... Glues

While usually not a sizzling hot topic when compared to the other more "solid" elements, it is in fact the various glues that hold the entire communicator prop together, and so in a real sense, they do collectively constitute a vital part as well - and one that has never received much, if any, attention prior.  There are a total of FIVE different adhesives used in the dummies and the hero, each having their own properties that made them suitable for their task.  It is not our job here to figure out precisely what vintage sources were used - that would require chemical testing of physical samples - but simply to identify the best-looking modern equivalent (a few of those tested at right >>) for your replicas.  The goal is to have you be able to inexpensively mimic the most likely look the comms had brand new out of Wah's shop in 1966.

Of course, the only glues visible from the outside are the little drops accidentally squeezed out from between the parts, so striving to recreate the exact appearance of ALL the glues is only important if you intend to remove the bottom shell of your replica prop and show off its beautifully authentic-looking insides.

Decades of light, air, dirt and heat have no doubt altered the look of some or all the original adhesives, making it impossible to know with absolute certainty, for instance, what was yellowish to start out with vs. what has tinted with age.  It must be acknowledged that we have grown accustomed to pure stark clean colors in our materials today.  But just as with a light-cream paper (rather than stark white) actually being used in the original moiré pattern book, crystal clear adhesives were not necessarily available in the mid 1960s, so we have included ways to colorize the glues in the direction of what you see in authentic Trek props today.  Also a lack of focused direct inspection of the surviving dummy comms mandates some minor uncertainty.  Thus this is the line-up as is best known - and duplicable - right now:

1)  PlioBond to secure the shells to the midplate, the dummy moiré ring & control panel to the shell, and for the knobs & rhinestones.

2)  Cream-colored epoxy gel to fasten the jewel hubs to the shells, plus the hero bezel ring and control panel to the shell.

3)  Grey epoxy paste to position and hold and the antenna axle to the shell, and the mic grill into the shell under the control panel.

4)  Hot glue for the stopwatch in the hero and the dummy moire pattern inside the bezel ring.

5)  Rubber Contact Adhesive to glue the Velcro to the bottom shell.

Where to get:

Disclaimer:  The colors and textures of the glues in the original comms have been determined via photographs, and so far our simulations have not yet been compared side-by-side with the real deal.  Also, as they are newly developed, our methodologies have not been repeated and life-cycle tested in masse.  We thus welcome as always your reports of where improvements could be made, and updates will of course be posted of any new information that makes these glue choices more accurate, effective and/or affordable.

1. Pliobond

A contact cement that has been around for decades and also meets all the visual and adhesive requirements of keeping shell and midplate together - which means it could very well have been used by Wah here - is... PlioBond contact cement >>>

You see a blob of it on the aluminum plate (beneath the comm shell) is a clear-ish amber, just like how the glue looks in TOS screen caps.

The original Plibond formula, with its high content of volitiles, stinks to high heaven for quite a long time after use, so nicely another version with lower volitiles (that's the "LV" on the label) smells considerably less so. Still, you'll want to apply it outside, and let the pieces dry there overnight.

If the aroma doesn't appeal to you, you can always use a more convention rubber contact cement (see glue #5 below), though that stuff doesn't grip the two difficult materials quite as strongly as Pliobond, and the color is a pale yellow instead of rich amber..

Nicely, Pliobond is available at Ace Hardware stores and online everywhere.



2. Cream-Colored Epoxy Gel

Wah used a different formula when presumably he needed slightly greater viscosity to limit stray flow.  We have found, though, no direct match for this thick smoothly spreadable shiny opaque glue that is ever-so darker than Benjamin Moore color #2156-50 "Asbury Sand" on their "Color Preview" series chip 2156.  Devcon Plastic Weld is reminiscent in chroma but is a bit translucent, too thick and isn't shiny.  PC-11 is opaque and can be tinted but is also too thick to flow smoothly.  However, we have discovered a three-step process that gets just the right look and color.

