No Need to Dodge Hide Glue

No Need to Dodge Hide Glue

Last week, Chris wondered if you use hide glue in your projects. Several offer extensive advice about this most ancient of adhesives. – Editor

“I have used both Titebond Liquid Hide Glue and Old Brown Glue. Like you, I find myself using them more and more because of the long open time and easy cleanup. I build acoustic guitars and furniture, and for most any purpose, it’s as strong as any other glue that you can use. After all, it’s the oldest glue known to mankind.” – Charles Brown

“I found out about hide glue around 2015 when I was asked to restore some antique tables and a desk. I went full tilt with a melting pot and hide glue in the raw. I found it was without a doubt fantastic stuff and has a great open time, so assembly time is not an issue. I do for convenience’s sake use Titebond in the brown bottle for many projects, especially when I’m doing some small restoration on site or because I just don’t have time waiting for the ‘pot.’ But in the shop, I still prefer heating up the glue in the raw and IMHO I think the “real” stuff is better than the pre-mixed. I do enjoy the fact that clean-up and squeeze out is just warm water and you’re done. I still like my PVA (glue), but for many projects hide glue is the go-to glue, especially on older furniture — whether a restoration or a repurpose — not because it is better than PVA, but if I need to remove a veneer or inlay (or change of mind on design) for whatever reason, heat and water releases hide glue, and your set to go.” – Rick Smith

“In the past, I refurbished old chairs that were falling apart. Luckily, most of these were put together with hide glue, so with warm water, I was eventually able to get the joints apart. I used liquid hide glue (from the bottle) to reassemble them. Like you said, it has a long open time that allowed me to put the chairs back together fairly easily. Most of these chairs were caned, and I taught myself how to re-cane them. By the way, like you, I started my woodworking journey in the mid 90’s. I gave up my career in nursing to follow my passion. Though I don’t make much money, I love it and spend most of my time in my shop. My husband is retired, and we find we get along great not spending every minute with each other!” – Carol Johnston

“I use it to glue insects (from 0.3 mm to 10 mm) onto small triangular pieces of white cardstock 6 mm long. The slow drying allows time for me to get the glue on the end of the point and over to the insect under the microscope before the skin starts to form. I’ve tried many glues from nail polish to white glue and wood glue, but I like the viscosity of hide glue the best and I don’t have to bother with diluting it. It also allows me to remove the insect from the point later if I need to. The only big downside is if the insect collection gets subjected to high humidity for a period of time. Oh, and I also use hide glue for woodworking, especially for jobs that take time to arrange the pieces for gluing and clamping.” – Glen Forister

“I use (hide glue) all the time. Started using the new bottled version, and I haven’t looked back. The (glue) beads are collecting dust. In damp situations, I still use PVAs or polyurethane. Cyanoacrylates have a place as well. I make and repair string instruments for fun, so the hide glue is a good fit. Over the years, I started using it more and more for other projects after it became available in the bottle form. Bottled stuff doesn’t smell that bad compared to a hot glue pot.” – Chris Jenkins

“Even though I have used Titebond Original and III, I am mainly working with Liquid Hide Glue. I use both Old Brown Glue and Titebond Liquid Hide Glue. My goal is to be able to prepare my own. I am still working on learning on how to prepare it, use it and store it. To me, the benefits of hide glue are super clear, and in my humble opinion it makes all the sense in the world to use it in a hobbyist shop over PVA and other types of glues. That doesn’t mean that for certain applications PVA, CA or epoxies should not be used. When it comes to the smell, I understand that many people really dislike it. I wouldn’t replace my trusty cologne for it, but I don’t hate it either. To me, it’s just another woodshop smell. It is true though (not experienced yet), that bad-quality hide glue or hide glue left over ‘expired’ will rot and smell really bad, but that is not the case of the product sold in the bottles of either current liquid hide glue manufacturers.” – Edward P. Leonard

“I have been using Titebond Liquid Hide Glue (in bottles) for 10 or more years for new builds and repairs. It is considered a ‘reversible’ glue in that joints can be undone by getting the glue wet or soaking in water until it softens. Obviously not the right glue to use for any project subject to getting wet. Hide glue is what I use to repair older antiques (1940’s and before) because it is period-correct and can be cleaned up easily with water. It also dries fairly dark and therefore does not show much on darker joints. Additionally, it can be thinned with water and injected into joints or under lose veneer. It is not the only glue I use for woodworking but one I could not live without. If I only had one glue that I could use for the rest of my life, it would be hide glue without a doubt.” – Dave Smith

“I use hide glue along with Old Brown Glue, Titebond Original, and Ultimate glues. It all depends on what I am intending. Hide glue is great if you want the joint to be reversible, have long open time or ease cleanup. PVA glues for quick set up and short clamp time. It’s all in the goal for me.” – Jerry Dye

“In antique restoration, hide glue is essential. I prefer the Old Brown Glue brand because I think that it works better. You need to heat it before using. This makes it thinner, which I think helps it get into the structure of the wood. If I must use the Titebond hide glue, I always heat it up the same way. I’ve read that when applied hot, hide glue actually pulls the work more tightly together as it cools. Restorers like me also value the ability to release a glued joint with heat and moisture when appropriate. Not to mention that heated ‘new’ hide glue will adhere to any traces of antique hide glue, which we find was used in the truly antique furniture we work on. As you have discovered, these characteristics make hide glue as valuable for modern projects as for the old treasures.” – Lance Fromme

“I made both of the segmented bowls you recently published in the December 2023 issue of Woodworker’s Journal, and I had great success. They looked just like the ones in the magazine, and I’ve made a few of both. The hide glue worked great to glue up what I call the wheels. But when I used it to glue all the wheels together, they slid all over the place and I couldn’t get them nice and centered. Probably my mistake as I really didn’t need extra time for that phase of the gluing. Hide glue is a great option in the right places, and I’m glad I know about it now.” – Terrence Greenwood

Posted in: