Animal protein glues (often referred to as “hide glues” or HHG for hot hide glue) have been used for thousands of years. In fact, these glues were the original “super glues,” offering historic people a valuable way of bonding materials. Today, these glues have mostly been replaced by synthetic glues, but for all of the world’s modern advances, there still remain many valuable uses for animal glues including antique restorations, furniture construction, marquetry, and luthierie (guitar, violin & other instrument making). Unlike many newer glues, protein glues are reversible, a characteristic that allows artisans to disassemble and repair parts more easily. Because it tacks fast as it cools, it is useful in clamp-less processes like hammer veneering. And there are other benefits too.
Some modern day artisans favor protein glues for virtually all their work. One of these devotees is California-based furniture conservator Patrick Edwards, an accomplished furniture maker, woodworking historian, and hand-tool expert. Patrick almost exclusively uses animal glues in his colorful urban shop, where a rusty old hot glue-pot is always at the ready. In this video, Patrick shares his 40-some years of experience working wood with animal glues. We learn why he uses animal glues; how he selects from the many types of hide, bone, fish, and rabbit skin glues currently available; and how he mixes and heats the product. Patrick explains the meaning of gram strength, why it matters, and how to purchase the right gram strength glue for your application (He says that for general woodworking, you should use a hide glue with a 192 gram strength). Frankly, it’s not hard to be amazed by the refined characteristics of this non- toxic glue. It’s all here in this lively tutorial. One of the most insightful discussions on selecting and cooking natural glues I’ve ever heard. (9.5 Minute Woodworking Video)
Patrick Edwards is President of Antique Refinishers, Inc. which offers restoration, conservation and reproduction of pre-industrial American and European furniture for dealers, private collectors, and institutions. Mr. Edward also owns and instructs at the American School of French Marquetry, Inc. Both business are based on San Diego, California. Mr. Edwards has also formulated a slow-set, ready-to-use liquid hide glue. which he produces and sells under the brand name “Old Brown Glue”.
Excellent video, I am a user of protein glue and use it regularly for my restoration work. Can you supply Patrick’s source for his glue?
Keith’s Note: Patrick orders granulated glue in bulk from the New York based manufacturer Milligan & Higgins, Company. Their minimum order is 50 lbs. If you want 1 lb. of this glue, you can purchase if directly from Patrick. Additionally, Patrick has developed his own formula for a liquid hide glue that requires no cooking and sells it under the brand name “Old Brown Glue”. Patrick uses both types (granulated and liquid) in his shop. To purchase either type, go to: Patrick’s Online Glue Store.
Your videos just keep getting better. Along with veneering I have been very interested in hide glues – this was great, very informative – again thanks to Patrick for the really down to earth information – did not realize he was the “Patrick” behind “Old Brown Glue”
Keith – Excellent video as always! Thank you. I am really interested in this topic so this series was a real treat. Patrick is one of the definitive experts on protein glues. I am so glad you are back to producing these outstanding videos.
I have enjoyed all of your videos and the high level of professionalism of the production. I’ll probably never use hide glue but it is nice to expand my level of knowledge on all aspects of woodworking. Thanks for the effor you put into this.
great video – welcome back!!
Very interesting. Clear information put in a straightford manner – excellent.
Your videos are excellent – clear, easy to understand, well produced, and above all, informative. Nice to have authoraties like Pat Edwards in your videos too.
Outstanding presentation on HHG; would love to try the technique. I just “tumbled” on to this website by accident and look to exploring other videos on woodworking.
Having grown up in a violin shop, I can attest all the info in this video is accurate regarding “hide” glue. I saw my dad use this stuff for decades repairing stringed instruments. Pat gives clear, thorough advice. The photography, lighting and sound are excellent. This is the best video on the subject I have seen.
As a way of saying thanks, I would like to offer this inexpensive tip to anyone learning to use hide glue. You do not need an expensive iron pot and double-boiler. For small amounts, you can do what my dad did: use a baby-bottle warmer.
BB warmers are available at pharmacies and other stores that cater to mothers. These warmers are cheap, but work well for decades. They are easy to clean, allow mixing small batches (which prevents waste) and they all have temperature controls, so you can easily set temp and not worry about your glue when glue-up time comes. They also do not take much space on a work-surface. They are all UL approved and nearly fire-proof. Woodworkers have enough hazards to think about. This simple little gizmo eliminates one of them.
Best Wishes and Thanks for this high-quality video!
Keith’s Note: Thanks for the tips!
Hi Keith, I put your widget up on the home page of our website, great work Keith! I love it and I believe our members love it to.
Thanks for putting it out there.
Besides iron glue pots, one also finds copper glue pots often in France. Their value, besides efficient heat transfer, is the copper leaches a natural biocide into the glue that will keep the hide glue from allowing fungal growth. One can accomplish the same with an iron glue pot by putting a few copper nails in the pot and leaving them there.
Thanks for the video on glues in general.
Thanks for the tip!
That’s an excellent idea I had not heard of before!
I am trying to redo the interior of a flatware cabinet and glueing the fabric to the wood moulds is quite a challenge. I want to use silk or silk taffeta but all the glues I try go through the fabric. I need a glue that gives me a few seconds to reposition the fabric if necessary and over a period of time will not show through the fabric. Any suggestions?
Keith’s Note: Sounds like a very delicate job. Let see what others might say…
There’s a huge disagreement on the correct temperature for the hide glue. Almost everywhere I’ve looked and listened, artisans say the glue cooks and loses the bonding ability if the temp goes over 140 degrees Fahrenheit. I’m just beginning to work with this glue and would appreciate any constructive comment on temperature. Patrick recommends 165 degrees if I remember correctly. Is this just a personal preference thing, or is there a difference in the glue? I’m using animal protein glue to restore a musical instrument. Any replies are welcome.
i am a hand bookbinder and always used animal ground with 2 qt. glue pot and brush that 30 years ago it smelled teribble but was great for what i wanted now i cannot get any?i want it to stay open long enough to work with 4 or 5 minutes all work i do is by hand. will this glue work for me?
Keith’s Note: I’m sorry that I have no expertise regarding book binding. Perhaps others can comment.
Really great video. I’m just doing some research on how people used hide glue. I make it occasionally and am just in the midst of doing a multipart video on making hide glue from bull skin for youtube. It’s good to get the opinion of a very experienced user here. Great production too. Thanks!