1) Start with a dime-sized smear of Ace "Super Strength Gel Epoxy" which has a modest thickness, workable hardening time and a base yellow tint.  It is translucent so 2) opaque it with maybe a half-drop or less of Testors #1145 "White".  And 3) blend in just a tiny wisp of Testors #1166 "Flat Brown" and WOW - a near perfect match!  Note that you don't need much dark pigment to color up white, but don't go too light either.  A nice rich orange-yellow.  You've got about ten minutes left to spread tiny toothpick-quantities where you need it.  Remember that in real life the areas you are working with are miniscule.  You'll also find all this glue is stringy and imprecise to locate, with little accidental drops and stringers here and there, just as when Wah did it.  Also be mindful that adding too much paint will compromise the epoxy strength, and in fact this particular product, even raw and uncolored, oddly does not cling to the textured side of Kydex very well.  For this reason, we only recommend it for the slot car hubs.  The hero moiré ring might best be held down with one of the other epoxies listed in the prior paragraph.

3. Grey Epoxy Putty

Many "plumbers" or "metal repair" formulas give you a grey color and the viscosity needing to secure that hinge axle, but only one tested also renders those requisite properties combined with smooth spreading and glossy shine - J-B Weld #8625-S

When first mixed its consistency is very thin - near like molasses.  For securing the mic grill, that's fine since you want it to flow some.  But for the antenna axle, you need it to be much stiffer to hold its height.  Nicely it does eventually get there - after about 90-120 minutes (depending on temperature and humidity).  When you scoop it up from your mixing surface with a screwdriver blade after that much time, it will lose its shine and seem almost completely hardened.  But have heart.  Just plop it down on the inside of the shell and watch as it quickly glosses back up and continues to slump a bit.  It still takes a few more hours to completely set, so don't think you've got the antenna assembly positioned just right and walk away, for it will continue to creep, especially under the weight of the metal.  In fact, to avoid this creep and the need to make ongoing adjustments, we recommend you first glue the brass axle (with the hinge wheels) into the midplate slots (as Wah looks to have done), then glue the midplate to the top shell, and finally add the dollop of grey epoxy with everything else already tightly in place.  This way you can orient around at will the entire assembly to guide the ongoing "flow" until it finally settles up completely, which can take hours.

A final note - the color from a 1:1 mix of JB Weld is somewhat darker than what was used back then.  To lighten it up, we first experimented with simply doubling up the amount of the whitish hardener, but that proved unsatisfactory as paradoxically it never hardened fully to rock-like consistency.  What did work, however, is adding to a standard 1:1 mix some drops of paint... you guessed it, Testors #1145 "White."  This approach, while still providing shiny rock-solid results, has two added challenges:  how much paint to add and how long to let it cure before applying the mass to the shell.  Because it is always more difficult to lighten up a dark base color than to darken a light, it will take a number of drops, the quantity of which will vary depending on how much epoxy you whip up.  In the nickel-sized examples below (78º F / 50% humidity), it took about four full drops to lighten it modestly, which is really all you're looking for.  All that extra liquid also lengthened the hardening time by about 25%.  The standard 1:1 mix was ready for "axle application" in two hours.  The lightened mix took a half hour longer.  We of course strongly recommend you run a test batch first to get a feel for how this stuff flows, changes and stiffens.  It is not immediately intuitive.

4. Hot Glue

The identification of this as "hot glue" dispensed by a gun has been controversial, and rightly so.  It matches mostly but not perfectly the look of modern hot glue, and there is unresolved debate as to when hot glue was even first available.  However, the vintage material is still slightly pliable to the touch (a fingernail impression can still be left that eventually fades away) and the long wispy threads at the ends are a spot-on ringer for today's hot glue.  It most certainly is not silicone-based like Goop or aquarium glass sealant.  The same adhesive was also employed in holding together panels of the fiberglass tricorders made by the Desilu prop shop probably in Season One (picture at far right >> courtesy of Dennis Stine).

The key to matching the right look for glue sticks is the opacity.  Nearly every single stick available today has a considerable transparency to it.  However what you see in Alpha comm and the tricorder is mostly opaque with just a mild cream color and milky translucence.  Every single glue stick sold at HobbyLobby or A.C. Moore has been tested and rejected as being too transparent, especially considering how small and thin the extruded cross sections end up being.  There is also one made for fabrics that is solid white, with no color or translucence to it at all.  No, what you need something commercially unavailable - a custom blend.  So let's make one!

