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CA adhesive- spontaneous combustion?

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I was assembling carronades today, attaching eyebolts to the carriages, using CA.  The eyebolts are blackened brass, the carriages are wood (Redheart with a touch of TruOil finish). I dabbed the joint with a small piece of paper towel to wick away the excess adhesive. 


I was wearing a pair of Optisight magnifying visors, and when I applied a very small amount of CA, I noticed smoke coming off the assembly. And when I touched the eyebolt with my finger to assure it was secure, it was hot!  I have touched parts secured with CA that felt hot before, and thought it was my imagination, but seeing the smoke confirmed it. 


I have read that CA in contact with cotton or wool will spontaneously combust, but was not aware contact with wood (or was it the blacking agent, or the TruOil, or the brass, or the paper towel?) would cause such an exothermic reaction. 


Is my experience unique?



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That is a little scary. Watched some You Tube video and the Q-tip started smoking when CA was added, a lot of CA.


There was also a video of a Chemist using a Temperature  probe that showed not all CA does this as some have an inhibitor in the formula .

Edited by Jim Rogers


Jim Rogers


Damn the Torpedoes , Full speed ahead.   Adm David Farragut.

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If I may..............over the year's of using CA product's in ship model construction I have seen what appears to be "smoke"when the product is applied to certain types of wood materials. The "smoke" is more of a fume in nature rather than smoke. The CA fume will adhere to skin and other materials quite readily such as glass and plastic I.E. our skin is moist as well as is moisture in wood fiber. One thing for sure, if CA is used in large quantity and your eyes are subject to the fuming over a period of time there will be permanent eye damage. There are several types of applicator devices that can be used to apply the CA to the intended work which keeps the user from being directly over the work during use. These tools usually are similar to a hypodermic needle or a wire with and eyelet on the business end.....a drop of CA will transfer to the "point" from the container or eye and then can be transferred to the work..........if an accelerator is applied to the work prior to the CA using the same method, the "fume" will be pretty instantaneous if there is one and more direct to that spot. Some of the "super glues" which are sold in grocery store's in the very small tubes seem to be semi fluid but not as fluid as the thin CA and some of those do not seem to fume.........they take a bit longer to set up as well. None the less, CA can really raise havoc if not used with caution................been there and done that for sure!

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From Wikipedia:

Reaction with cotton, wool, and other fibrous materials

Applying cyanoacrylate to some natural materials such as cotton (jeans), leather or wool (cotton swabs, cotton balls, and certain yarns or fabrics) results in a powerful, rapid exothermic reaction. This reaction also occurs with fiberglass and carbon fiber. The heat released may cause serious burns,[26] ignite the cotton product, or release irritating white smoke. Material Safety Data Sheets for cyanoacrylate instruct users not to wear cotton (jeans) or wool clothing, especially cotton gloves, when applying or handling cyanoacrylates.[27]


I also use it w/ baking soda quite a bit and I have to be really careful--I've burnt my hands before...

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  • 6 months later...

I knocked a bottle of superglue over and spilled quite a puddle on my desk,there was some toilet paper handy so i soaked it up with that.


I noticed it felt hot in my hand when wiping,then i tossed it in the bin. Didnt think anything of it until my eyes started to sting, i turned round and there was quite a bit of smoke coming out of my bin! Pulled the tissue out and it was very hot to touch, and dumped it down the toilet.  Fumes off it were pretty bad, and i suspect it was just short of catching fire, which could have been interesting.


So yeah, no more wiping superglue with paper towels or tissue !


HMS Bounty 1:48 by Artesania Latina



Gjoa by Constructo

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hey Trig... I had a worst experience with CA glue three years ago, I used it for days -more than a few hours every day- in a closed airconditioned room, due to the high tempretures in Cyprus that Summer.


And after a whiele I had problems breathing... The doc said it was asthma. I was then  58 but never before had asthma.


Doc said... maybe I never before experienced asthma,  but that could have been  always there... "sleeping". As he said, it looks like the CA fumes was what regrettably triggert my asthma.


Very stupid of me indeed... now I know better, but its too late.. though he said there is a possibility that it can "slleep" again.... still my asyhma doesnt seem to want to go back to bed!


Edited by MESSIS
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My bet:  the fumes are the CA itself.  The heat of the setup reaction ( caused by contact with water )

also vaporizes unreacted CA.  The key with cotton fibers, wool fibers, tissue paper, etc.  is that the

material has a lot of surface area in contact with air.  The heat from the CA reaction, when the vapors

contact the organic fibers can reach combustion level,  but the "smoke" before visible flame is most 

likely the CA itself in an aggressive vapor "looking" to react with whatever it can contact.

For years, I have seen CSI-type programs using a closed chamber - with a material with finger prints -

not suitable for dusting powder use - and CA in a heated petri dish - the CA vapor reacting with

the skin residue to reveal the prints. 

The combustion temperature of organic particles in intimate contact with oxygen, is a lot lower than is

appreciated by most.  Just ask someone working in a grain silo, or cotton mill in summer about the

potential danger.  Even gasoline vapor in the proper mixture with oxygen can violently react without an

ignition source, at a temp that is pretty close to ambient summer levels.

CA can be aggressive and dangerous if not handled carefully - probably causing more sub-detectable

harm - than is appreciated.

Some day it may follow other once common chemicals - such as carbon tetrachloride and tetraethyllead - into banned status,

when industry can find a less dangerous substitute that is cost effective. Until then, damage to user health will continue to be

a cost of doing business in order to maintain profits.

NRG member 45 years



HMS Centurion 1732 - 60-gun 4th rate - Navall Timber framing

HMS Beagle 1831 refiit  10-gun brig with a small mizzen - Navall (ish) Timber framing

The U.S. Ex. Ex. 1838-1842
Flying Fish 1838  pilot schooner -  framed - ready for stern timbers
Porpose II  1836  brigantine/brig - framed - ready for hawse and stern timbers
Vincennes  1825  Sloop-of-War  -  timbers assembled, need shaping
Peacock  1828  Sloop-of -War  -  timbers ready for assembly
Sea Gull  1838  pilot schooner -  timbers ready for assembly
Relief  1835  ship - timbers ready for assembly


Portsmouth  1843  Sloop-of-War  -  timbers ready for assembly
Le Commerce de Marseilles  1788   118 cannons - framed

La Renommee 1744 Frigate - framed - ready for hawse and stern timbers


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