Rubber cement -- what's it good for? Absolutely not Scrabble bracelets

surreal collage
Glue, adhesive, bond, cement, whatever you call it, choosing the wrong one can end in disaster. 

Remember rubber cement, the goop you used in grade school? Yesterday I learned the hard way about what it is and is not good for.

I haven't used rubber cement in years. My "go to" adhesive is E6000. For my book projects, I use pH neutral glue. And Mod Podge, which we know rocks, can stick things together in a pinch.
rubber cementThis weekend, I brought out my small bottle of Elmer's rubber cement to work on a collage. My husband and I are taking a free online class on art concepts and techniques, and this week the instructor asked students to construct a surreal collage. She's a strong proponent of rubber cement, at least for paper.

Of course, she makes it look easy. In her hands, the clear goop doesn't ooze all over the place, big blobs running down the outside of the jar. 

I didn't remember this from my grade school days, but you have to apply the glue to both pieces -- the paper background and the cutout you want to attach. Then, before smooshing them together, you have to wait for the glue to dry. Although it only takes a minute or two, it's hard to interrupt the creative flow to wait. 

The brush attached to the bottle top is too wide for small pieces. One stroke and the table is covered with glue. But it comes off easily after it dries. You just rub the area vigorously with your finger and the glue turns into small round balls (glue "boogers") that can be brushed off the paper.

The more I glued, the better I got at it. Here's part of my final collage.
part of my surreal collage
Unfortunately, I finished it too late to turn it into my online class.

There's no such thing as too much of a good thing, right? So I decided to try the rubber cement on other things. Starting with my Scrabble bracelets. I make these by cutting small paper squares (from magazines, books), attaching them to the back of a Scrabble tile, and then coating them with a dimensional glaze.

Usually, I run each paper square through a Xyron sticker maker before sticking them to the back of the tile. Yesterday, I switched to rubber cement. Big mistake.
ruined tile
When I first glued the paper to the wooden pieces, they seemed to adhere beautifully. I even coated them with Mod Podge. The trouble came when I added the dimensional glaze. After the glaze dried overnight, the corners of the paper pulled up off the tiles. On ALL the 48 tiles I had prepared the night before.
Ruined tiles
I couldn't flatten them -- any pressure would crack the brittle clear coat. So I removed all the images from the tiles. They came off so easily that I knew they wouldn't have lasted long on a wrist. 

Lesson learned. When experimenting with a new adhesive, test it on 1 or 2 pieces. Not 48. 

Here's the full collage, in case you're interested. It's called "home FREE."
Final collage

It's about playing outside when you're a kid. Your mom tells you to come home for dinner, but you don't want to. At least, that's what I think it's about.

More about the goops I use.


  1. Oh no on all those scrabble tiles. I remember using rubber cement as a kid but not what for - just remembered loving rubbing it off things. The most common use I remember from my teen years and later is for watercolors to mask while applying a background wash, then it can be rubbed off and painting and resume. I have no clue if watercolorists still use it or have a new better product to use these days.


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