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I've made a series of small crafts in walnut shells and want to turn them into lockets of a sort by gluing a ribbon (or thin strip of cotton fabric) to the outside so I can tie them shut. I'm having trouble getting the glue to work properly, especially with ribbon.

I've tried Mod Podge, which didn't hold at all, and LePage wood glue, which mostly works if I use thin cotton fabric but is flimsy enough that it comes off with a bit of a yank. It's even worse if I try to use a silky ribbon or a piece of lace. Are there better ways to get fabric and walnut shells to bind, or should I just be very careful with them as is? (I know the other option is to attach the ribbon on the inside, but that won't let me secure it closed.)

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If the ribbon is polyester or nylon, it will be hard to make a strong bond to it. Most adhesives will stick a ribbon to something if it's only decorative and won't really get pulled. You need something more secure if the ribbon is going to serve as a hinge or closure.

If you can use a ribbon made from cotton, lots of glues will make a strong bond. Even regular PVA glue (e.g., Elmers), should work well.

If you prefer to stick with a polyester or nylon ribbon, at least you won't need a "structural" adhesive (something that makes a bond as strong as the material, itself); a locket won't get "abusive" handling. So an adhesive like E6000 would probably be strong enough for that purpose.

Another approach would be to create a hinge with a strip of cotton fabric that can be bonded well to the walnut. The walnut is a curved surface, so a wide hinge won't work (everything but the widest part of the shell will move apart when you open it). You would need to create something with an "H" shape (turned sideways). The connector in the middle would be the hinge, located at the widest point of the shell. The long legs would each go on one half of the shell to provide a longer gluing surface. Embed the polyester or nylon ribbon tie under the hinge part in the middle so the hinge holds the ribbon in place. A little glue on the ribbon will provide enough friction so it won't easily pull out.

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  • I like the hinge solution, but unfortunately that still leaves me without a way to close it. Do you know if there's a generic name for adhesives like E6000? It looks like it's more expensive here in Canada. I can stick to the cotton ribbons; I've just been looking for alternatives because they're fiddly to make.
    – Metis7
    Mar 21 at 22:43
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    @Metis7, I was envisioning the hinge as also holding the ribbon in place that you would use for closure. E6000 is one of a number of adhesives that are very aggressive and remain flexible, often basically neoprene rubber dissolved in a solvent. They are commonly sold for repairing shoes (they hold synthetic materials well). They can be a little expensive but they go a long way. Do a search on shoe repair cement to see what's available in your area or via mail order. Some similar products are Barge Cement, Shoe Fix Glue, Boot Fix Glue (many have "shoe" or "boot" in the name).
    – fixer1234
    Mar 22 at 1:29
  • Perhaps a bit too late for current purposes - probably best tried on an unfinished, shell, as it's liable to go wrong! - but can you drill holes through the shell, thread the ribbon through, and avoid needing glue at all?
    – avid
    Mar 22 at 11:55
  • @avid I like the idea, but I'm moving in two months and I don't want to try to get a drill before then. Most of the instructions I've seen online agree with you, though.
    – Metis7
    Mar 22 at 12:59
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Plain old construction silicone might do the trick.

Construction silicone is designed to stick to as many materials as possible. The fact that it stays flexible after curing makes the bond very long lasting because it cannot crumple. Transparent silicone has the added benefit of being somewhat invisible.

You can apply the silicone with your fingers or disposable tools like a popsicle stick.

  1. Squeeze some silicone from the cartridge and use the popsicle stick to transfer a very small dollop onto the walnut shell.
  2. Dip your finger into a glass of water with a generous amount of dishwashing liquid to stop the silicone from sticking to them.
  3. You can then smooth the silicone over the shell with your wet finger. Take care not to soak the walnut shell or the silicone will not stick to it well.
  4. Gently squeeze the ribbon into the silicone.

From personal experience I suspect the ribbon will bond with the silicone for all eternity and never let go. The walnut shell might be the weak link because of its smooth surface.

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  • The walnut has definitely been the weak link so far, but if and when I can get to a hardware store I'll get silicone as well as the glue suggested in the other answer and find out for myself.
    – Metis7
    Mar 22 at 13:08
  • The construction silicone I'm familiar with is generally used as a sealant or caulk rather than an adhesive. It sticks to a lot of stuff and on most materials will at least stay put if left alone, but it can be peeled off polyester and nylon. Is there a particular product example that you think would be good?
    – fixer1234
    Mar 23 at 2:29
  • @fixer1234 No particular product, just generic transparent construction silicone. As long as you don't use extremely fine woven and smooth ribbon, the silicone should be able to latch onto the tiny gaps in the weave by gently pressing the ribbon into the fresh silicone.
    – Elmy
    Mar 23 at 6:12

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