Miss our last edition? See it here: Tools I Freaking Love: Hand Tools [Sheet Metal Edition].

You know that sinking feeling. You’re at the doorstep of a major milestone with a smoldering heap of lessons learned. Things didn’t go according to plan and the next options aren’t any good. You need to breathe enough life into that hodge-podge of ideas to make it work just long enough to live and fight another day.

Forget about Plan B, it’s time to think of a Plan P.

Sing it with me. There is no McMaster-Carr, no hardware store, no tomorrow, it’s today. You’re at the interview and your pants ripped. When you need to cobble something together, tapes and adhesives can be a deal of desperation, an unholy bargain. It’s you, at the crossroads, meeting a mysterious figure in a slick suit that has a proposal that seems too good to be true. What’s the catch? It may be unwillingly trading away something personal and precious.

Without reading the fine print, the situation can devolve from a sinking ship to a train wreck. Didn’t abrade the surfaces? Didn’t clean the surfaces with isopropyl alcohol? Didn’t mix properly? Didn’t abide by the cure times, humidity, or temperature limits? Looked at it the wrong way? Working with plastics? Third Wednesday?

That hack job can fall back apart so fast, it can feel like you hit the off switch of an anti-gravity device holding your parts together as they instantaneously split and plummet to the floor. And when an adhesive “solution” falls apart the mess and gunk left behind can truly be the end. So, are you ready to make that deal?  I’ll tell you this, son, when it comes to 3D modeling, if you want to dance with me, know that I’m the best there ever was.

1. 3M Duct Tape (Nuclear Grade)

I am not going to insult both of us by telling SolidSmack readers what duct tape is. Duct tape, the mythological cure-all/fix-all. Duct tape, on a pedestal of iconic nerd pop culture status with Spam and the Knights who say “Ni!”

We have all used duct tape for its intended purpose to affix, mend, patch, repair, upgrade, trick out, or generally fix something. You likely have personal familiarity with duct tape as a fabric for prom tuxedo material or as the cocoon that held you six feet above the ground to the goal post.  And that was all just the garden variety duct tape. Are you ready to hear about something even better?

Before you try me for heresy, hear me out. I give you 3M Performance Plus Duct Tape 8979N. AKA nuclear grade! It still has all the features you know and love, like cloth backing that’s easy to tear, it can be written on, and it’s waterproof.  But in addition, it has better adhesion strength, works at higher temperatures (200℉), withstands outdoor exposure better, and the pièce de résistance, clean release. Meaning that it can be removed and it does not leave a residue. If you have taken regular duct tape off after a period of time you know that the adhesive can melt into a substance that is unspeakably despicable, vile and impossible to remove. The clean release feature makes 8979N ideal for temporary fixturing or testing. Oh yeah, it still cures warts.

Favorite review:

Bartok Kinski
3.0 out of 5 stars
 Nuclear Duct Tape
“Nuclear Duct Tape is a bit pricey, but I guess it’s worth it since you can use it to stop small amounts of leaking radiation from cracks or holes in pre-1970 Russian-era reactors. Can also be used to quell restless penguins who refuse to cooperate. I always carry some in my old gym bag along with a Geiger Counter and used underpants.”

2. J-B Weld

J-B Weld is an epoxy. If J-B weld was a person it would be under a car in grease-covered overalls. J-B doesn’t care about data sheets or fancy science words, it has a job it’s going to get done. J-B Weld is a two-part epoxy with a 1-to-1 mixing ratio of resin and hardener. Or, as I prefer to think of it, one-part cobra venom and one part Chuck Norris.

What this looks like in practice is squeezing roughly an equal portion from each provided tube into two conjoined blobs on a flat clean surface (a scrap of cardboard or equivalent) and then mixing with a clean stirring stick (nail or popsicle stick).

J-B’s chemistry does not require the high accuracy of dispensing guns and nozzles where initial quantities should be disposed of until enough flow has been achieved through the nozzle to ensure exact mixing ratios. J-B’s value proposition is that it works exceptionally well for applications that involve joining separate pieces or applications that involve filling air gaps in a single piece. 

J-B can be used to join a variety of materials from metal, porcelain, ceramic, glass, marble, PVC, ABS, concrete, fiberglass, wood, fabric, or paper.  J-B can act as a replacement for traditional welding applications, but without the melted metal and is therefore called cold welding. And, unlike welding it can be used on dissimilar metals and doesn’t heat distort or damage and get into difficult to access spaces. 

