Trains.com

Subscriber & Member Login

Login, or register today to interact in our online community, comment on articles, receive our newsletter, manage your account online and more!

Matte medium versus white glue for scenery?

6711 views
24 replies
1 rating 2 rating 3 rating 4 rating 5 rating
  • Member since
    April 2002
  • From: Frankfort, Indiana
  • 419 posts
Matte medium versus white glue for scenery?
Posted by Morpar on Saturday, February 18, 2023 6:52 AM

I was in a couple of the local craft stores last week getting some basswood and I was looking at prices on matte medium (Mod Podge brand) and comparing it to white glue (Elmer's school glue). At the 16 ounce level the prices are comparable, but as the size of the container went up the prices diverged a lot. The gallon of school glue was $15 and the gallon of Mod Podge was $57. Which now begs a couple of questions for the rest of the forum. Is there any significant difference between the two products for scenery? I saw the Mod Podge is available with different gloss levels, what would be the normal gloss level of white glue? And does it really matter to hold ballast and grass in place? And last is there another brand of matte medium which is maybe a bit less costly and would work the same? Thanks for the thoughts on this.

Good Luck, Morpar

  • Member since
    March 2019
  • 176 posts
Posted by reasearchhound on Saturday, February 18, 2023 8:51 AM

Since diluted white glue has been used almost forever without any significant issues (at least IMO) sheen wise, just wondering why you would want to consider spending that much more for a different product. I am not sure about the holding power of the acrylic medium but know that white glue is pretty formidable which for ballast work would seem to be the more important factor.

  • Member since
    July 2006
  • From: west coast
  • 7,567 posts
Posted by rrebell on Saturday, February 18, 2023 9:40 AM

Scenery today is built up in layers. White glue and school glue are not the same thing. School glue will desolve in water right away, white glue will turn white again and lose its hold after a short exposure to water. Matt medium will eventually lose adheashion but only after soaking in water wor a long time, took a week in a bucket of water for mine and even then took some work. I don't know much about Mod Podge brrand, I used Liquatex.

  • Member since
    February 2005
  • From: Vancouver Island, BC
  • 23,317 posts
Posted by selector on Saturday, February 18, 2023 11:20 AM

I use aliphatic resin (carpenters' glue, the yellow stuff) for everything. It isn't advised for model kits, especially wooden ones meant to look nice when done, but for railroad ballast and scenery fixing, it works very well for me.

  • Member since
    January 2014
  • 1,496 posts
Posted by ROBERT PETRICK on Saturday, February 18, 2023 1:54 PM

selector

I use aliphatic resin (carpenters' glue, the yellow stuff) for everything. It isn't advised for model kits, especially wooden ones meant to look nice when done, but for railroad ballast and scenery fixing, it works very well for me.

Yes, and there's something about that white 'School Glue' that is different from the old white Elmer's carpenter glue.

In the old days you could intermix white glue and yellow aliphatic glue (Type I interior, not Type II exterior) and get a perfectly consistent light yellow glue. With the new formula white 'School Glue' you end up with lumpy yellow tapioca. Using thinned white 'School Glue' does not work at all for ballasting.

So, I use Type I (non-waterproof interior) yellow glue for pretty much everything (including ballasting). Mainly because I can't seem to find the old formula white Elmer's Glue.

No idea why Elmer's changed the formula. Probably because kids nowadays . . .

Hope this helps.

Robert 

LINK to SNSR Blog


  • Member since
    August 2022
  • 21 posts
Posted by Mike in NC on Saturday, February 18, 2023 3:33 PM

I think that white school glues has to be,...  edible.

-Mike in NC,..

  • Member since
    February 2008
  • 2,274 posts
Posted by kasskaboose on Saturday, February 18, 2023 7:18 PM

How you using the glue for scenery?  I secure ground foam, I suggest wet water.  This is a mix of white glue and water. Multiple ways to apply it, to include a spray (like what's used for some household cleaners).  Again, it depends on how you plan to use the application(s).

