What is Hide Glue?

Photo of author

As woodworkers, we often find ourselves in a dilemma: do we follow the latest trends in adhesives or stick to proven methods? Well, the oldest glue in history, Hide Glue, may just be the answer we are looking for. Despite being invented more than 8,000 years ago, hide glue remains a staple in woodworking and furniture restoration. It is eco-friendly, versatile, and, above all, produces reversible bonds, enabling us to make repairs without damaging the original structure. But what exactly is hide glue, and why has it stood the test of time? In this article, we will dive deep into hide glue’s history, composition, types, benefits, and usage, as well as provide tips and tricks to help you get the most out of this time-tested adhesive.

History of Hide Glue

History Of Hide Glue
The history of hide glue is a fascinating journey through time, tracing its origins back to prehistoric times and following its evolution through the Middle Ages and into the modern era. From the very first use of animal glue to the boom in hide glue production during the Middle Ages, this ancient adhesive has been an integral part of human civilization. The story of hide glue is one of ingenuity, resourcefulness, and innovation – a testament to the human desire to create and build. So, let’s take a closer look at this oldest glue in history and discover the secrets of its endurance in the world of adhesives.

The Prehistoric Era: The First Use of Animal Glue

The Prehistoric Era: The First Use of Animal Glue

Animal glue, also known as hide glue, has a long history of use in human civilization. Experts believe that the first use of animal glue dates back to the prehistoric era, when early humans discovered that boiling animal hides and connective tissues produced a sticky substance that could be used for various purposes.

Time period Use of animal glue
30,000 BC The invention of the first adhesives made from plant resin and animal glue
4,000 BC The Egyptians used animal glue made from cattle and fish to bond wood and paper
2,000 BC The Chinese produced animal glue using bones, hide, and fish as a binder in ceramics

Animal glue became a popular material for early humans due to its versatility, availability, and strong adhesive properties. It was used for making tools, attaching handles to stone tools, and even as a protective coating for the exterior of huts.

As humans progressed from the Stone Age to the Bronze Age and beyond, the use of animal glue became more widespread and refined. It was used in architectural projects, such as the construction of the Parthenon in ancient Greece, as well as in artwork, such as the creation of illuminated manuscripts.

Today, animal glue is still used in a variety of applications, including woodworking, restoration, and even musical instrument making. Its longevity as an adhesive is a testament to its strength and versatility.

The Middle Ages: A Boom in Hide Glue Production

During the Middle Ages, hide glue production became a thriving industry. The demand for the glue was high as it was used for a variety of purposes including bookbinding, leatherworking, woodworking, and even weapon-making. As the use of paper for writing and printing became more widespread during this time, the need for hide glue in bookbinding increased significantly.

This led to an increase in the number of hide glue manufacturers, particularly in France, Germany, and Holland. These manufacturers used various kinds of animal hides to make the glue, including hides from cows, horses, and rabbits. The hides were first soaked in water to remove any flesh and hair, and then boiled in large cauldrons with water and lime to soften them and prepare them for the glue-making process.

Once the hides were softened, they were put through a machine that ground them down into a pulp. The pulp was then mixed with hot water in a large vat and left to ferment for up to two weeks. During this time, the collagen in the pulp was broken down by naturally occurring bacteria, which converted it into a gelatinous substance. This substance was then strained to remove any impurities and left to dry into a hard, brittle mass.

The dried mass was then ground down into a fine powder and packaged for sale. Hide glue powder could be stored indefinitely and was often sold in large sacks to craftsmen and tradespeople who used it regularly.

The Middle Ages saw a boom in hide glue production due to the growing demand for the adhesive. The glue’s versatility and affordability made it a popular choice for various applications, and its production became a thriving industry in many parts of Europe.

The Modern Era: A Niche Product for Woodworking Enthusiasts and Restorers

In the modern era, hide glue has become a niche product for woodworking enthusiasts and restorers who are passionate about traditional woodworking methods and historic preservation. While it was once the primary adhesive used in the woodworking industry, it has been largely replaced by synthetic adhesives like tylo glue, Elmer’s wood glue, and yellow glue.

However, hide glue still holds a place of importance for those who value its unique properties and benefits. It is commonly used in the restoration of antique furniture because it can be reversed with heat and moisture, which allows the furniture to be taken apart and reassembled without causing damage. This is particularly important for valuable antiques, where any damage could significantly decrease their value.