J-B goes where material is not, but should be, and then acts as that material. J-B removes holes, cracks, crevasses, fissures and other undesired gaps that may have, but in reality certainly were, caused by your clumsiness. Allowing you to discreetly make mistakes disappear. Drilled a hole in the wrong spot? Drilled too large of a hole? Told your significant other their pants don’t look flattering? Apologize. And then gift them some J-B. Once cured, J-B can be treated as the base material and tapped, filed, sanded, drilled, and painted.

This stuff works and is time-tested. Its robustness, reliability, and ability to withstand high temperatures mean it has been used for some impressively heavy-duty repairs, like engine casings. Consequently, despite its lack of minty freshness, nothing in tubes is as beloved by machinists, repair shops, farmers, DIYers, and the like. “Just J-B weld it” has achieved meme level status. This is an instance of relying on the  wisdom of crowds. Check out the 3,300 amazon reviews. Other variants exist, for quick curing, marine, plastics and so on. This is probably the best insurance policy you can buy for $5. 

Recommended: Deblundering, almost good as new repairs.

Favorite review:

5.0 out of 5 stars
I’ve been using this for over 40 years, it’s still the best.
“I’ve been using JB for over 40 years now whenever I needed to make a heavy duty repair that I want to last a lifetime. I love how the packaging hasn’t changed since I first bought it in the 70s. That requires confidence in your product when you don’t have to keep repackaging with NEW AND IMPROVED! plastered on the packaging. I guess it might also be because you can’t improve something that’s already perfect. If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it. If it is broke, fix it with JB Weld. (I should sell them that line, pretty good huh?)”

3. 3M 5200

3M 5200 is the go-to adhesive/sealant for marine (nautical) applications.  Salty sea dogs can be a serious and stern type, particularly when it comes to their grog rations or reliability.

3M 5200 is not just trusted, it is beloved and known to be affectionately called fifty-two million (or billion). 3M 5200 is one-component (no need to worry about proper mixing), high-strength, moisture-curing, and white.

3M 5200 makes silicone seem as useful for permanent sealing and joining as Betty Crocker frosting. The stuff is good. Maybe too good. It’s a blood oath, an irreversible spell. To separate the bond requires some serious chemicals and major mechanical deconstruction. 

If sleeping well at night is important, knowing your dinghy is going to stay afloat and that your Chinchilla or Mogwai are bone dry, 3M 5200 is for you. The trade-off for 3M 5200’s boulder-like strength and reliability is that it seemingly takes a week to reach full cure, so plan accordingly.

The consistency is a tacky medium paste (think, toothpaste). Something about the combination of the consistency and large volumes leads to 3M 5200 inevitably getting on things you didn’t intend. Prepare the application equipment, environment, worksurfaces, and protective gear smartly to minimize nasty cleanup.

3M 5200 was designed to handle rigorous maritime environments but need not be limited to those environments as it works equally great on terra firma by us land lovers. It is well suited for all applications involved with keeping liquids out (or in), where large surface areas are involved, or generally strong bonds are desired that resist vibration and shock or shrinking and swelling. Set sail for reliability!

Recommended: Permanent, flexible, sealing.

Not recommend: Temporary, quick fix, getting it on non-bonding surfaces (including you)

Favorite review(s):

5.0 out of 5 stars
Make your own shoes.
I love this stuff. It’s permanent.

5.0 out of 5 stars
The go-to sealant for marine applications.
This stuff is legendary. So legendary, it needs 7 days to cure.

5.0 out of 5 stars
Hardcore glue
This stuff is the business. It will glue a truck to an airplane (please don’t try…) I use it a lot to repair enamel pins.

5.0 out of 5 stars
Better than perfect. Ya, you read that right.
Can I curse on this review..… how about the word dammit. Because, DAMMIT this stuff works amazing!!!!!

I mean, what planet is this stuff from?? Proof that we’ve been to the moon! Harvest more of that amazing stuff and build everything out of it!

If you want to learn about non-mechanical fastening and what glue can do for you, check out this definitive glue guide from your hero and mine, Adam Savage. 

And if you’re wondering about the image reference, I’ll leave you with this:

YouTube video

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Dan Slaski is the Lead Renegade for Renegade Prototyping and your new secret weapon/best friend for design domination. A Virginia Tech Mechanical Engineer with a long list of credentials to accompany his years of industry experience in fields including the medical, robotics, and military sectors. He has designed assemblies with hundreds of unique parts and moving components that have gone high into the earth's atmosphere, deep below the oceans and everything in between. All of this has contributed to his vast portfolio of knowledge dealing with difficult engineering problems, and a wide repertoire of skills in prototyping, manufacturing, and sourcing. Yet he still finds a way to remain humble. If you have a project that demands success you need to get on his client list ASAP.