  • Member since
    April 2002
  • From: Frankfort, Indiana
  • 419 posts
Posted by Morpar on Sunday, February 19, 2023 6:18 AM

While I am still in the track laying stage on my layout, at some point I will want to start on scenery. When I'm out and about helping support the local economy I see things which I will need at some point and I check pricing. I know I will need some sort of adhesive for scenery work in the (hopefully near) future, so I was curious what the consensus is. I have no desire to spend 3 times as much for an adhesive unless there is a really good reason to do so. I looked at Menard's website yesterday and found Titebond white glue for about $15 a gallon. I didn't price yellow glue, but it sticks in my head it is a similar price. If there are no issues with the yellow glue discoloring scenic materials and the price is close I may just use it. I already buy it by the gallon for woodworking projects, so I know it won't go to waste. My only concern with using glue over the matte medium is regarding gloss. When I have had glue drips in the shop they tend to be kind of a semi-gloss finish and yellow in color. When the glue is thinned out does the glossiness go away? And how about the yellowish tinge on light-colored ballast? 

Good Luck, Morpar

  • Member since
    February 2018
  • From: Flyover Country
  • 5,333 posts
Posted by York1 on Sunday, February 19, 2023 6:46 AM

Morpar
My only concern with using glue over the matte medium is regarding gloss. When I have had glue drips in the shop they tend to be kind of a semi-gloss finish and yellow in color. When the glue is thinned out does the glossiness go away?

 

When I started my first layout several years ago, I had the same question.  I knew that dried glue was shiny and I was afraid the ballast and other areas would be shiny.

That didn't happen.  The watered down glue is completely invisible once it dries.

I also use alcohol as a wetting agent before putting down the glue, but I only work on small areas at a time.  Many modelers use water with a small amount of detergent.

Whatever you use, I hope you will keep us posted on your progress.  We all are interested in how other modelers do things and the results.

York1 John       

  • Member since
    July 2006
  • From: west coast
  • 7,567 posts
Posted by rrebell on Sunday, February 19, 2023 9:23 AM

ROBERT PETRICK

 

 
selector

I use aliphatic resin (carpenters' glue, the yellow stuff) for everything. It isn't advised for model kits, especially wooden ones meant to look nice when done, but for railroad ballast and scenery fixing, it works very well for me.

 

 

Yes, and there's something about that white 'School Glue' that is different from the old white Elmer's carpenter glue.

In the old days you could intermix white glue and yellow aliphatic glue (Type I interior, not Type II exterior) and get a perfectly consistent light yellow glue. With the new formula white 'School Glue' you end up with lumpy yellow tapioca. Using thinned white 'School Glue' does not work at all for ballasting.

So, I use Type I (non-waterproof interior) yellow glue for pretty much everything (including ballasting). Mainly because I can't seem to find the old formula white Elmer's Glue.

No idea why Elmer's changed the formula. Probably because kids nowadays . . .

Hope this helps.

Robert 

 

The companys school glue and white glue are two different products, both are still available. The school glue is able to be washed out of clothing and will clean off many things easily, even after drying. White glue, not so much. Matt medium, not at all but soaking will loosen its hold.

  • Member since
    July 2006
  • 20 posts
Posted by jmbraddock on Monday, February 20, 2023 2:19 PM

Matte medium is usually comprised of methacrylic acid and butyl acrylate.  Both Modge Podge and Elmer's White Glue All have Polyvinyl Acetate as their main ingredient. All three work for ballast and scenery, but real matte medium is more expensive, being primarily used by artists.

If you are trying to choose betwen Modge Podge and Elmer's, since they are basically the same thing, go with whichever is cheaper.

 

Joe

  • Member since
    January 2004
  • From: Canada, eh?
  • 13,375 posts
Posted by doctorwayne on Monday, February 20, 2023 3:35 PM

I use LePage's White Wood glue, diluted with distilled water from my basement dehumidifier.  It works great for both ballast and ground cover, including static grass. 
I used insulator's aluminum tape to hold some deep ballast in place...

...which worked well while the deep limestone ballast finally hardened almost a week later...