Additionally, hide glue is non-toxic, which makes it a safer and more environmentally friendly alternative to synthetic glues. It is also compatible with a wide range of finishing products, making it a versatile choice for any project. And because it can be mixed at home from granules, it is a cheap and affordable option for any budget.

In summary, while hide glue may no longer be the go-to adhesive for modern woodworkers, it remains a valuable and important tool for those who are dedicated to traditional woodworking methods and the preservation of historic pieces.

Composition of Hide Glue

Composition Of Hide Glue
When it comes to understanding the properties and performance of hide glue, it’s important to take a closer look at its composition. Hide glue, like any other adhesive product, relies on a specific mix of ingredients to create a strong and long-lasting bond. Let’s delve deeper into the components of hide glue and learn more about collagen, gelatin, and glycerin. By understanding the ins and outs of hide glue’s composition, we can gain a better appreciation for its historical significance and practical applications. No relevant anchor text is available for this section.

Collagen: The Main Component of Hide Glue

Collagen is the primary ingredient in hide glue. Collagen is a protein found in animal connective tissues, such as skin, bones, tendons, and ligaments. It is the most abundant protein in mammals, accounting for about 30% of the body’s total protein content.

In hide glue, collagen is extracted from the hides of animals, such as cattle, horses, and rabbits, through a process called hydrolysis. The hides are soaked in water to remove any dirt or debris, then treated with a dilute acid solution to break down the collagen into gelatin. The gelatin is then further hydrolyzed to produce a liquid or granular glue.

Collagen has unique properties that make it an ideal adhesive for woodworking and furniture restoration. Its high molecular weight and strong intermolecular forces allow it to form tight bonds between surfaces, while its natural tackiness provides initial grip and helps hold the joint in place during clamping.

Collagen also has the ability to rehydrate and swell in the presence of moisture, which allows it to penetrate into the wood fibers and form a mechanical bond that is stronger than the wood itself. This property is especially useful in repairing antique furniture, where traditional PVA or epoxy adhesives may not be compatible with the original glue.

Collagen is the main reason why hide glue has been used for centuries as a reliable and versatile adhesive in woodworking and furniture restoration. If you want to learn more about other types of glue, such as liquid glue, check out our article on liquid glue.

Gelatin and Glycerin: The Additives That Improve Hide Glue Performance

Gelatin and glycerin are two common additives used in hide glue production. They bring a multitude of benefits to the glue, including improving its performance and extending its shelf life.

Gelatin is derived from collagen, the main component of hide glue, and it helps to increase the strength and durability of the glue. Gelatin is typically added to granular hide glue to improve its gel strength and to liquid hide glue to increase the glue’s open time.

Glycerin, on the other hand, is a non-toxic and colorless liquid that helps to improve the flexibility and moisture resistance of hide glue. It is often added in small amounts to liquid hide glue to prevent the glue from becoming too brittle.

Together, gelatin and glycerin work to make hide glue a versatile and reliable adhesive for woodworkers and furniture restorers. The addition of these two additives expands the range of applications for hide glue and improves its overall performance.

If you’re interested in learning more about different types of glue, check out our article on what bee glue is. But please, don’t get confused with why kids eat glue, it’s not related to hide glue at all!

Types of Hide Glue and Their Uses

Types Of Hide Glue And Their Uses
When it comes to hide glue, there are several varieties available in the market. Each type of hide glue has its unique features and uses that cater to the varying needs of woodworking and furniture restoration projects. From traditional granular hide glue to modern liquid hide glue, and convenient hide glue pellets, each type has its own limitations and benefits. Let’s take a closer look at the different types of hide glue and their best applications. And if you’ve ever wondered about the glue on the back of credit cards, keep reading to find out!

Granular Hide Glue: The Traditional Hide Glue with a Long Open Time

Granular hide glue, also known as traditional hide glue, is a popular type of glue that has been used in woodworking and furniture restoration for centuries. It is made from animal collagen and is available in granular form, hence the name. Granular hide glue has a long open time, which means that it takes longer to dry and set than other types of glue. This allows for more time to adjust and position the parts being glued together.

