Can You Use Small Glue Sticks in a Large Glue Gun?


It’s very easy to grab a pack of the wrong size glue sticks when you’re in a hurry. If you get glue sticks that are smaller than your gun, can you still use them?

You can technically use small glue sticks in a large glue gun, but you will have to push the glue with your other hand, as the glue gun won’t be able to get a grip on it.

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Putting small glue sticks in a large glue gun causes some trouble. It would be much easier for you to just go back to the store and exchange them for the right sized glue sticks.

How does a glue gun work?

Before we get into the sizes of glue sticks, here is something about glue guns and how they work. This will give you a general understanding of glue guns.

When glue guns were first created, they were used only for bonding soles of shoes. Nowadays, they are used for many different projects in-home and in the industry. They can be used for woodworking, crafts, packaging, and so on.

The whole point of a glue gun is to bond things together. To get the best results, you have to get glue sticks that are compatible with the gun. 

Glue sticks can be made out of resin, waxes, and thermoplastic polymers. Different kinds of glue guns have different outputs, and that’s why there are so many chemical compositions of glue sticks. Some of these glue sticks will produce harder glue, while others will produce softer glue. They can also vary in color. 

This glue is meant to be waterproof and resistant to chemical treatments. Make sure you keep it away from a source of high temperature once it has hardened, as it will become soft again.

Glue gun sticks are usually loaded into a back hole that exists on the gun. The movement of the stick is either automated and controlled by a trigger, or manually fed. This depends on the model of your glue gun.

Once the gun is activated, the glue moves to the check valve on the way to the melting chamber. This is a ball loaded spring that is located directly under the nozzle. A lot of glue models have a transparent viewing area. This helps you to see if there is too much glue in the melting chamber.

When the glue is in the melting chamber, it will take about 2-5 minutes to melt the glue stick. This process will be shorter if the gun is already hot when you put a glue stick in it. 

Thermistors regulate the heating process, and that allows the gun to be heated without the rest of the gun becoming hot. The melted glue is distributed through a metallic nozzle. Be careful not to touch the nozzle because it can get very hot.

The glue that is produced by a glue gun comes out in very thin strips which harden a few minutes after leaving the gun.

Can you use small glue sticks in a large glue gun?

Glue sticks that are smaller than your gun won’t damage the glue gun but the gun will not be able to grip the stick for it to push the glue through the heating element. If you want to use smaller glue sticks, you will have to push the glue through with your second hand. 

However, you might cause a problem in the heating element of the glue gun if you push them by hand. The glue sticks could melt and fill that void before anything comes out of the gun and it could even come out the back end of the glue gun.

How to choose the right glue stick size for your glue gun?

There are many glue gun types out there, and each of them serves a different purpose. Even though you probably have the most common glue gun in your home, here is a list of every glue gun type and their stick size, maybe you’ll find that you need to upgrade your glue gun to fit your needs.

5/16″ Mini Hot Glue Guns

This small glue size is a typical craft store glue gun size. The sticks that are used with this gun are 5/16″ X 4″ mini glue sticks. With these “mini” glue sticks, your options are usually limited and they have a lower quality adhesive, which then results in weak bonding. 

1/2″ Glue Guns​

This type of glue gun is the most common size of the glue gun and it gives you the most glue stick options. It is much better than the “mini” glue gun version. With a 1/2″ glue gun, you will get much more adhesive options, it will probably perform a lot better and last a lot longer. 

​5/8″ Glue Guns

The 5/8″ size of glue gun gives you higher output for more troublesome applications and still offers a lot of glue stick options. The ⅝” glue sticks are also bigger so you get more glue dispensed with each trigger pull and have to add more glue less often. If you need a little more output than a standard ½” gun offers, or if you are tired of constantly reloading your glue gun, ⅝” glue guns are a great option for you.

1.75” Glue Guns

There are only a few manufacturers who make glue guns this big. They are mostly made for industrial use. They have large 1.75”x1.75” glue slugs, which makes them a great option for high volume and industrial applications. 1.75” glue guns are available in all-electric and pneumatic versions, which means that they can be used as a traditional glue gun with just a cord or connected to an air compressor for easy dispensing. 

These guns also offer sprayable versions that can dispense long open time glue slugs in spray form.

The drawback of using these guns is that they are very expensive and are a little bulkier than smaller stick sized guns.

In case you have an industrial application or just want a gun that is going to hold up in the long run, this is a great glue gun for you. It offers some options that other glue guns don’t have. 

​3M TC ⅝” X 2” Glue Guns

These glue guns are the only size glue guns that take ⅝”x2” glue sticks and feed them to the glue gun with the user’s thumb, not a trigger. If you don’t like the idea of pushing glue sticks with your thumb, this might not be a glue gun for you.

3M TC ⅝” X 8” Quadrack Glue Guns

3M TC glue gun with a Quadrack converter is similar to the standard 3M TC glue gun but it has a trigger mechanism. It is very durable and offers good output.

3M PG 1” X 3” Glue Guns

These are pneumatic glue guns and they have been around forever. They are great for high volume applications or if you want to mount a glue gun and attach accessories like a foot pedal. It’s good for high volume industrial use but it’s probably too much for an average user.

What is the difference between hot melt and low melt glue guns?

Hot melt and low melt glue guns are often referred to as high temperature and low-temperature glue guns. Their settings are fixed at 383°F for high-temperature guns and 266°F for low-temperature guns. In some cases, glue guns will have adjustable temperatures, from low to high.

Low melt glue guns

Low melt glue guns are very easy and safe to use. The risk of burns is lower due to a lower temperature. They are often used for bonding heat-sensitive materials, arts and crafts, and schools. The downside of using low melt glue guns is restricted glue formulations.

Hot melt glue gun

Hot melt glue guns have a wider selection of glue formulations to pick from. They can bond more challenging materials like polypropylene, plastics, ABS, acrylics, and even metals. 

You can get glue sticks that are called multi-temperature glue sticks, which can be used for both hot and low melt glue guns. 

When choosing a glue gun, you should pick it according to the kind of glue that is used, the dispensing rate you need, and what you need for your project. While hot melt glue sticks offer a wider range of options for bonding, low melt glue sticks only come in a selected range and are usually used for bonding heat-sensitive materials like polystyrene and foam. Low melt glue sticks are safer to use than high melt ones, which is something to think about if your children will be using them. 

Final Thoughts

Now you know the ins and outs of a glue gun. Remember yes you can use small glue sticks in a large glue gun but it may take some extra manual energy to get the job done.

Related Questions

What is a standard size glue stick? The standard size glue stick is 1/2″ or 12mm. These are the most common glue sticks on the market.

Are there different types of glue sticks? There are different types of glue sticks. Including Multi-Temperature, Clear, Colored, and Glitter glue sticks.

What is the strongest hot glue? Gorilla Hot Glue Sticks is the strongest hot glue on the market.

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