Hide Glue #2: Hide Glue Primer

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Blog entry by David posted 01-28-2009 01:03 AM 11955 reads 7 times favorited 17 comments Add to Favorites Watch
« Part 1: Make Your Own (Non-Metallic) Hide Glue Brush! Part 2 of Hide Glue series Part 3: A Hide Glue Repair »

I am interested in hide glue for a number of reasons. The first of which is the “romance” of using a traditional method that has its foundations as far back as Ancient Egypt and the cabinet shops of Colonial America. I also appreciate the pace of using hide glue . . . slow while getting set-up and quick when applying the glue. I also like the reversibility of hide glue and the fact that it accepts stain and finish without leaving telltale glue marks like that pesky spot of PVA that you missed during final clean up. All that said, hide glue is not the main glue in my shop, but I am adding it to my shop armamentarium. You can experiment with this fascinating and historic glue inexpensively. Trust me, you won’t regret the adventure!

A Hide Glue Primer

Properties of HideGglue

1. Hide glue is thermoplastic – softens to a liquid state when warmed and solidifies when cool

2. Hide glue is hydroscopic – in other words, it has an affinity for water which means, for wood working purposes, it responds to some degree with changes in relative humidity just as wood does and more importantly, a hide glue joint can be “reversed” with warm water

3. Hide glue is an animal protein (collagen) – when hide glue cools (dries) the protein structure contracts (on a molecular level) which has the effect of clamping

4. Hide glue grading – hide glue is graded in terms of “gram strength” (GEEK FACTOID: gram strength is a measure of how many grams of force it requires to depress a 1/2” plunger 4mm. into a 12.5% protein solution of the glue at 10° C). Hide glue gram strengths range from 85 to 379. The important point to know is the higher the gram strength, the quicker the set. The general recommendation range for for woodworking applications is 135 – 251 gram strength (192 or 195 is considered the all around glue for most woodworking applications).

Some Work Flow Considerations for Using Hide Glue

1. Mix a large batch of hide glue and pour into a set of ice cube trays. Store the premixed “hide glue cubes” in the freezer. Add the cubes to the glue pot as needed to keep a batch of working hide glue ready at the bench.

2. The general rule of thumb for mixing hide glue is one cup of dry glue to one cup water, vary the amount of water depending on the desired consistency. Add the glue to the water and allow to soak for 30 minutes. Stir occasionally while gently heating to 140 F°. Be careful to not “cook” the glue as this will weaken the glue by breaking down the protein molecular chains.

3. On a day when you are planning on working with hide glue, the second thing to be turned on after the shop lights is the glue pot!

4. Your glue pot can be covered with plastic wrap and stored in the refrigerator overnight. After a week of use (heat-cool-heat) it is best to discard and start with a fresh batch.

Modifications to Hide Glue

1. To make hide glue liquid at room temperature (longer open time / slower drying) add approximately 5 tablespoons of urea for each cup of dry glue.

2. To make hide glue be made waterproof add 1/2-1% aluminum sulfate.

3. To make hide glue flexible add approximately 5% glycerin (based on the weight of glue), with increasing increments of 2-3% to achieve greater flexibility.

4. To increase the ” wetting properties” of hide glue add approximately 1% vinegar.

The Basics of Hammer Veneering with Hot Hide Glue

Both surfaces are brushed with glue and placed together. The top veneer surface is also coated with glue to act as a lubricant. The “hammer” is then pushed across the veneer surface from the center outward to force out the excess glue. The glue will begin to cool and gel immediately and holding the veneer in place. For large work surfaces, make sure the surface is warm. Have a heat source (heat lamp) nearby for a longer working time.

Hide Glue & Veneering References

The definitive hide glue resource and “hide glue guru” is Eugene Thorndahl of Bjorn Industries in North Carolina. Eugene has the most experience with hide glue. Bjorn Industries has the widest variety available of hide glue gram strengths.

Bjorn Industries
(704) 364-1186

This link provides a good photo essay of mixing up a batch of hide glue on the website.

