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Which Adhesive To Use?

Lester has this question:

“I decided to build a retaining wall on a longish section of my layout and want to use the right adhesive. I imagine it will need some clamping to the wood while it dries in place, but I am concerned that contact cement might grip too quickly and not allow enough time for me to adjust and check the positioning. By the way, I thought foamboard might be the best and cheapest material to use for making the wall. I would be interested to hear any ideas. Thanks.”

7 Responses to Which Adhesive To Use?

  • Jeff Morrow says:

    Lester, I’ve had good success with both white glue and latex caulk. You can dilute the white glue by about fifty percent and still have a good bond between wood and foamboard. If you use latex caulk, just run a small bread along the wall, then spread it with some sort of straight edge.

    I have used both pins and books (works great on flat constructional) to hold the pieces in place, and let things dry overnight. You should have about fifteen to twenty minutes to get things into final position.

  • Bob says:

    It has been 15 years ago that I built a retaining wall. Cover the entire area with plaster cloth. From memory, without the product at hand, I used what it was called light plaster. I added more water than the directions called for to give me time to mold it. I ran my fingers from top to bottom to give the wall a texture. The plaster, when dry, will adhere to the plaster cloth beneath. When dry, I painted it two colors, alternating them. Finally, covered the entire wall with a wash of diluted India ink. If some wall area is steep, use modeled brick. Here again using diluted India ink wash to discolor it.

  • Kenneth G Bean says:

    I have had great success with Quick Grab from Loctite. I’ve used it on wood, foam, MDF, hardboard and, gator board.

  • David Stokes says:

    If using a sheet material 2mm MDF, old cardboard cartons (free), Noch Scenics retaining walls or poly foam (expanded or extruded) all work well. PVA (white) glue works for all of them. For clamps I have used books, paint tins, pins, nails and even proper clamps.


    My adhesive of choice for connections involving extruded foam ( green or blue board) is Locktite’s Foam for Projects. $3 / tube. Will not attack the foam, sets up QUICK, so use dabs of this stuff on the backside of your wall facia. I recommend you come up with a LIGHT WEIGHT solution and do not get carried away with plaster and such. Plaster cloth gets expensive FAST.
    Perhaps a thin sheet of material, laid flat, and sculpt and decorate your wall face. Then stand it up against your back structure and tack in place. Most of the weight will be vertical. Now dab on the adhesive, do not smear up the whole thing. Hot glue also works well and comes in different adhesive strengths to. Or double sided strong tape if you ever plan on taking this apart some day.

  • Vyt Radzivanas says:

    I’ve used 5mm (3/16″) foamboard to make retaining walls & tunnel portals with satisfying results.

    Cut the foamboard to desired sizes & shapes (or close to it). Remove the paper by wetting it and after a few minutes it will rub off easily with your fingers. The foamboard’s surface texture is decent enough to replicate stone, concrete or brick.

    To put stone block or brick patterning on it, use a sharp hobby knife to lightly score the desired pattern. Then use something like a blunt toothpick or paintbrush handle to “dent” the foamboard along the scored lines to simulate the mortar lines.

    I’ve found that using acrylic paint best brings out the textures of the foamboard for stone or brick.

    Got the idea from Luke Towan – used foamboard in one of his earlier video tutorials to make bridge abutments.

    Also, if using foam, make sure your adhesive (or glue gun) won’t melt it – test on a scrap piece first.

  • Morgan Bilbo says:

    I will comment on the use of caulk. For temporary or removable use, such as roadbed & track, DAP Alex is good. I used it. Not really anticipating moving the track, but did have to. Simple to pry up with a putty knife. What little residue of caulk left was easily peeled off with finger. And left no mess, no damage to either roadbed or track. The whole process was easy enough for me – an old fogy. For permanent use, I recommend Loctite PL 300. Both are foam compatible. There are other good ones, such as Liquid Nails. But my use of DAP was because it was cheap. Less than $2 a tube from W-M. Final note. DAP went on white and dried clear.

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