Jefferson Swivel and Secretary

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Hide Glue in a Yellow Glue Era

After a ton of reading about and hearing about it from other woodworkers, I decided to try Hot Hide Glue. I bought a cheap little $10 crock pot from "wally world", and being that I live close to a Grizzly tool store I bought a can of ground hide glue crystals from Behlen.

I have to say at first I was pretty ticked at how it was coming out. I put a couple tablespoons of glue in a glass jar and a couple tablespoons of water, put it in the crock pot and a couple hours later I came back to find a blob of a mess. What did I do wrong?

Well, your suppose to do a 1 to 2 ratio first of all, 1 part glue to 2 parts water. Then let it set in a sealed jar for a while until it turns to the gel-like consistency of fish eggs or tapioca pudding. Then it goes in the crock pot and heats till its nice and runny and melted completely, its only suppose to get to a temperature of 140-160 degrees from what I've heard.

After being real flustered, I went to the trusty ole Internet and found a video on YouTube from Stewart MacDonald. This video is great, it shows the same brand I had, and tells in a short 1:55 long video how to mix and use the stuff.  OK, so I tried again using this method, and it worked perfectly!

 I am making a huge entertainment center right now to fit a 55" flat screen and it has a dovetailed carcass, the hide glue went on nice and even and dried within a minute or so to the gel stage. One thing you have to get use to from using the "Yellow Stuff" is the extremely fast set time of Hide Glue. I did one section at a time and even used a heat gun to pre-warm the pins on the dovetails to make sure the glue had a little bit longer open time. It worked great, plus one benefit I didn't know, is the glue acts kinda like a lubricant to make slipping the joint together easier. I have to say that after my first day of actually using Hide Glue on a project, I'm kinda liking it. I want to build furniture that will stand the test of time. Yellow Glue has only been around maybe 60 or 70 years vs. the 2000 or so Hide Glue has been around, I think I'll be using more hide glue. Plus it's repairable, if a part ever needs to be fixed just heat the joint and it relaxes the glue making it fixable, not re-make-able.

There's that old adage, make it right to begin with and it won't come apart. While that has a lot of truth in it, how do we know that in 75 years Yellow glue doesn't break down and become moldy or something. Maybe I should think about the future more, glues break down, it's almost guaranteed, maybe I/we should give Hide Glue more praise and use it more so the future repair shops don't think of this as the Yellow Glue era and start saying, "That piece may have been in your family for generations but it's unfix-able, had the craftsman only used Hide Glue, Aunt Betty's Windsor Chair would be able to stay out of the trash pile".


  1. I think, the more you use it the more you will like it. Two things to consider, read up on extending the set time for big glue ups, it's easy. Get real, string tied, glue brushes,they have long handles they come in sizes, they hold more glue and don't loose fibers into the glue.

  2. Glad to hear of your positive experience. I've purchased some hide glue but haven't taken the plunge yet. Set time is a bit of an issue as it's now cold up north and my shop is on the cool side. I am thinking about using fish glue on my next project. Most of the advantages of hide glue with very long open time (offset by long clamp time).

    Jim B

  3. Matt @ Pine Hill PrimsDecember 14, 2011 at 8:24 AM

    Thanks guys for the comments, I know I will like it the more I use it. It'll just take some getting used to but I can already see the benefits from it. I was useing just an old tooth brush to apply it. It seemed to work pretty good. I'll look into a no metal ferrule brush, sounds like a good way to spread the glue. Jim you should take the plunge, its a bit of a learning curve but isn't everything. It'll be worth it in the long run.

  4. I'm sold. I've got to give this a try now. For what it's worth, I have unglued yellow glue with vinegar, a fine syringe, and patience. However, the more I think about it, this stuff seems more practical and versatile. Thanks for the post.