Benefits of Granular Hide Glue:

  • Reversible bonds: One of the major benefits of granular hide glue is its reversibility. When using granular hide glue, the bond can be easily reversed using heat and moisture. This makes it easier to repair or adjust parts that have been previously glued.
  • Non-toxicity: Unlike some synthetic glues, granular hide glue is non-toxic and does not contain harmful chemicals. This makes it safe for use in food containers, cutting surfaces, and other applications where toxic glues could be dangerous.
  • Compatibility with other finishing products: Granular hide glue is compatible with a wide range of finishing products, including stains, varnishes, and waxes. This makes it a versatile choice for different woodworking projects.
  • Lower workshop costs: Granular hide glue is relatively inexpensive and can be made from scraps of animal hide or bones. This makes it a cost-effective option for woodworking projects that require a lot of glue.

While granular hide glue has many benefits, it also has some drawbacks. Its long open time may not be suitable for all projects, and it requires a bit of preparation before use. The granules need to be soaked in water before use, and then heated to the correct temperature. However, these steps are easy to follow and are worth the effort for the advantages that granular hide glue provides.

In comparison to liquid hide glue or hide glue pellets, granular hide glue is the most traditional and time-tested option. It has been used for centuries in woodworking and furniture restoration, and has a proven track record of success. If you’re looking for a glue that is versatile, cost-effective, and provides you with plenty of working time, then granular hide glue may be the right choice for your project.

Why do I smell glue?

Liquid Hide Glue: The Modern Hide Glue with a Shorter Open Time

Liquid hide glue is a newer version of traditional hide glue that has gained popularity in recent years. Although it shares similar properties with granular hide glue, it has a shorter open time, meaning that the glue joint sets quicker, making it more convenient for woodworking enthusiasts with less time to spare.

Composition of Liquid Hide Glue: Liquid hide glue is made of the same basic components as granular hide glue: collagen, gelatin, and glycerin. The only difference is that the glue is pre-mixed and pre-packaged in a bottle, ready to use without any preparation. Additionally, liquid hide glue contains a small amount of urea, which acts as a preservative to prolong the glue’s shelf life.

Advantages of Liquid Hide Glue: One of the main advantages of liquid hide glue is its convenience. Because it is pre-mixed and stored in a bottle, there is no need for soaking or heating before use, which saves time and effort. Liquid hide glue has a longer shelf life than granular hide glue, making it a more suitable choice for those who do not use glue frequently.

Uses of Liquid Hide Glue: Liquid hide glue is suitable for any woodworking project that requires traditional hide glue, such as furniture restoration, woodworking, and instrument making. It can be used on most types of wood, including softwoods and hardwoods.

Tips for Using Liquid Hide Glue: When using liquid hide glue, it is important to keep in mind that it has a shorter open time than granular hide glue. This means that it sets quicker, so assemble the joint as soon as possible after applying the glue. Additionally, if the glue dries too quickly, it can cause the joint to become brittle and crack, so it is important to keep the work piece at a moderate temperature (around 70°F) and apply the glue thinly and evenly.

Comparison with other types of glue: Liquid hide glue is similar in strength to white glue and yellow glue, but offers the additional convenience of being a reversible glue. It can be easily removed with warm water and does not require harsh chemicals. In contrast, other types of glues, such as epoxy and cyanoacrylate, are permanent and difficult to remove once they have dried.

In comparison with butt glue, which is a type of hide glue used for joining end-grain boards and veneers, liquid hide glue has a shorter open time and can be used for a wider range of applications.

In contrast to the glue on the back of credit cards, which is pressure-sensitive and designed to adhere quickly to a surface, liquid hide glue requires clamping to create a strong bond.

In comparison with glue stick, which is a solid glue that requires melting and spreading with a glue gun, liquid hide glue is a liquid that is ready to use without any preparation.

Hide Glue Pellets: The Convenience of Pre-Made Granules

Hide glue pellets, also known as granules, are a modern convenience for woodworkers and restoration enthusiasts who don’t have the time or inclination to prepare their own hide glue from scratch. Made from high-quality hide glue and water, these pre-made granules offer the same strength and durability as traditional hide glue but with the added convenience of being pre-portioned and ready to use.


Hide glue pellets are composed of the same basic ingredients as traditional hide glue: collagen, gelatin, and glycerin. The only difference is that instead of being sold as a solid block or in powdered form, they are formed into small, uniform pellets that dissolve quickly and evenly in water. The resulting glue mixture has a consistent strength and adhesive properties that make it ideal for a wide range of woodworking and restoration projects.


Hide glue pellets come in several different forms, depending on the needs of the user. Some are designed for use in hot climates or for extended periods of time, while others are formulated to work well in cold or humid conditions. Some are also fortified with extra glycerin or other additives to improve their adhesive properties, while others are made with a smaller or larger granule size depending on the desired consistency and flow of the glue.


The main advantage of hide glue pellets is their convenience. Unlike traditional hide glue, which requires soaking, heating, and mixing before it can be used, hide glue pellets can be mixed up in minutes with nothing more than hot water and a few simple tools. This makes them ideal for use in the field or on remote job sites where access to heating equipment or other tools may be limited.

Another advantage of hide glue pellets is their versatility. Because they can be mixed to a wide range of strengths and viscosities, they can be used for everything from delicate inlay work to heavy-duty joinery and structural repairs. They also have excellent compatibility with other finishing products, making them a popular choice for professional restorationists and woodworkers who need a reliable and versatile adhesive for a wide range of projects.


Despite their many advantages, hide glue pellets also have a few potential drawbacks that users should be aware of. For one, they are generally more expensive than traditional hide glue, due to the added convenience and processing involved in creating the pellets. They also have a slightly shorter shelf life than traditional hide glue, so users should store them carefully and use them before they expire. Additionally, some users may find that the consistency or properties of hide glue pellets are not quite as consistent as traditional hide glue, especially if they are using a lower-quality or less carefully formulated product.

Hide glue pellets are a convenient and effective choice for woodworkers and restoration enthusiasts who want all the benefits of traditional hide glue with none of the hassle. Whether you’re a seasoned professional or an amateur hobbyist, they are worth considering for your next woodworking or restoration project.

Advantages Drawbacks
Convenience More expensive than traditional hide glue
Versatility Shorter shelf life
Compatibility with other finishing products Consistency may not be as reliable

Benefits of Hide Glue in Woodworking and Furniture Restoration

Benefits Of Hide Glue In Woodworking And Furniture Restoration
As a versatile, non-permanent, and eco-friendly adhesive, hide glue has numerous benefits in woodworking and furniture restoration. Whether you’re a professional or a passionate hobbyist, using hide glue can make all the difference in the quality and longevity of your projects. In this section, we’ll explore the advantages of hide glue in more detail, including its reversible bonds, non-toxicity, compatibility with other products, and affordability. Keep reading to discover why this ancient glue is still popular among modern craftsmen and restorers.

Reversible Bonds: The Advantage of Non-Permanent Glue

One of the key benefits of hide glue in woodworking and furniture restoration is its ability to form reversible bonds. Unlike many synthetic adhesives, hide glue does not irreversibly bond the two surfaces together. This means that if a mistake is made during the glue-up or if adjustments need to be made to the joint, the joint can be easily disassembled.

This is especially useful for complex projects that require precise alignments or for restoration work that needs to preserve the original joinery. With hide glue, the woodworker or restorer can take their time to adjust the joint until it’s perfect, without the fear of damaging the joint irreparably.

Hide glue’s reversible nature allows for the easy disassembly of a piece of furniture for moving or repair. This can be especially useful in situations where a piece of furniture needs to be taken apart and reassembled, such as in a move. With hide glue, the joints can be easily separated without causing any damage to the wood or the glue.

Finally, the non-permanent nature of hide glue also means that it can be easily removed from the wood surface if needed. This can be useful in situations where a glued joint needs to be altered or if the glue has become discolored or unsightly over time. By applying heat and moisture to the joint, the glue can be softened and removed without damaging the surrounding wood.

Hide glue’s reversible nature is a major advantage in woodworking and furniture restoration. It allows for precise adjustments, easy disassembly, and simple removal if needed.

Non-Toxicity: The Health and Eco-Friendly Glue

Hide glue is not only a versatile and efficient adhesive for woodworking and furniture restoration, but it is also non-toxic and eco-friendly.

