Chris Schwarz's Blog

Strong as the Union: Franklin Liquid Hide Glue

I use hide glue for almost everything in my shop (except as a party dip on a cracker), and have tried all modes of this versatile adhesive. But my usual go-to, work-a-day version of this wood glue doesn’t get much love out there on the Internet, and I am bewildered by this fact.

Most of my hide glue comes from my corner hardware store: Franklin Liquid Hide Glue. It is inexpensive because there is no waste. It is easy to get at most hardware stores. It is liquid at room temperature. It doesn’t smell bad. It tacks up quickly and holds firmly. It can be turned into “hot hide glue” with 13 seconds in my microwave.

And it is reversible.

Yes, like with all hide glues, you can release the bond using heat and moisture. This feature has saved my bacon on many occasions.

And even though I have had nothing but success with this glue, I am constantly asked about it when people see it on my bench. Isn’t it crap compared to “real” hide glue? Isn’t it weak? I’ve heard from people who say that it never really sets hard. My scraper would disagree.

The truth is that the glue works very well for general joinery in my experience. I haven’t used it much for marquetry or large veneering projects, so maybe its faults lie there and I am blind to them. But if you need a glue that can glue dovetails, mortises and tenons, edge joints, bridle joints, butt joints, miter joints and other standard stuff, you can’t go wrong with the Franklin stuff.

And it’s reversible (like almost all hide glues).

The Franklin glue is also an entree into the wider world of hide glues, which are much more “tunable” than any polyvinyl acetate I’ve used. After using the Franklin stuff, you won’t find Patrick Edwards’s nice “Old Brown Glue” so exotic. And then it’s a short hop to a cast-iron glue pot and hide glues with different gram strengths for different applications.

And lest you be concerned about the historical pedigree of using a glue in a modern brown plastic bottle, remember this: Franklin developed its formula for liquid hide glue in 1935, and it’s the same formula the company uses today. See some of the attached historical photos and advertisements I’ve dug up from eBay below.

From a graphic design standpoint, I love the old red Franklin glue can with its catchphrase: “Strong as the Union.” If they brought that back, I’d buy it by the gallon just for the cool logo. But until they bring back the cool bottle, I’ll buy it because it works.

— Christopher Schwarz

 

21 thoughts on “Strong as the Union: Franklin Liquid Hide Glue

  1. TobyC

    The first time I used it was to re-install the bridge on an acoustic guitar. Easy to use, easy to clean up squeeze-out, great stuff. There is a lot of tension on a guitar bridge, constantly trying to pull it off, my bridge is still there, still solid, and that was many years ago. It does dry completely, and it is strong. To satisfy my curiosity, before I glued that bridge, I took two 1X3s, about a foot long, and overlapped the ends about an inch, glued and clamped them together overnight. I tried to break the glue joint apart, but broke the wood, the joint was stronger than the wood. I can’t recommend it enough, and I don’t think I will live long enough to see my bridge fail. I have been using it ever since for interior applications, with no failures or complaints.

    Toby

  2. watermantra

    Just have to put one more vote in for Old Brown Glue. I love the slipperyness of the initial glue-up. It makes tight parts go together better, as someone said. Clean up is awesome, as you can re-wet it even when cured. It’s never failed for me on any joint (it doesn’t fill gaps well, so get that joinery tight!), my glue ups are a little less stressed, and yesterday I used it for the first time for veneering. It’s SOOO much better than the contact cement method I was using before for such projects. We’ll see about it’s effectiveness long term for that, but it’s been used for centuries for veneering, so I’m pretty confident. I have no experience with the Franklin stuff. I’ve also never had a bottle go bad…I use it too fast!

    Question for someone more knowledgeable…does it work for manufactured products like MDF and Masonite?

  3. Bones

    Nothing has been said about “longevity” yet.
    I have recently repaired some items, about 75 to 100 years old, built with hide glue that simply failed at the glueline. The glue seemed to have dried out and ‘crumbled’ – tiny bits of hard dust/chips. Mortices and all surfaces seemed to have been well done, smooth and tight.
    Is there any information on that potential problem ?
    What did the Egyptians use ?

    1. andrae

      The Egyptians used hide glue, and possibly fish glue as well. But they also frequently pegged their mortise and tenon joints.

      Polyvinyl acetate was discovered in 1912 in Germany and commercialized there maybe in the late 1920′s. But PVA glue was not widely available in the US until around World War II. So we’re not quite to the point of determining whether or not PVA glue will consistently last more than 75 to 100 years…

  4. John Walkowiak

    Liquid hide glue will last longer if it is kept in the refrigerator. I have heard that some freeze it is small blocks but I have not tried that. Regarding using it in a hot climate. If the glue is in the joint the heat and humidity can’t get to it to soften it, so no worries.

