A glue-gun face lift for your luggage

[A how-to article written just in time for your next summer vacation.]

A glue-gun face lift for your luggage


Kenneth Burchfiel

Vacation destinations are fun. Getting to those destinations? Not so much. Most of us hate travel almost as much as we love arriving; even when the plane departs on time and the weather stays nice for the car ride, there’s not much about the journey from home to holiday that gets us excited.

Still, there are little ways to make the experience more rewarding. Even if you don’t have the money for a first-class ticket or a Mustang rental car, there is one cheap and long-lasting way to put a little flavor in your flight. This article will cover the ins and outs of decorating your luggage.

Chances are, your baggage wouldn’t win many design awards. Most bags, totes and cases are decidedly utilitarian: convenient for storage and transport, but about as exciting as your 10-hour flight in economy class. This makes luggage perfect for a design project. To start, you’ll want a bag made of a flexible, yet durable material; nylon works especially well. You should also be comfortable with putting glue and staples into your bag. (This isn’t a good project for your $1000 leather tote.) If at all possible, pick a suitcase with hard sides instead of soft ones.

Once you have your bag picked out, you’ll want to get a glue gun. These handy little devices work by heating sticks of hard glue to oven-esque temperatures, which allows for much stronger, more durable adhesives to be used. Next, you’ll need to find decorating materials. The following is a short list of items that work well with (A a glue gun and (B nylon luggage:

  • Badges
  • Pins (for soft surfaces)
  • Bumper stickers
  • Buttons
  • Small signs
  • Wooden items
  • Bottle tops, hotel keys and other trinkets.

This isn’t a comprehensive list, of course. Anything that’s relatively flat and adheres well to glue gun adhesive will work just fine. I used everything from Scrabble tiles to Boy Scout badges in my design.

This is where the fun begins. Plug in or turn on your glue gun and set it down in a safe place: in other words, where the nozzle doesn’t come within contact of anything. When you can start to release liquid glue with the trigger, you can begin to attach your items. Place the item on the suitcase and decide where, exactly you want to place it, then apply glue to the perimeter of the item and stick it on. Use some sort of hard surface to press the object into the luggage. (Your hand could work, but that’s 350-degree glue you’re putting your hand over.)

At this point, two things can happen: the item locks in nicely and doesn’t shift when you prod it a minute later, or it sticks only a little and comes off with a little pulling. In the latter case, you’ve probably chosen a suitcase that won’t stick well with the item—or vice versa. Stapling and stitching are two alternate options.

The less a surface shifts and bends during the course of your trip, the longer the item glued to it will stay on. That’s why I would recommend fitting items on hard surfaces instead of soft ones. Then again, if the object you’re applying is especially small, you probably won’t have to worry.

If you’re dissatisfied about a placement, wait for the thing to dry and peel it off with your hand. Glue guns and nylon work great together because the adhesive usually comes off with little, or any residue. Better yet, should an item come off during transit, reapplying is simple and inexpensive.

Don’t feel as if you have to cover the whole suitcase at once, by the way. Over the years, I saved up the plastic hotel keys and airline tickets collected during vacations. These made for excellent suitcase decorations, especially because of their travel theme. Pins and flags from souvenir shops are also suitable.

When the glue gun’s turned off and the scraps are in the trash, take a moment to sit back and admire your handiwork. You may not have the Mona Lisa in front of you, but your luggage—and your travels—will now be a bit more fun than before.



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4 responses to “A glue-gun face lift for your luggage

  1. Thank you for this post.

  2. Pingback: A glue-gun face lift for your luggage ·

  3. Pingback: A glue-gun face lift for your luggage ·

  4. Very nice blog! Keep up the good work.