Hot Stuff (on the cheap)
Hide glue is one of my favorite furniture glues but I often hear people remark that it would be fun to try hot hide glue, but the cost of buying a glue pot was prohibitive
A couple of years ago I was giving seminars on hide glue, one of my favorite furniture glues. After the seminars I often heard people remark that it would be fun to try hot hide glue, but the cost of buying a glue pot was prohibitive. A Hold-Heet glue pot (the benchmark) sells for about $130 and finding a used one is pretty rare.
I decided to do a little research and see if I could find an alternative. I was looking for something that would heat to at least 150° and preferably a bit higher, hold a wide-mouth pint jar, heat quickly, and sell for cheap. I remember reading about folks using baby-bottle warmers, but most have automatic heat control with temperatures that were way below what I needed. After a couple of hours searching every tag line I could think of, I stumbled across a wax warmer that has an adjustable temperature setting and actually has what looks exactly like the glue bucket and lid that my Hold-Heet glue pot has. Bingo! The wax warmer is for cosmetic wax, so you can remove unwanted hair at the same time—or not.
The warmers typically sell for around $30 but be sure you buy one with an adjustable temperature setting. Here is an example of what you might find. You will probably find that specific models sell out pretty quickly. I think the sellers buy a unit of heaters and when those are gone, they may buy a batch of slightly different ones from a different source.
Hide glue is reasonably fussy about temperatures. Too hot and you start to destroy the collagen bonds, too cool and it simply isn’t any fun to work with. I like to heat my glue to 145°.
The first thing I do when I get one of these wax warmers is to fill the pot with water, turn the knob to a setting about two-thirds of the way to maximum (some actually have temperature settings, usually in Celsius), put a meat thermometer in the pot and let the water come to a stabilized temperature, then bump it up a bit at a time until I get a stable 145° reading. I mark the face of the warmer to match the indicator on the knob. Turn off the warmer and let it cool completely, then turn it back on and see where the temperature stabilizes. I’ve purchased several of these and have found they heat very consistently. Once I have the temperature marked I can trust that putting the knob at that setting will give me 145°.
So, no more waffling over experimenting with hide glue. And remember the only difference between hide glue and edible gelatin (there’s always room for … ) is that hide glue is typically made from bovine hide while gelatin is made from pig skin and of course is a bit more refined. Bon Appetit!