  5. Richard Dawson

    Chris,

    Franklin hide glue does the job and I am very happy with it. However, I was wondering what differences you see between the Franklin product and Old Brown Glue. Given that glue is a relatively minor expense, my inclination is to go with OBG because Patrick Edwards is a small company and I, as do most users of hand tools prefer to support the little guy.

    Your thoughts?

    Thanks,

    Richard

    1. Christopher SchwarzChristopher Schwarz Post author

      Richard,

      Old Brown Glue is great. I use it when I have it so that I can support Patrick Edwards. But I use a lot of glue in all my classes and building. And sometimes I run out. The Franklin stuff is a 5-minute walk from my house.

      Plus, for me at least, Franklin is a local company right up the road in Columbus. So I am supporting the local guys.

      Functionally, I don’t see a lot of differences in the two glues, but perhaps I am not as tuned in to some of the specialty applications. The Old Brown is usually thicker than the Titebond, but that’s not always the case and it’s not a big deal.

  6. rth1935@gmil.com

    I had used Titebond III for years until the local hardware store ran out. They did have lhg and I liked the tackyness. It was later when I checked the date and realized the glue was way out of date.It worked fine.I dont need a waterproof glue so why pay extra for it.

  7. TWDesign

    I’ve used it to veneer both sides of a standard sized backgammon board using the cold pressing technique. I was working in a cold shop and used a jar of warm water to keep it thin enough to spread, it was great for this. and has held up for over a year just fine.

    The softness might be related to how long it takes to fully dry out and become hard. I’ve sliced my fingers on scraped of glue shards, sometimes I estimate this took 20-25 hours to get to that stage.

  8. Sawduster

    How much open time do you have if used straight out of the bottle for fit up? I’ve just used Tightbond III for everything. Is Tightbond Hide less expensive than III?

    1. Christopher SchwarzChristopher Schwarz Post author

      About 20 minutes. It is very much like using a PVA. You have to leave it in the clamps longer than a PVA, but if you are a home woodworker, this is no big deal.

  9. Phil SpencerPhil Spencer

    I would use the stuff if it was available in my part of Australia, I have to make do with the granules and a hot pot, here is a tip instead of the cast iron double boiler I went to the local beauty suppler and purchased an electric thing that ladies use to heat the wax for their legs and other parts. It works well.

    1. Christopher SchwarzChristopher Schwarz Post author

      Yup. I reverse hide glue using a steam iron (212°, which is hot even in Louisiana) and a wet washcloth.

      Liquid hide glue was actually first marketed for its heat-resistance to white glues in the early 20th century. White glues used to fall apart in the sun. But not liquid hide.

      It will be fine for normal (read: Earthly) joinery.

      1. gehentogo

        I also notice that it doesn’t last forever. I find it helps to buy the smaller bottles and replace them more often. It just takes a little planning ahead if you have a big glue up. I used PVA for years not knowing any better, and I am really pleased with this stuff.

        1. Christopher SchwarzChristopher Schwarz Post author

          Brian,

          I buy the small bottles and have about a year to use them. I’ve never had one expire. If you get one that is about to expire, take it back and ask for a fresh one. The stores are happy to exchange if they messed up and sold you a bad bottle.

      2. mpn77

        So, If i had a 1 1/2″ square leg and a 1/2″ tenon glued into that leg, would i just steam up either side of the leg and the joint would come free? I’ve always wondered about the reversibility of hide glue in that application.

        I used Old Brown Glue for the first time last night! It was a magical experience. It was actually slippery, not so much tacky. It helped super tight joints that i had a tough time dry fitting slide right together (more so than PVA). It has a slight smell of dirty wet socks, which is also nice.

        1. Christopher SchwarzChristopher Schwarz Post author

          To release the joint, spray a little water into the seam. Put a moist washcloth over the glued area with a clothes iron set to “steam.” It should release in a few minutes at most.

          The other nice thing is that the glue sticks to itself. So after you take the joint apart you don’t have to scrape the joint clean (like on PVA). Just apply more glue and go.

  10. RRGraham

    I love this glue to – but you really have to be careful in the Virginia area when you buy it. Really hard to find it with much time left on it’s shelf life. I bought some once and it was a year out – didn’t look closely at the year just the month. Not sure this makes a difference? but have never been willing to take a chance

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