Unlike other synthetic adhesives that may pose health hazards due to their chemical composition, hide glue is 100% natural and non-polluting. It is made of animal collagen, which is a protein found in animal tissues, and water. As a result, hide glue does not emit any harmful gases, fumes, or odors during the application process or afterwards, allowing woodworkers and artisans to work in a safe and healthy environment.

Hide glue is biodegradable and renewable, which means that it does not contribute to landfills or air pollution. Because hide glue is made of organic and renewable materials, it is a more sustainable and eco-friendly alternative to many synthetic adhesives that rely on petroleum-based chemicals and non-renewable resources.

To highlight the benefits of hide glue’s non-toxicity and eco-friendliness, consider the following table:

Hide Glue Synthetic Adhesives
Non-toxic, made from natural materials May contain harmful chemicals and emit fumes
Eco-friendly, biodegradable and renewable May contribute to landfill and air pollution
Safe for workers, does not emit harmful gases May pose health hazards for workers

Hide glue is a safe and sustainable adhesive that offers many benefits for woodworking and furniture restoration. Its non-toxicity and eco-friendliness make it an attractive option for those who are concerned about their health, the environment, and the longevity of their projects.

Compatibility with Other Finishing Products: The Versatile Glue for any Project

Hide glue is a versatile adhesive that can be used with various types of finishing products. It is compatible with stain, oil, wax, varnish, and shellac. This versatility is a major advantage for those who work with a wide range of woodworking projects. Using hide glue ensures a fully integrated bond with the finishing product, creating a stable and durable surface for your work.

Stain: Hide glue can be used with oil-based and water-based stains to create an even surface. The glue penetrates the wood surface, creating a stable and impermeable surface for the stain to adhere to. This prevents the stain from penetrating too deeply into the wood grain, which can create an uneven coloring.

Oil: Similarly, hide glue is an excellent choice for oil finishes. Its ability to penetrate the wood surface ensures that the oil is absorbed uniformly, preventing the creation of blotchy or patchy surfaces.

Wax: Hide glue works well with waxes because it creates a permanent bond that can withstand the heat generated by waxing. Additionally, the glue functions as a sealer that creates a smooth surface for the wax to adhere to.

Varnish: Hide glue creates a stable surface for varnishes to adhere to, ensuring that the varnish will not crack or peel over time. The glue also provides an added layer of protection against moisture and other damaging environmental factors.

Shellac: Hide glue is an excellent adhesive for shellac finishes because it creates a strong bond that allows shellac to adhere uniformly. It also prevents shellac from cracking due to uneven expansion and contraction of the wood surface.

Hide glue’s compatibility with various types of finishing products makes it a versatile adhesive that can be used in any woodworking project. Whether you are working with stain, oil, wax, varnish, or shellac, hide glue guarantees a strong and durable bond that will enhance the aesthetics and longevity of your project.

Lower Workshop Costs: The Cheap and Affordable Glue for any Budget

Hide glue is not only a versatile and eco-friendly adhesive but also an affordable one. It is one of the cheapest options available for woodworking and furniture restoration purposes. In fact, hide glue is so affordable that it can help you lower your workshop costs significantly.

Comparison of Glue Prices:

To further emphasize the affordability of hide glue, let’s compare its price to other types of wood glue. Here’s a table that shows the prices of hide glue and other common wood glues:

Type of Glue Price per Ounce
Hide Glue $0.18
PVA Glue $0.22
Polyurethane Glue $0.42
Epoxy Glue $0.65

As you can see from the table, hide glue is the cheapest option among the four types of glues. It costs only $0.18 per ounce, which is significantly lower than the other types of glue.

Lower Workshop Costs:

In addition to the low cost of hide glue, there are other ways it can help you lower your workshop costs. One of the advantages of hide glue is that it can be easily made from scraps of animal hides and bones, which are byproducts of the meat and leather industries. This means that hide glue production does not require any additional resources or energy, unlike other types of glue that rely on petrochemicals, synthetic resins, or other raw materials.

Hide glue does not require any special or expensive equipment to apply or remove. All you need is a simple glue pot, a brush or a roller, and some hot water to dissolve the glue. Hide glue can be easily cleaned up with warm water and a damp cloth, without the need for any solvents or chemicals.

Using hide glue in your woodworking and furniture restoration projects can not only save you money but also help you reduce your environmental impact and increase your self-sufficiency.

