Hide Glue: A Closer Look
Age-old technology has unmatched advantages: It’s quick-setting, transparent to finishes, easy to clean up, and reversible
Synopsis: It may be your grandfather’s glue, but that doesn’t mean that hide glue has lost its place in the modern wood shop. The traditional glue pot has fallen out of the spotlight in the past few decades, overshadowed by new types of adhesives. Yet it has many advantages over synthetic glue. It sets quickly, is transparent to oils, stains, and finishes, is easy to clean up, and is easily reversible when repairs are needed (just apply heat and moisture). Animal protein glues are also organic in nature, and are not harmful to people or pets. Patrick Edwards swears by hide glue for almost all his furniture making needs. With the information he supplies here, you’ll soon join him as a hide-glue convert.
If you were lucky enough to learn woodworking from your grandfather, he would have patiently shown you which end of a handplane is the front, the right way to use a chisel (not for opening paint cans), and how to cook glue. Unfortunately, the traditional glue pot disappeared from woodshops and trade schools soon after World War I when synthetic adhesives took over, leaving later generations of woodworkers to learn this secret of the craft on their own.
Hot animal-protein glues have many advantages over synthetics. They are very quick-setting; transparent to stains, oils, and other finishes; easy to clean up; and reversible, making repairs possible. They are also organic in nature, and are not toxic to humans or pets.
If you doubt the strength of animal glue, check out the recent test in FWW #192 (“How Strong Is Your glue?”), where hide glue stood shoulder-to-shoulder with yellow glues and epoxies. And of course, witness the host of antique furniture that has survived for hundreds of years.
All wood glues create a mechanical bond by…