Wayne

 

  • Member since
    April 2002
  • From: Frankfort, Indiana
  • 419 posts
Posted by Morpar on Monday, February 20, 2023 5:01 PM

Wayne, you never cease to amaze me! I never thought of actually SAVING the water from the dehumidifier, I just put a hose on the back and run it into the sump in the basement. And I love the aluminum tape too. I use a lot of it when making epoxy and wood slab tops. But around here we call it "chrome tape" since you see it being used a lot when someone has a rust hole in their chrome bumper.  

Good Luck, Morpar

  • Member since
    January 2004
  • From: Canada, eh?
  • 13,375 posts
Posted by doctorwayne on Monday, February 20, 2023 8:26 PM

Morpar
And I love the aluminum tape too. I use a lot of it when making epoxy and wood slab tops. But around here we call it "chrome tape" since you see it being used a lot when someone has a rust hole in their chrome bumper.

Yeah, I have two son-in-laws who work as insulaters, and get a free roll the aluminum tape whenever I need some.

As an experiment, I decided to sorta/kinda scratchbuild a boxcar....

Here are some photos...

I later scratchbuilt several gondolas on Tichy flatcars...

...along with a cinder car, based on a TH&B prototype, but lettered for my own Elora Gorge & Eastern...

Wayne

 

  • Member since
    February 2017
  • From: Harrisburg, PA
  • 628 posts
Posted by hbgatsf on Wednesday, March 1, 2023 8:32 PM

Regarding white glues, is WS Scenic Cement the same as the others or is there something special about it?  

Rick

  • Member since
    January 2017
  • From: Southern Florida Gulf Coast
  • 18,255 posts
Posted by SeeYou190 on Wednesday, March 1, 2023 10:51 PM

Morpar
Which now begs a couple of questions for the rest of the forum. Is there any significant difference between the two products for scenery?

I tested Mod Podge Matte and Elmers Glue All (not school glue).

Elmers is less glossy than Mod Podge Matte when thinned and sprayed on Woodland Scenics ground cover.

Save your money.

Mod Podge Matte IS NOT the same product as Artist's Matte Medium. Mod Podge is a decoupage sealer.

-Kevin

Living the dream.

  • Member since
    September 2004
  • From: Dearborn Station
  • 23,892 posts
Posted by richhotrain on Thursday, March 2, 2023 5:37 AM

I have told my story many times before on this forum about my entry into HO scale model railroading back in early 2004. Back then, I had a local hobby shop run by Roger and his sidekick Howard. They taught me everything that I needed to know to successfully build a layout and run trains. From the beginning, they provided me with advice from layout construction to trackwork to wiring to ballasting and landscaping. 

When it came time to ballast and landscape, they recommended matte medium as the bonding agent. I bought a gallon of Liquitex Acrylic Matte Medium for $60. Sure, the price is 4 to 6 times higher than Elmer's White glue, but the results are better in my experience. Quieter running trains over ballast secured with matte medium and softer landscaping like ground cover than the hard shell brittle effect of white glue.

The beauty of matte medium is that it can be softened and removed with 70 percent isopropyl alcohol. I never use water on my layout so white glue is not something that I am interested in using. For ballast, I use a mix of 1 part matte medium and 4 parts tap water. For landscaping, I use a mix of 1 part matte medium and 6 parts tap water. A gallon of matte medium goes a very long way with those proportions.

Rich

Alton Junction

  • Member since
    January 2017
  • From: Southern Florida Gulf Coast
  • 18,255 posts
Posted by SeeYou190 on Thursday, March 2, 2023 7:11 AM

richhotrain
I bought a gallon of Liquitex Acrylic Matte Medium for $60. Sure, the price is 4 to 6 times higher than Elmer's White glue, but the results are better in my experience.

Yes, overall Arcylic Matte Medium is better than Elmers Glue All.

The OP was asking about Mod Podge Matte, which as a couple of us pointed out, is not Matte Medium. I do not think Mod Podge Matte is a better option than Elmers Glue All. I have never tried Elmers School Glue for a hobby project.

The advice you received I agree with. Artists Acrylic Matte Medium is superior to Elmers Glue All for scenery. I have used it on previous layouts with excellent results.

When I switched to HO scale, money was tight, and I downgraded to Elmers Glue All, and found it was fine for me when everything was completed. I have stayed with Elmers Glue All ever since.