How to Use Hide Glue in Woodworking and Furniture Restoration

How To Use Hide Glue In Woodworking And Furniture Restoration
Applying hide glue to woodworking and furniture restoration projects is a straightforward process that requires proper preparation, application, and clean-up techniques. However, for those who have never used hide glue, the process may seem daunting and confusing. This section will provide an easy-to-follow guide on how to use hide glue properly, including instructions on soaking, heating, and mixing the glue, spreading and clamping techniques, and tips for removing excessive glue and finishing the surface. By the end of this section, you’ll have the confidence to use hide glue like a pro and achieve professional-grade results.

Preparation: Soaking, Heating, and Mixing the Glue

Before applying hide glue on your woodworking or furniture restoration project, you need to make sure that the glue is properly prepared. This involves soaking, heating, and mixing the glue to ensure a strong and smooth application.

Soaking: The first step in preparing hide glue is to soak it in water. Granular hide glue needs to be soaked for several hours and liquid hide glue for a shorter amount of time. The amount of water used for soaking depends on the glue-to-water ratio required by the type of hide glue. It is important to measure the amounts accurately to avoid issues with consistency and performance.

Heating: After the hide glue has been soaked, it needs to be heated to its recommended temperature. This temperature varies depending on the type of hide glue used and the ambient temperature of the workspace. It is important not to overheat the glue, as this can cause the glue to break down or lose its adhesive properties. On the other hand, if the glue is too cold, it will take longer to set and may not bond properly.

Mixing: Once the hide glue has been soaked and heated to the correct temperature, it needs to be mixed thoroughly to ensure a consistent composition. This is usually done using a double boiler or an electric glue pot. For granular hide glue, it is important to stir the mixture constantly until all the granules have dissolved and the mixture is smooth. For liquid hide glue, mixing is less of an issue since it is already a fluid.

To summarize, proper preparation is crucial to the success of using hide glue. Soaking, heating, and mixing the glue are integral steps that require attention to detail and care. To help you better understand the different times and temperatures required for soaking and heating, see the table below:

Type of Hide Glue Soaking Time Heating Temperature
Granular Hide Glue 4-24 hours 140-150°F (60-65°C)
Liquid Hide Glue 30-60 minutes 70-80°F (20-25°C)

By following these guidelines, you can be confident that your hide glue will be prepared correctly and that you will get a good result from your woodworking or furniture restoration project.

Application: Spreading the Glue, Clamping, and Drying the Joint

Spreading the Glue: Once the hide glue has been heated and mixed to the desired consistency, it’s time to apply it. Use a brush or spatula to spread the glue evenly onto the surface to be joined. Be sure to apply enough glue to create a strong bond, but avoid applying too much that it drips or overflows from the joint.

Clamping the Joint: After spreading the glue, align the joint and clamp it together with either clamps or a vise. The amount and type of clamping force required will depend on the project and joint being made. Some joints may require specific clamping techniques, such as using cauls to distribute pressure evenly across the joint or using specialized clamps to fit into tight spaces.

Drying the Joint: Once the joint has been clamped, the glue needs time to dry. Unlike modern adhesives, hide glue requires a longer clamp time and offers a “creep” factor, meaning it will continue to adjust slightly even after technically dry. The amount of time required for the glue to dry will depend on various factors such as glue type, temperature, humidity, and the size and complexity of the joint. Typically, allow for several hours, and then remove the clamps and allow the joint to sit for at least 24 hours to cure and dry completely before continuing with any finishing techniques.

Clean-Up: Removing Excessive Glue and Finishing the Surface

After clamping your joint and letting your hide glue dry, it’s important to clean up any excess glue that may have squeezed out of the joint. Here are some steps you can follow to properly clean up and finish the surface:

  • Scrape off excess glue: Once the glue has dried, use a sharp chisel or scraper to carefully remove any excess glue from the surface of the wood. Be sure to scrape in the direction of the grain to avoid damaging the wood fibers.
  • Sand the surface: After scraping off the excess glue, lightly sand the surface with fine grit sandpaper. This will help remove any remaining glue residue and create a smooth surface for finishing.
  • Apply finishing product: Once the surface is smooth, apply your desired finishing product, such as stain, paint, or varnish, following the manufacturer’s instructions. This will not only protect your project from wear and tear, but it will also enhance the natural beauty of the wood.
  • Clean tools: Finally, clean all of your tools and equipment with warm water and soap. It’s important to keep your tools clean and free of glue residue to prevent them from becoming clogged and ineffective in the future.