Interesting Hide Glue & Veneering Resources from Fine

Great source for the “gold standard” for glue pots . . . Hold-Heet Glue Pots

1. The Best Things

Hide Glue Brushes

1. Solo Brushes
2. Tools for Working Wood
3. Demco
4. Indiana University

Make Your Own Hide Glue Brush!

Don’t want to fuss with a glue pot? Then check this out! Patrick Edwards - Old Brown Glue


17 comments so far

View Greg3G's profile


815 posts in 4597 days

#1 posted 01-28-2009 02:18 AM

David, Excellent post. I have personally thought of using hide glue more often. It seems to be well suited for a lot of my work. Just a couple of questions,

How well does it hold in lamination?
I believe hide glue was used in Bow making in the Bronze age.

Please explain “wetting properties” not sure what is meant by this.

Do you think it strong enough for large glue ups for things like table tops or raised panels?

Again, Excellent post, thanks for taking the time to do all the research.


-- Greg - Charles Town, WV

View Karson's profile


35202 posts in 4912 days

#2 posted 01-28-2009 02:52 AM

David: You probably have already seen this web site, but in case not they reecoment that you keep your existing glue pot with a few modifications.

Thanks for the info.

-- I've been blessed with a father who liked to tinker in wood, and a wife who lets me tinker in wood. Appomattox Virginia [email protected]

View Scott Bryan's profile

Scott Bryan

27250 posts in 4333 days

#3 posted 01-28-2009 05:50 AM

David, thanks for the post. I have been considering going with hide glue and this post helps quite a bit.

By the way, with regards to the video, it only runs on my computer in segments and takes 3-4 seconds to load each segment. Ii don’t experience this with any other videos but is start/stop sequence due to my computer? I think it is running on Adobe Flash Player 10.

-- Challenges are what make life interesting; overcoming them is what makes life meaningful- Joshua Marine

View David's profile


1969 posts in 4650 days

#4 posted 01-28-2009 12:54 PM

Thanks guys!

Greg – great questions. Hide glue is very strong and durable. I haven’t done any laminations with hide glue (yet!), so I can’t comment from personal experience, however I can’t imagine why it wouldn’t work.

Wetting properties refers to surface tension . . . I thought it was an interesting historical set of facts that reflects how the properties of the glue can be altered to suit a particular application. I admit to a fascination with history! Honestly, I have been quite happy with unaltered glue.

It definitely is strong enough for table tops, flat panel work and case goods. Remember, all the period furniture we appreciate was built with hide glue.

Karson – I am aware of the Spurlock Specialty Tools website. It is where I got the inspiration to use the Rival Hot Pot as an inexpensive glue pot substitute. I chose to not make their recommended alterations. I find, for my use, that leaving the top intact is beneficial . . . keeps moisture in the pot and prevents a skin forming on the surface of the glue.

Scott – I regret that you had difficulties with the video. I know that BlipTv converts to a flash version which is what was posted. I will try to do some investigating from this end.


View Marco Cecala's profile

Marco Cecala

189 posts in 4545 days

#5 posted 01-28-2009 04:49 PM

Thanks for the research and great video David. I have been playing with hide glue now for a couple of months, and the benefits are numerous. It seems the more I learn about technology, the better the old methods work.

Is it possible to order from Bjorn Industries? Their site was not set up for e-commerce. Is the phone number the way to go?

View hObOmOnk's profile


1381 posts in 4639 days

#6 posted 01-28-2009 04:59 PM

Great info on a classic woodworkers material!

Here’s some of the things I do with hide glue:


Here’s a good source for raw hide glue:


For the “glue pot challenged”, here’s a source for modern liquid hide glue:


Many thanks for a nice video.

-- 温故知新

View martin007's profile


142 posts in 4287 days

#7 posted 01-28-2009 05:24 PM

thanks for the information

I will give hide glue a try

-- Martin, Gatineau, Québec

View Tom Landon's profile

Tom Landon

69 posts in 4264 days

#8 posted 01-29-2009 04:04 AM

Great information especially for those who know nothing but the more modern PVA and Polyurethane adhesives.

