Hide glue is one of those simple and natural products that is intertwined with our lives in many ways, much like shellac is.
The core ingredient in hide glue will gross out your children: it’s the cartilage, connective tissue and bones of cattle or other animals. When cooked down, the resulting product makes the most versatile woodworking glue ever invented (it’s reversible and can be modified easily to do different tricks).
We call it “gelatin,” and it’s the foundation of many other products in our daily lives.
Pharmaceuticals. If you take pills, you consume the raw ingredient in hide glue. Gelatin is used in making both tablets and capsules. And if you take soft pills or vitamins, that’s hide glue as well. So feel better by taking your dessicated carcass pills.
Beauty products. I hate it when I get hide glue in my hair in the shop. But some people put it there intentionally with beauty products, including some hair gels. It’s also used in many skin care products. So get beautiful by slathering on some dead cow creme.
Food. You’ll find gelatin in ice cream, Jell-O, marshmallows, yogurt, Peeps (and you thought they were birds), Skittles, sugar-frosted cereals, yogurt and even some frozen vegetables sold in bags. And yes, it’s used in most gummy things: bears, worms, fish etc.
In fact, I know a woodworker who received a gift from a nearby gummy bear factory: several huge containers filled with gelatin. He uses it in his glue pot and assembles gorgeous pieces of furniture with it. And every time I think of him and his work, I can imagine him saying to his customers: “I build my furniture using only the finest woods, bug excretions and gummy bears.”
— Christopher Schwarz