How to Use Contact Cement–Without Making a MESS!

When I make my puppets that use foam, I prefer to use contact cement rather than a glue gun.

Here is a quick tutorial on using contact cement when making or building a puppet.  I also show how to get the contact cement from the can into a squeeze bottle without making a huge mess.  Following the video, I share my tips that I’ve learned that have made my life easier and saves money!

Why I like contact cement:

  •  Contact cement is faster to apply, once I figured out how to use a squeeze bottle.
  •  Once the glue is dry, it is easy to press the two edges together.  Apply the cement to the two edges that you want glued together.  The trick is to make sure the contact cement is dry to the touch.  It takes about 15-20 minutes for the contact cement to “tack up.”  If you don’t get the pieces aligned perfectly, you can adjust them a little before really pressing the edges together.
  •  If you make a mistake after they are stuck together, immediately use a hair dryer to release the bond.  Reapply the cement, wait for it dry and then press the pieces together.  The hair dryer only works if you do it soon after–it doesn’t work the next day.
  •  I feel it gives a better bond on foam rather than the glue gun

3 oz bottle is about 3 times the cost of the 16 oz can

I used to buy contact cement in the 3 oz glass bottle rather than in the 16 oz can even though the glass bottle was about 3 times of the cost.  I did this for two reasons.  One, it had a built in brush for an applicator.  Two, I was afraid of trying to pour the cement from the can to another bottle.  Contact cement is messy and almost impossible to clean up.  Since it takes about 3 oz of contact cement to make a puppet, I was beginning to really use a lot of contact cement since I make puppets frequently.

Finally, on my sixth trip to my local Ace Hardware to buy contact cement, the sales associate asked me why I didn’t buy the cement in the can since it was so much cheaper.  I told him I didn’t know what to pour the cement into.  He recommended a plastic squeeze bottle, like a mustard or ketchup bottle.   I then asked, “how do I get it into the bottle without making a mess?”  He suggested a funnel.  I didn’t want to use a plastic or metal funnel, because the contact cement would stick to the sides and I’d have to throw it away.  He mentioned aluminum foil.  Hmmm, I thought, that should work.

I bought the mustard bottle because it had a long tip on it.  I’m glad I did, it makes it easy to get cement into hard to reach places.  Plus, it is easy to squeeze out a little bit, then use the tip as a brush or “spreader.”

Aluminum Foil Makes Great Funnels

I made a funnel out of foil and it worked perfectly!   I’m always amazed at how little contact cement is left on the edges.  I don’t mind throwing away this handmade funnel.  I only pour out around 3 oz at a time, just enough to make one puppet.  I figure the cement in the can will stay more airtight than in the bottle thus making it easier to work with.  The more air that the cement in the can and bottle is exposed to, the gummier it gets.

I always wipe out the rim of the contact cement can real good so that the lid won’t stick to it.  Dry paper towels work great with cleaning up the cement if done immediately.

Tips to Keep the Cement From Getting Gummy

After each application of the cement, I wipe off the squeeze bottle tip with a dry paper towel and put the cap back on the tip.  When making a puppet, I may use the cement continuously but after each use I clean the tip and replace the cap even if I know I’ll need the cement in the next 10-15  minutes.  I don’t let the bottle sit open for any length of time.  I shake the bottle before each use.  I try not to get the contact cement up in the tip where the cap is so that I don’t accidentally glue the cap to the tip.  As long as the bottle is kept tightly sealed, the cement will stay fresh for around a month.  I’ve heard that if you plan to store it longer, then turn the bottle upside down to keep the cap airtight.  I haven’t tried this because I use mine frequently.

I keep an empty 3 oz bottle (with the lid screwed on tightly), around for when I do need a brush to apply the cement.  I like the bottle’s tip for the edges of foam.  But I do like the brush for when applying contact cement to a large flat surface, like the mouth plate.  I squeeze the cement onto the surface and then spread it with the brush.

Be sure to label your mustard bottle–you don’t want it to be used accidentally as mustard!  And. . . . always keep your working area well ventilated when working with contact cement.

Happy Puppet Building!