I’d like to add one thing though and that’s the odor of gide glue. We had the glue pot on probably six hr’s a day and controled the rate of evaporation with a stout lid. We didn’t always get the glue into the refrigerator at night so usually by thursday it was getting pretty ripe because it is a organic product. I never used the amount of urea referenced above but I did find that adding about a teapsoon of it to the pot when mixing it up would prevent spoilage and get rid of that less than wonderful odor. We would start with 16 oz of glue flakes per pot.

-- Tom Landon, Lakeland, Fl. When you're through learning, you're through.

View woodyoda's profile


117 posts in 3969 days

#9 posted 02-01-2009 09:47 PM

David…..another thing you can do with the hide glue, is use it on glass. I use it if I want to etch glass and want an interesting effect. You just sand blast the glass, where you want to chip off the glass…..courser grit=deeper chipping. You can use peal and stick shelf paper for areas you don’t want blasted and cut any pattern you want. Leave the paper on the areas you don’t want chipped and pour the glue on, put it outside to dry. Looks like corn flakes when it dries….beware, because those corn flake are pieces of glass and very sharp….brush them off. You’ll love the pattern…..keep your glue even thickness, because it changes the chipping. Use it for a gun cabinet glass or a fancy display case, you’ll love it…........................yoda

View David's profile


1969 posts in 4650 days

#10 posted 02-03-2009 06:36 AM

Tom – Great comment on the odor. The glue actually smells fairly good when its fresh. I noticed it smells stronger several days out and that is when I have been discarding for a new batch . . . of course I am mixing up smaller batches than you!

Yoda – What a great comment, thanks! I spent a very enjoyable couple of hours decompressing after work exploring glue chipping glass and sign maker websites. I could see how chipped glass would be a great accent for a WW project.

I am going to amend my blog entry, as well as, my personal blog with this information.



View Dennis Zongker's profile

Dennis Zongker

2796 posts in 4103 days

#11 posted 02-03-2009 04:42 PM

David, this is a great blog!!! Thank you. I’ve been using hot Animal Hide Glue for about 20 years. Have you ever read the artical in “Woodwork Magazine” by Bob Flexner #35 October of 1995?

I think that Milligan & Higgins is the last North American Hide glue manufacture. You can buy from them, but you have to buy a 50 pound minimum. Thank you David.

-- Dennis Zongker

View Karson's profile


35202 posts in 4912 days

#12 posted 02-05-2009 02:13 AM


Someone gave me a bunch of old woodworking magazines. I have the Woodwork Issue that Dennis Zongker wrote about. If you’d like me to scan a copy for you let me know and send me your private e-mail address.

-- I've been blessed with a father who liked to tinker in wood, and a wife who lets me tinker in wood. Appomattox Virginia [email protected]

View Karson's profile


35202 posts in 4912 days

#13 posted 02-05-2009 02:42 AM

David: I found this web site for glue also. I don’t know if you found it.

They sell it in 5 oz and 5lb packages.

-- I've been blessed with a father who liked to tinker in wood, and a wife who lets me tinker in wood. Appomattox Virginia [email protected]

View David's profile


1969 posts in 4650 days

#14 posted 02-05-2009 02:54 AM

Karson -

I would like a scan of the Woodwork issue that featured Dennis! I appreciate you keeping me in mind. I will send a PM with email contact.

Also, thanks for the glue resource link. The cool thing about these blogs is that you get even more information. I will have to do an update reflecting everyone’s contribution.




View jehnavi24's profile


2 posts in 2791 days

#15 posted 03-07-2012 10:51 AM

since the glue will overflow when you squeeze out the bubbles. Well, i don’t have the medical gloves since it’s the first time i make these glue on bail glass cabochon pendants.Hope it helps you~~
I am glad that you share your experience with me , it really helps me too.:)

Glass Glue

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