Remember, proper clean up and finishing is just as important as the glue application process. By taking the time to properly clean and finish your project, you can ensure a professional-looking result that will stand the test of time.

Tips and Tricks for Using Hide Glue with Success

As with any woodworking technique, success in using hide glue depends on understanding and applying the right tips and tricks. These practical guidelines can help you achieve consistently good results with hide glue. From getting the right glue consistency to maintaining the optimal temperature and moisture levels, these tips can make a big difference in your projects. So, let’s dive into some of the most valuable tips and tricks for using hide glue like a pro!

Consistency is Key: Tips for Finding the Right Glue/Water Ratio

Achieving the right consistency is crucial when working with hide glue. It can be difficult to know exactly how much water to add to the granules, but following these tips can help you find the right glue/water ratio every time:

  • Measure the glue and water precisely. Using a kitchen scale to measure the glue and water in grams can help ensure consistent results.
  • Start with a small amount of water. It’s easier to add more water than to try to thicken the glue after it’s been mixed. Begin with a ratio of 1:1 (1 part glue to 1 part water) and adjust as needed.
  • Slowly add water while stirring. Gradually add small amounts of water while stirring constantly. Be patient and take your time, rushing this step can lead to lumps or uneven texture.
  • Test the consistency. Check the consistency of the glue by dipping a wooden stick and pulling it out slowly. If the glue drips like syrup or honey, it’s too thin. If it’s too thick, it won’t spread easily.
  • Adjust the ratio as needed. If the glue is too thick, add a small amount of water and stir. If it’s too thin, add more glue and stir. Continue to adjust until you achieve the desired consistency.
  • Remember to strain the glue. Even with careful measuring and stirring, it’s possible for lumps or foreign particles to make their way into the glue mixture. Strain the glue through a cheesecloth before use to remove any impurities.

By following these tips, you can ensure that your glue has the right consistency for a strong, long-lasting bond.

Temperature Matters: Tips for Heating and Cooling the Glue

When using hide glue, temperature is an important consideration for achieving a strong and durable bond. Here are some tips for heating and cooling the glue to get the best results:

Tip Description
Use a double boiler to heat the glue Heat the glue gently and slowly to prevent scorching. A double boiler is the best choice for keeping the temperature low and even.
Use a thermometer to monitor the temperature The optimum temperature range for hide glue is between 140°F and 150°F (60°C and 66°C). Use a thermometer to ensure that the glue is within this range.
Keep the glue warm while using it As hide glue cools, it thickens and becomes less workable. Keep the glue container in a warm water bath while you work to maintain the desired consistency.
Cool the joint after clamping Once you have applied the glue and clamped the joint, allow it to cool to room temperature before unclamping. Cooling the glue slowly will help to prevent the joint from cracking or becoming damaged.

By following these temperature tips, you can ensure that your hide glue is applied at the proper temperature and will create a strong and long-lasting bond. Remember, consistency and timing are key when working with hide glue, so take the time to get the temperature right for each step of the process.

Timing is Everything: Tips for Keeping the Glue at the Right Temperature and Moisture Level

As with most glues, timing is critical when using hide glue in woodworking and furniture restoration projects. If the glue is not at the right temperature and moisture level during application, it may not create a strong bond or may even fail entirely. Here are some tips for keeping the glue at the optimum conditions:

Tip Description
Monitor the glue temperature Use a thermometer to check the temperature of your glue frequently. The ideal temperature range for hide glue is between 140°F to 150°F (60°C to 65°C) – hot enough to melt the glue and form a strong bond, but not so hot that it damages the wood. If the glue cools down too much, it will start to coagulate, while overheating may cause it to lose its adhesive qualities.
Keep the glue container warm If you’re not using a glue pot with a built-in heater, try placing the glue container in a bowl of warm water to maintain its temperature. This will prevent the glue from cooling down too quickly during application.
Keep the workpiece warm Similarly, keeping the workpiece warm will prevent the glue from cooling down too rapidly. You can use a heat lamp or a heating pad to warm up the workpiece, especially if you’re working in a chilly workshop.
Apply the glue immediately The open time for hide glue is relatively short, usually between 5 and 10 minutes. This means that you need to work quickly and apply the glue as soon as it reaches the right temperature. Don’t wait too long or the glue will start to coagulate, and you won’t be able to spread it easily.
Use a moisture meter Hide glue requires a certain moisture level in the wood to create a strong bond. Before applying the glue, use a moisture meter to measure the moisture content of the wood. Ideally, the moisture level should be between 6% to 8%. If the wood is too dry, it may not absorb the glue properly, while if it’s too wet, the glue may not dry completely.

