THE difference between ‘consumer’ and pro-quality glue guns is vast. When I was teaching Design and Technology, I used to feel for the frustration of my students, forced to use low melt glue guns for good old ‘health and safety’ reasons, as they watched their carefully glued pieces of work literally coming apart in their hands. The glue guns simply didn’t reach a high enough temperature for the adhesive to make a good enough bond, writes PETER BRETT.
On the other hand, a high-quality professional glue gun can be a very useful tool – providing almost instant adhesion, thin glue lines and typically a comprehensive array of stick adhesives to suit almost every gluing issue.
Enter the Steinel GluePRO 400 LCD – an up-to-date electronically controlled glue gun that will suit many trades with its versatile and highly controllable options for dispensing glue.
The glue joint - it’s all to do with electronics
Modern electronics is at the heart of the Steinel glue gun. With it, the tool is not just a heating element and a trigger to dispense the glue – it becomes possible to set the desired temperature of the glue to be applied so that it spreads evenly and does not cool so quickly that it merely forms a sticky lump in the middle of your gluing job. Steinel says that the temperature will be within 1 degree celsius of the user’s setting on the LCD screen – which is more than accurate enough.
The addition of a bit of electronics has not made the glue gun any more difficult to use. On the GluePRO 400 just where the cord enters the body there is a small LCD screen with switches on each side of it. One of the switches on the right side of the panel is the on/off switch with a temperature set button underneath it. Press the set button and use the up and down arrows on the left side to move to the required temperature that is shown on the LCD screen.
From the time of pressing the ‘on’ button Steinel says that the glue gun will be ready to use in less than two minutes. I timed it several times and the result was always within the time limit.
Other design features
The thing about a glue gun is that it is hot in use, so the designers have to find a way for it to stand independently without dripping hot glue anywhere unwanted. The GluePRO 400 has a lightweight and open built-in stand that will support it very stably when not in use. In the absence of a flat space it can be laid down on its side as well so site workers still have a gun resting option.
The stand can be removed by undoing a single screw leaving the nozzle about 100mm long so that it can be reached into small and confined spaces. When I used this feature I found it a very useful one, but do remember where you put the screw so you can replace the stand!
The trigger is another key design feature that finds favour with me. It is big and contoured to the shape of all four fingers so that the whole hand can supply the squeeze and sensitivity of feel needed to deliver a consistent bead of adhesive.
The large and grippy rubber overmoulded handle is also contoured for a comfortable and controlled grip. Even a ‘banana fingers’ will be able to use this handle comfortably.
The speed of adhesive delivery can be adjusted by moving the small lever switch on the top of the glue gun. Sometimes for speed, so that the glue does not cool too quickly, the feed rate needs to be very fast so the components can be quickly joined. For more delicate tasks, where a blob of glue in the wrong place would be a problem, the feed rate needs to be more delicate. Again, I found this feature to be useful, even though I mostly used the glue gun for sticking larger components together where speed of operation is essential.
To show off its professional credentials the GluePRO 400 comes with 4m of quality cable that gives pro workers enough radius on a jobsite or workshop to work.
The aluminium nozzle can be changed to suit the users’ preferences – but the glue that is in the gun needs to be warmed a little before attempting to do this – wearing a pair of gloves will prevent singed fingers.
Finally, there is a small hanging loop on top of the body. This is handy if the glue gun needs to hung out of the way to cool off after use but I would probably fabricate and attach a bigger hook to it to make it easier.
Don’t forget the adhesives
Often, the key to the successful use of a glue gun is a careful choice of adhesive. Their properties need to be matched to the job in hand. I was sent five boxes of 11mm diameter adhesive sticks: Fast, Flex, Universal, Low Melt and Acrylate. There is a comprehensive list on the back of each glue carton to help the user decide which one to choose for each task. On the ‘Fast’ carton, for example, the recommendations include wood, paper, card and textiles, as well as a list of plastics like Perspex and polypropylene. The instructions say that there is a strong bond after 30 seconds with just eight seconds of ‘open time’ to play with to position the pieces accurately. That seems about right in my experience of use.
Lower down the scale according to temperature is the Low Melt adhesive. With a relatively low temperature of 130 °C, this glue is really suited for fairly easily bonded materials like paper, card and textiles, but is not suited to more demanding gluing on plastics and ceramic for example.
I ran a few examples of every kind of glue stick supplied with the glue gun and I was able to enjoy the flexibility of operation that a professional glue gun can give. From one extreme where I was literally applying very hot glue as fast as I could pull the trigger (a whole glue stick can be applied in seconds so have another one ready!) or delicately applying small targeted spots of glue in small spaces, the feel of the gun is of total professional competence. There is no doubt that it will be used again on the jobsite as it has become part of my toolkit.