Making your own Table Tennis Glue


VOC based glues and the ITTF Ban:

Since the ban of all VOC based table tennis glues by the ITTF, most manufacturers have stopped producing them. The ban was really focussed on VOC based “Speed Glue” (that most top players use), as these produce a lot more vapours, and therefore pose a much greater health risk. However since the ban, and the subsequent testing for VOCs to identify their presence cannot distinguish between speed glue and normal glue, both glues are effectively banned.

Although there are quite a wide range of water based glues around, I don’t feel they are as easily used, nor are they as quick to use or as effective. The VOC based glue also gave rubbers a mild form of priming, which actually boost their performance a little, although not everyone find this effect noticable. This effect is more noticable (and effective) on hard sponged Chinese rubbers than it is on most Euro/Japanese rubbers. Water based glues are also more expensive, although this is more likely because they are still fairly new products, and the prices are likely to settle down over time.

Some rubber do have warning on them, and recommend to ONLY used water based glue. I’ve glued many of these rubber with VOC based glues as have some of my friends and fellow players, and have never had a issue with them. Only speed glue is likely to be an issue, as it stretches the rubber quite a bit. Still if you’re worried about voiding the warrantee of a rubber, or are very worried about damaging the rubber, or the health issue is an concern, then you might be better off with water based glue.


Making your own VOC based glue:

The basic ingredient of VOC based table tennis glue is rubber cement. Although there were variations in the glues from the different manufacturers, there is really not a great deal of difference between them. Rubber cement, not to be confused with contact cement, is most commonly available at art supply stores, as it’s still commonly used in this area.

A similar product, called vulcanising fluid or cement, is also still commonly used in the rubber/tyre industry, and you can even find it in bicycle repair kits. However I believe this is more nasty with some more highly toxic ingredients, so I would recommend the stuff from the art supply stores. Note though that both are highly flammable, dangerous and toxic, and I have no real basis for my preference for the art cement. You can find some more details on rubber cement from the wikipedia here: Rubber Cement. Below are a few pictures of rubber cement tins, I personally use the National Material Art Cement (NAM) on the left. The brands “Best Test” or “Elmers” are more common in the USA.

So you can call or visit your local art supply store and buy the art cement in small to large tins… usually varying from 100ml to 4000ml. All the stores I’ve seen also sell a thinner for the rubber cement, which is basically an organic solvent meant to thin down the glue. Usually the rubber cement IS a little thicker than regular table tennis glue, so thinning it down is recommended, as a glue too thick can form too strong a bond between your rubber and blade, making it hard to remove.
Although solvents like Paint Thinner or Toluene may do the job too, I believe they are a lot more nasty so I would not recommend them.


In a well ventilated area, you can thin the rubber cement down, by pouring some into a smaller tin, and mix roughly 10xrubber cement with 1x thinner. You can try less thinner first, since some glues may already be thinner, but with all the ones I’ve tried the 10:1 ratio works well. After you put them together, mix them well with a stirrer, like a screwdriver or something else that is not affected by the glue, and from which it’s easily removable afterwards. Mix well for a few minutes, until the mixture looks consistent with no lumps or thick bits in there. Thicker rubber cement has more rubber content, so by adding more solvent it gets thinned down, making it much easier to spread. The solvents will dissipate anyway, so it’s not an issue. Don’t thin down too much though, or it will lose adhesion strength and will require more layers for gluing. If you do add too much, you can simply add more rubber cement again to thicken it up again.

At this point the glue is ready to use immediately. I usually pour it into an old glue or speed glue tin, one that has a brush attached to the lid, since a brush makes it real easy to apply and spread the glue.

I will personally continue using it for most jobs that I do, as I feel it does a better job and I do take all the necessary precaution to make sure it’s not health issue. The only time I used the water based glue is when people request it, or if I know the bat will be used in a tournament where testing for VOCs may be performed.

Hope you find this guide useful… if you have any comment, please post them below, and I’m always keen to hear other people’s points of view, and your comments may well help others as well.


A few warnings:

1. Under new ITTF rules, the VOC based glues are now illegal to be used for ITTF events, and most national associations and clubs have adopted the same rules, and testing for these substances may be done at some events. Although “airing” the bat after you’ve glued it up for a few days may well cause all the VOC to evaporate, there is still a risk your bat may be found to be illegal

2. ALL the VOC based table tennis glues contain dangerous and poisonous compounds, so contact with the glue or breathing in the vapours is a health hazard. However these glues have been used for several decades by players worldwide, so when handled with care in a well ventilated area, the risk is actually quite low.

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