By combining the desired elements of opacity, translucency and color from different glue sticks, melting them into one and reforming the mix into new sticks, we have with near success recreated the exact appearance of what is in the hero communicator.  Below is an illustrated step-by-step description of an attempt that rendered good results, albeit with a lot of work and trimming waste.  Additional experiments would no doubt lead to a streamlined process, and we encourage you - the marketplace - to discover those better ways.  The cooled excess peeled cleanly from the pan's Teflon surface, though drops stuck tenaciously to the exposed aluminum outside.  Because of that high proclivity for adhesion, we do suggest a "mold" material other than aluminum foil.  Just leaving the blend (which is nothing but a low-melting plastic) in the bottom of the pan, allowing it to cool undisturbed, and cutting the flexible creamy white disc into strips would be less total effort than this.  Perhaps even pouring the hot goo onto a thin flexible non-stick material (finding that stuff is the tricky part) that then gets rolled into cylindrical shape - squashing and forming the glue into ready-made sticks - would cut out the most laborious steps here:

Based on the results from experiments like that shown above, we recommend the following recipe.  Ventilate well and wear rubber gloves while handling the heated materials as sensible precautions.  Note that all these online-purchased sticks have the same "Dual Temperature" rating to assure a homogeneous melting/coagulating point...

                             1 Part   SureBonder "Fabric Stik" for the solid opacity.
                             2 Parts SureBonder "Best Stix" for the translucence.
                             3 Parts SureBonder "Wood Stik" for the cream color.

                             plus an optional Electric Skillet made just for the purpose if you want to do this away from your kitchen.

The end product, prior to putting it in the gun, looks eerily similar to cheddar cheese lunch sticks, but once applied it adheres to the Kydex like nobody's business.  Pics of Alpha also strongly suggests the old original glue has, beyond the nice pale color that will result from the recipe, an extra lean towards the yellow.  Thus the hot glue in the mock-up photos below also had a teensy whisper of Testors #1114 "Yellow Jaune" added to the heated mix (it stirred in effortlessly), and as you can see it created an almost photo-duplicate match.

The hot gun Wah (presumably) used had an long thin tip that allowed him to inject the glue into tighter recesses than your average gun today permits.  You may wish to consider a custom modification of grinding down the metal tip to a smaller diameter.  As a final application  hint, the low-temp setting of a duel-temperature gun will increase the odds of getting some desired stringiness at the ends.

If ever you need to remove the glue, say from an unsatisfactory installation or to replace a failed stopwatch, a generous dabbing of rubbing (isopropyl) alcohol from a cotton swab around the edges will wick itself underneath and loosen the grip, allowing the glue to be cleanly peeled off with little effort and no residue.

*   *   *   *   *

By utilizing all four adhesive groups detailed above, you can create a replica that looks deliciously like a shiny new Wah comm:

5. Rubber Contact Adhesive

It is notable and telling that the excess glue around the Velcro is still so visible - in that it both allows us to see what they used and how they applied it.  Typically when you put too much glue between two surfaces, the excess globs up most right at the outer edge.  Except for one spot in Delta, that is not what we're seeing.  Rather, (relatively) large periphery areas on the shell have a thin coating that has held up under many years of handling.  This strongly suggests that a layer of the glue was applied (pretty sloppily, of course) both directly to the shell and to the Velcro's underside for a more permanent bond.  Each surface gets a coating, you let them dry, and once brought together, they stay that way for decades or longer.  But rather than letting them fully dry, which grants you zero ability to reposition, marry them immediately, which gives you a pinch of slide time before they lock down.

The exposed excess, both on the communicator shells as well as under the Velcro on other original landing party props...

... is so well intact that it lets you know this glue was not the rubber cement you played with in grade school art class.  That kiddy stuff rubs off at the lightest touch.  This is commercial grade.  We suggest Devcon Rubber Adhesive, which has the right balance of durability, thickness, yellow color and transparency.  And once completely dried, the remainder left on the shell around the Velcro will harden over and stay put just like on the originals, provided you don't forcibly remove it.

Star Trek is a Registered and Copyrighted Trademark of Paramount Pictures.  All Rights Reserved.  All subject matters referring to Star Trek are trademarks of Paramount Pictures.

This website has not been produced or endorsed by Paramount Pictures.  Any material belonging to Paramount’s Copyrighted Material that may appear on this site complies with fair and/or acceptable use for the purposes of review, study, criticism, or news reporting.