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Flex-I-File Touch-N-Flow First-Look

By Michael Benolkin

Date of First Look March 2010 Manufacturer Flex-I-File
Subject Touch-N-Flow Pros Excellent tool for precise application of liquid cements
Cons Needle tip can clog if you don't know what to do (see text) MSRP (USD) $6.49


What is the best way of applying liquid cement? Most liquid cement bottles have a brush applicator as part of the lid. The problem with these brushes is that the initial touch-point on the model where you first touch a fully loaded brush will get most of the glue and sometimes run outside of the area you are gluing to mar the surface of the plastic.

For my modeling, the best tool for applying glue is the Flex-I-File Touch-N-Flow applicator. In simple terms, it is a glass tube with a hollow-wire needle applicator sealed to one end. The glass tube can hold quite a bit of liquid cement, though I’ve never loaded one up. Here’s how I use the tool:

I keep one bottle of liquid cement completely full. I insert the open end of the Touch-N-Flow applicator into the cement bottle and capillary action will allow cement to flow into the glass tube. Pull the applicator out and hold it needle toward the bench and the load of cement will move down the tube to the needle. When it hits bottom, you’re ready to work. I find that using only a partial load of cement in the Touch-N-Flow applicator works best for me as it forces me to set my work down to reload the applicator and then gives me an opportunity to examine my work as I resume gluing. For those that want to get more gluing done, Flex-I-File also sells a bottle with a needle that will allow you to completely fill the Touch-N-Flow applicator so you can work longer distances between refills.

With fuselage halves, I'll intentionally skew the joint to exaggerate the seam to provide an easy guide for the Touch-N-Flow. When this isn't an option, squeezing the fuselage halves or wing halves will slightly open unglued seams which is just perfect for the Touch-N-Flow. Apply the cement a section at a time, squeeze the joint until the seam starts to ooze a little styrene (which also acts as a nice gap-filler), then clamp and move on to the next section.

For those of us who’ve used the Touch-N-Flow applicator for a while (years), you know that it can also be a bit of a pain sometimes. This is because the applicator requires a clear air path through the needle when it is empty in order for capillary action to work for refilling the needle. There are two primary reasons why the needle would be blocked. First, there is a very small quantity of liquid cement still in the needle (even though the glass tube is empty), and second, there is a plug at the end of the needle. Both problems require you to clear the needle before the applicator will function again. Here’s how I do it.

When my applicator blocks, I don’t know what the problem is, but I apply a three-step process to clear it:

  • Step 1: Wipe the end of the glass tube to remove any glue and then blow through the tube. Touch the needle to a newspaper or paper towel and wick away any glue from the needle end. Attempt to reload the Touch-N-Flow applicator, if it works, press on with your project.
  • Step 2: Put the glass end of your Touch-N-Flow applicator firmly against the tip of your airbrush and shoot air through the applicator. Attempt to reload the Touch-N-Flow applicator, if it works, press on with your project.
  • Step 3: If neither of the above steps work, you’ve probably got a styrene plug in the tip of your needle. This will happen if you move the needle the wrong way across the model and inadvertently push the applicator into some styrene. Check the tip of the needle for any sign of a plug and scrape away any foreign material. Put the needle-end of the applicator into the bottle of liquid cement for a few minutes and then attempt to blow air through the applicator using either of the two steps above. The glue will usually soften any plug and will blow clear. If it doesn't, chances are that you need to replace your Touch-N-Flow applicator.

Note: This may seem obvious to most, NEVER use the Touch-N-Flow applicator for cyano adhesives. You may get a little of the stuff to flow back out of the applicator, but it will dry rock solid into a nice glass stick. There is nothing you can do to clear dried cyano out of the applicator.

Note: I recall seeing in the Touch-N-Flow instructions that you can flick the tip of the needle while the glass end of this tool is submersed in the bottle of liquid cement to get the capillary action to start. If you're not getting capillary action, it is because there is something in the needle and using the three-step process above will usually get you back into business. Flicking the needle will sometimes cause you to bend the needle and ruin the tool. If at all possible, please don't do this.

The Touch-N-Flow applicator has been an essential tool on my workbench for many, many years now and I was surprised to see that I hadn't written much about it to date. I hope these tips will help you get the most out of your Touch-N-Flow or perhaps for you to try one for the first time. There is no better tool for gluing those long seam lines around a wing or fuselage half without having excess cement flowing where you don't want it. This needle applicator is precise in placement as well as flow.