Chris Schwarz's Blog

10 Reasons NOT to Use Liquid Hide Glue for Furniture

A personal list. Your reasons may vary.
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10. If you rub your glue-y hands on your pants they will smell like a horse’s bum that has been boiled and then left in the sun (but the smell washes out).

— Christopher Schwarz

46 thoughts on “10 Reasons NOT to Use Liquid Hide Glue for Furniture

  1. Jim McCoy

    I agree with 1 through 9. I would say the smell is more like the garbage cans sitting out behind the tannery for a week in the hot summer sun. But then working my way through school as a garbage man 35 years ago had its downsides too.

  2. Christopher Hawkins

    My son is a luthier and believes liquid hide glue is horrible stuff. His reasons… Urea is added to the liquify it and this causes the hide glue to have a limited shelf life. The liquid hide glue does not harden if it is too old. You don’t know it has gone bad until you try to glue something up. The standard hide glue is easy to use so why mess around with a product with a limited shelf life?

  3. Phil SpencerPhil Spencer

    The bench dog loves to help with cleaning up the squeeze out, only with the original hyde glue the additive used to extend the drying time may make bench dog sick.

  4. bko

    I heat my liquid hide glue using an old baby bottle warmer and small glass baby food jar. It makes the smell worse, but it makes the glue work much better in my cold New England basement workshop.

    I have found that if I heat up the entire bottle of LHG in the warmer, the shelf life of the glue is reduced, so I just heat up a small portion.

    I would not use any other glue on fine furniture.

    1. damnhippie

      “I would not use any other glue on fine furniture.”

      Why not? What are the advantages of liquid hide glue that make it superior to all other glues?

      1. bko

        The advantages for me are:

        1. If I don’t clean up all the squeeze out, a quick pass with a card scraper is generally all that is required to enable stain or finish to look good.

        2. If I make a boo-boo, I can use hot water (and/or vinegar) to reverse the glue. Old glue in the joint does not need to be completely removed to affect a repair.

        3. If somebody else needs to repair the piece in 30 years, they can.

        4. While weaker than yellow glue, it is still stronger than the wood itself.

        5. I can use rubbed joints when edge joining boards

        6. With everything warm, the open time of the glue is longer, allowing more complicated glue-ups to proceed without panic.

        7. I don’t have to deal with soaking granules of hide glue and I don’t have to heat LHG up to same heat as granular hide glue. My little baby-bottle warmer at around body temperature is perfect.

        I don’t use it for cutting boards or other things that might see a lot of water, but it is otherwise the best choice for me. You need to find you own path and your own best choice–your needs may be completely different from mine.

        1. damnhippie

          Hey bko, thanks for the informative reply! I was afraid as a noob of getting flamed. I’ve built only a few pieces, and have used PVA and epoxy. For my next project maybe I’ll try LHG, for comparison. Thanks again!

        2. Steve_OH

          As stated, your items 3 and 4 are contradictory: If the glue really is stronger than the wood, then that means that if the piece fails, it’s going to fail somewhere other than at a glue joint, in which case the type of glue used in the joint is irrelevant.

          On the other hand, if you had said, “If somebody else wants to disassemble the piece in 30 years…,” then that makes a lot more sense.

          The distinction may seem trivial, but it’s not. Thinking about how a piece may be disassembled can guide not only what kinds of glues you use but also what kinds of joints. There’s no point in using hide glue for its easy of disassembly in a fox-wedged mortise and tenon joint, for example.

          -Steve

          1. John Cashman

            3 and 4 really aren’t contradictory. I’ve repaired a lot of spindles and stretchers in chairs, for instance, where it was not the joints that failed, but the wood in the spindle or stretcher itself. If yellow glue was used, the parts are a real bear to disassemble. When they are hide glue, it is a simple matter to take apart and fix.

            1. Steve_OH

              You are correct–“contradictory” isn’t really what I meant, but it was the closest word I could come up with at the time. What I meant was more along the lines of “conceptually at odds with.” The basic point I was trying to make is that “disassembly” is distinct from “repair.” Neither one implies the other, and the use of hide glue is about disassembly.

              -Steve

              (And why does the Firefox spell checker not like the word “disassembly”?)

              1. bko

                You might want to take a look at Stephan Shepard’s blog. He does a lot of repair on spinning wheels and furniture, often working in an historically accurate style. He has very strong opinions about modern glues versus the old fashioned hide glues.

                Please see:

                http://www.fullchisel.com/blog/?p=2095

                and

                http://www.fullchisel.com/blog/?p=1441

                Certainly in restoration work, a non-reversible glue would never be used. I learned the hard way repairing our kitchen chair spindle backs that the more I tried to use things like epoxy and polyurethane glues, the harder it was to repair them the NEXT time a spindle broke.

                Thanks to this thread, I need to go order some fish glue from Lee Valley to try now!

        3. BillT

          Another positive about hide glue – if you miss a little spot of it here or there, it will take linseed oil and shellac finishes, unlike PVA, which will stand out as a white blotch because it prevents the finish from getting to the wood.

    2. adrian

      I heated up the liquid hide glue using 130 deg water (which was the hottest temp recommended) and I still had less than 5 minutes of open time in my shop, which is about 62 degrees in the winter. If I didn’t heat up the hide glue it was solid in the bottle.

      Does anybody know about the relative merits of fish glue as compared to hide glue? Because the fish glue has a fantastic open time (an hour) and appears to be similar to hide glue in many characteristics.

    1. Justin Tyson

      Liquid hide glue is store-bought in a bottle (though you can make your own). Hot hide glue is the stuff you have to heat, and not everyone finds the smell offensive.

    2. JWatriss

      SOME brands smell atrocious. I tried Behlen’s and it was horrible… but it was hide and bone and other things. Real hide glue does have an odor, but it’s nowhere near as bad.

  5. adrian

    My reason for not using it was that even when I warmed it up in hot water first, in my cool shop it had an open time of about 3 minutes. Five minutes tops. I’m just not that fast… The liquid fish glue, on the other hand, has a nice long open time.

    1. JWatriss

      I’ve seen people use heat lamps in the shop to help with exactly that. I feel your unheated pain… but yellow glue is even worse. I remember reading about how yellow glue doesn’t work very well below 50 degrees, and thinking “Who the hell would be working in a shop that’s colder than 50 degrees?”

      1. John Cashman

        Al Breed always has a couple of heat guns handy when doing assembly. He heats the glue in a glass jar in a jar of water on a hotplate, and heats the joints with a heat gun. The hotter everything is, the more time you have. With the same glue, with cooler wood, you can do a rub joint and have parts assembled in under a minute. It’s a very flexible system.

  6. chuckbeck

    After two days of repairing piano parts from 1868 glued in with a mammal’s ass, I really appreciate hot hide. I’m soaking the next batch to heat in the morning. Long live mammals.

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