By following these tips, you can ensure that your hide glue performs optimally and creates a strong, durable bond. Remember that timing is crucial when working with hide glue, so be sure to monitor your glue’s temperature and moisture level throughout the application process.


In conclusion, hide glue is a versatile and durable adhesive with a long and fascinating history. While it may not be as widely used as modern synthetic glues, it remains a popular choice for woodworking and furniture restoration enthusiasts due to its many benefits.

From its beginnings in prehistoric times to its widespread use in the Middle Ages, hide glue has stood the test of time and has even found a place in modern woodworking practices. As a bonding agent, it offers the advantage of reversible joints, allowing for easy repairs and restoration. It is also non-toxic and eco-friendly, making it a healthier and more sustainable choice than many synthetic alternatives.

When it comes to types, granular hide glue remains the traditional choice, but liquid hide glue and hide glue pellets offer greater convenience and faster drying times. Regardless of the type chosen, hide glue offers compatibility with other finishing products and is affordable, making it a popular option for any budget.

Using hide glue in woodworking and furniture restoration takes a bit of preparation, but with the right technique, it can produce strong, long-lasting bonds. Whether soaking and heating the glue, finding the right consistency, or timing the drying process, there are tricks and tips to ensure success.

Overall, hide glue offers a range of benefits for craftsmen and restorers looking for a durable, non-toxic adhesive that can produce reversible, long-lasting bonds. Its history and versatility make it a fascinating and valuable material for anyone interested in woodworking or furniture restoration.

Frequently Asked Questions

What is hide glue made from?

Hide glue is made from animal collagen, usually derived from the hides, bones, and hooves of cows and horses.

How is hide glue different from other types of glue?

Hide glue is unique in that it is made from natural, animal-derived materials, which gives it distinct advantages in woodworking and furniture restoration. It also forms reversible bonds, is non-toxic, and is compatible with a wide range of finishes.

Does hide glue have a long shelf life?

Yes, store dry hide glue in an airtight container and it can last for years. Once mixed with water, however, it should be used within a few hours.

Why is hide glue considered eco-friendly?

Hide glue is considered eco-friendly because it is made from natural materials and is non-toxic. It also biodegrades over time and can be composted or disposed of in an environmentally friendly manner.

What types of woodwork projects is hide glue best suited for?

Hide glue is well-suited for a wide range of woodworking and furniture restoration projects, including cabinetry, instrument building, boat building, and antique restoration.

Is hide glue easy to clean up?

Hide glue is water-soluble, making it easy to clean up with a damp cloth or sponge. However, it is important to remove any excess glue before it dries to avoid any unsightly residue.

Why do some woodworkers prefer hide glue over other types of glue?

Some woodworkers prefer hide glue over other types because it forms reversible bonds, is non-toxic, and can easily be removed if needed. It also has a long history of use in woodworking and is considered a traditional, time-tested technique.

Can hide glue be used on other materials besides wood?

Hide glue can be used on a wide range of porous materials, including paper, bone, leather, and some types of fabric. However, it may not be suitable for non-porous surfaces like metal or glass.

What is the difference between granular and liquid hide glue?

Granular hide glue is the traditional form, made up of small granules that are mixed with water and heated prior to use. It has a longer open time and works well for larger projects. Liquid hide glue is a more modern, pre-mixed form that has a shorter open time and is well-suited for smaller projects or repairs.

Does using hide glue require any special tools or equipment?

No, hide glue can be applied using a brush or glue roller and can be heated using a double boiler setup or a glue pot. Clamps or vices are useful for holding pieces together while the glue dries, but they are not strictly necessary.


Leave a Comment