-Kevin

Living the dream.

  • Member since
    February 2008
  • 8,617 posts
Posted by maxman on Thursday, March 2, 2023 8:48 AM

A question was asked above if WS Scenic Cement was the same as white glue or if there was something different about it.

I don’t think I saw an answer to this.

  • Member since
    February 2008
  • 264 posts
Posted by AEP528 on Thursday, March 2, 2023 8:56 AM

maxman

A question was asked above if WS Scenic Cement was the same as white glue or if there was something different about it.

I don’t think I saw an answer to this.

 

Woodland Scenics doesn't provide ingredient information for any of their products. It dries brittle, so more likely white glue rather than medium. Regardless, it's $9.99 for a bottle of water with some diluted glue and a drop of dish soap.

  • Member since
    September 2004
  • From: Dearborn Station
  • 23,892 posts
Posted by richhotrain on Thursday, March 2, 2023 11:46 AM

I once ordered a bottle of Woodland Scenics Scenic Cement when I meant to order Woodland Scenics Scenic Glue.

Once I had the Scenic Cement in hand, I decided to try it for landscaping purposes. It was way too watery and not all that effective.

Rich

Alton Junction

  • Member since
    August 2006
  • 1,517 posts
Posted by trainnut1250 on Saturday, March 4, 2023 11:35 AM

Woodland scenic cement is matt medium, not PVA – At least it was when I last used it.

Having used both matt medium and PVA (white glue) extensively over the last 30 years, I can honestly say that I don’t really have a preference. The differences are pretty subtle.

White glue is cheap and it dries nearly (but not completely) flat. I usually buy the gallon or quart of Elmer’s glue -all (not school glue) and mix 4 to 1 or other ratios depending on how much grab you want the glue to have. I use white glue mix for everything from ballast to ground cover to static grass with great results…

Matte medium appears to dry with a slightly flatter finish than PVA. It is more expensive to buy and if you mix it yourself you will have to deal with the talc that settles out – it can leave a white deposit on items if not filtered out or otherwise decanted….That is not a problem with the commercially prepared matt mixes from Scenic Express or Woodland Scenics…It is harder to dissolve dried Matt medium if you want to change something, but I haven’t found that to be a problem…

I now use matt medium exclusively for gluing flocking to super trees and in tree building processes….and I use PVA for most other scenery applications. Honestly, with the exclusion of the talc issue, either one works great. Pick one and get started with some scenery….

 

Everything except the trees in this scene is glued down with white glue - matt medium for the tree foliage..

 

Have fun,

 

Guy

see stuff at: the Willoughby Line Site

  • Member since
    February 2017
  • From: Harrisburg, PA
  • 628 posts
Posted by hbgatsf on Sunday, March 5, 2023 1:10 PM

trainnut1250

I now use matt medium exclusively for gluing flocking to super trees and in tree building processes….and I use PVA for most other scenery applications.  

What is the reason you like matte medium over PVA for that application?

Rick

  • Member since
    August 2006
  • 1,517 posts
Posted by trainnut1250 on Sunday, March 5, 2023 2:36 PM

hbgatsf

 

 
trainnut1250

I now use matt medium exclusively for gluing flocking to super trees and in tree building processes….and I use PVA for most other scenery applications.  

 

 

What is the reason you like matte medium over PVA for that application?

 

 

 

Good question - wish I had a better answer.. I pretty much fell into using it because Scenic Express recommended it. I have a 5 gallon bucket that gets filled with at least a gallon of matte medium solution and then the tree armatures are dunked in it before being flocked.

I think the dead flat of the matt medium works better than white glue which can dry a little less flat. This is sometimes noticeable on the tree trunks...Both PVA and Matte Medium will work well in this instance - just some subtleties...

 

Guy

 

see stuff at: the Willoughby Line Site

Subscriber & Member Login

Login, or register today to interact in our online community, comment on articles, receive our newsletter, manage your account online and more!

Search the Community

ADVERTISEMENT
ADVERTISEMENT
ADVERTISEMENT
Model Railroader Newsletter See all
Sign up for our FREE e-newsletter and get model railroad news in your inbox!