hot glue, now THAT I would pay extra for!

    • Renee says:

      True, but a box of 96 crayons is only $3. I don’t imagine I could get as many colors for the same deal.

      It’s also a lot easier to find crayons as they are ubiquitous art supplies. Even living in a major metropolitan area I can only think of one store within decent distance that stocks pure pigments.

      • Hackerspacer says:

        The internet may offer a wider selection for you.

      • The Ideanator says:

        Buy cyan, magenta, yellow, and black pigments and mix accordingly.

      • Renee says:

        Possibly, but then you have to factor in shipping costs too. I can just go 5 minutes down the road and pick up hundreds of crayons for $5 dollars.

        I have a suspission that shipping alone would be more than $5 for pure pigments.

        I’m not lost on the idea of mixing colors, I have a degree in Art and I’m a makeup artist. I love working with pure pigments but in my experience I just can’t see the cost savings working with pigments vs crayons.

        Now, if someone could provide a website that provided lots of pigments in small and customizable quantities with reasonable shipping then I would gladly make use of that. I’ve looked but not found anything.

  13. Christian Black says:

    I tried the Smooth-On brand of “So Strong” liquid pigments in hot glue a couple of years ago. These are made for pigmenting polyurethane resins but they are easy and effective for mixing into hot glue.

  14. Adam C says:

    I love this hack. Custom colored glue sticks will come in quite handy for some future projects. I wonder how easily you could pour layered multi-color sticks… That said, you can buy colored glue sticks already.

    My local craft store carries:

    Colored glue sticks

    Glittery colored glue sticks

    And Glow in the dark glue sticks

    • Ken Quast says:

      Hey Adam..I have drilled out the center of a color glue stick that I made and filled with white hot glue. So, it was a two-tone stick with no purpose other than trying to do it. I bet that the crafter’s will take this process to some interesting places. Thanks, for the comment.

  15. nullset says:

    Both of those ‘effect’s should be ‘affect’s. Otherwise, a really cool post.

  16. mightymike says:

    now as you mention it: you can buy literally all colors, except black. but there are even sticks with glitter or silver tone….

    • Whatnot says:

      I once bought some colored&glitter ones when it was near x-mas and they were the ones they had in stock locally, but then when I later needed clear glue I found it takes a bit before the glue-gun is clean again after using colored+glitter ones, it’s something I did not think of beforehand, that it’s not that easy to switch between colors, you’d need to invest in several glueguns if you are a more intense user.

      • Willaim says:

        the ‘dollar tree’ here (USA:Ohio/Indiana) has the mini glue guns for a dollar and as low as $3 from the other assorted ‘dollar’ stores they aren’t terribly durable but do the job they also have mini glue stick anywhere from 50-100 for a dollar

      • Whatnot says:

        True enough, you can get them for pretty cheap.
        the flaw of the cheap ones I find to lay not so much in durability but proper heating though, for some reason they very often are just a tad underpowered.

        But anyway, it’s something to keep in mind before you stick that fancy glue stick in, that that glue gun is pretty committed then for a while.

      • willaim says:

        actually I have taken apart a few and the very cheapest use what looks like a ceramic block embedded with aluminum with a metal plate on either side of it wrapped in what looks to be yellow cellophane I imagine the block could be ground thinner to reduce the resistance and increase the heat … Do at your opn risk and use a current limiting device…

  17. Matera the Mad says:

    Uh…just had to say, Affect, not Effect. PLEASE. It hurtz mai eyez. :p

  18. Josh says:

    I work with hot melt adhesive and its machinery as my line of business, so I’m getting a kick out of this.

    It may take some digging, but you can find the MSDS for hot glue sticks. Most of them are fairly inert and can be used in closed environments. If you’re going to make a lot of these, I suggest buying the glue in bulk as it would be cheaper and you can find a wider range of tack, flexibility, and color. Glue sticks in the store are very expensive if you’re going to do large batches. Just get a slow cooker and set it to 350F, which is the normal application temp for hot melt and let it melt in that. Better control of temp makes for less smoke. I’d also add a tub full of water to speed the cooling process.

    Also, you could use this same idea to make paraffin sticks to flush out the colored stuff. If that doesn’t work, try running some cooking oil through the gun. A small syringe should do the trick.

    • Jay says:

      350F? Good to know. I’ve done a handful of projects that required me to melt down sticks in a pot, but I’ve always had to just crank up the heat until they melted. If you get too hot the mix turns brown and bubbles, so it will be nice to use the correct temperature next time.

      I’m assuming the low temp mini glue sticks start to melt at a lower temperature than that. I often use my mini glue gun to close up small cuts, broken finger nails, and especially cardboard and paper cuts! It is a tad hot, but it doesn’t feel like 350F haha. For paper cuts there is nothing better than a thin layer of hot glue people… any and all pain is instantly gone and you can go back to working as usual and it is as if the cut never happened.

      • chango says:

        Unfortunately I don’t usually have a hot glue gun running when I need to seal up minor cuts (usually pin header related) so I keep a tube of cyanoacrylate around for the same purpose.

    • Josh says:

      I should have clarified a little better. 350F is the normal operating temp for packaging adhesive. Melting temp for low-temp sticks is about 157, which is just a bit higher than hot water from the tap. Temp for regular sticks is about 250.

  19. N0LKK says:

    I hadn’t seen my hot glue gun for a long time. I don’t miss it because I never found it satisfactorily filled my needs. Suffice to say I will not be making colored glue sticks, but I can see why the crafty types that depend on hot glue would, and this is good to know for them.

  20. echodelta says:

    My hack is a coffee warmer with a thermostat out of a water heater. It keeps hot at about 140F the real and original hot glue (animal proteans). This is the prefered glue of woodcrafters. Aplied hot with a brush, as soon as it cools it gets the death grip and is self clamping. Made of renewable resources. It can stick to glass and will pull off the surface as it sets! This how they make frosted-cracked glass.

    Try to sand any other type of glue, it just remelts smearing all over the work and ruining sandpaper or belt.

  21. willaim says:

    actually I took apart a few and the very cheapest use a block of what looks to be a ceramic block embedded with aluminum with metal plates on opposite sides wraped in what looks like yellow cellophane if you make the block smaller by grinding it slightly thinner i imagine it would get hotter…. Try at your own risk and plugged into a current limiting device….

  22. shery says:

    Not sure if anyone is following this but how are you lining the metal tubing with parchment paper? How does it get in the tube?
    Thanks!

  23. vhbv says:

    actually you can use powder make up to color hot glue as well

  24. What evs says:

    Never tried it but will!

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