Chris Schwarz's Blog

Rethink the Rules of Liquid Hide Glue

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I’ve just finished writing an article on liquid hide hide glue for Popular Woodworking Magazine that takes a critical look at the adhesive compared to yellow glues. My hope is that it’s a fairly dogma-free article.

While liquid hide glue will probably always be my favorite adhesive for interior work, there are some cases where another glue is a better choice.

During the research for the article, I talked to adhesive scientists, glue makers and even visited Franklin International’s factory during the summer with a long list of questions. After getting some surprising answers, I put their assertions to the test in my shop.

I’m going to share some of the surprises here. For the rest, you’ll have to buy the magazine (sorry, editors have to eat, too).

Expiration Dates
One of the alleged downsides to liquid hide glue is that it expires after about a year in the bottle (though it can last 18 months or longer depending on how you store it or who is giving you the information).

But then the scientists at Franklin showed me some dried glue samples they had recently made with 10-year-old hide glue. The dried glue film was as hard as glass – just like you would see with a fresh bottle.

What gives? As Dale Zimmerman at Franklin explained, it’s all in how you store the glue. Heat and water are the enemies of liquid hide glue. So if you leave a bottle of glue open in your shed during the entire muggy summer (or in a hot car), you could ruin the glue before the expiration date.

But if you store the glue sealed up and in a cool basement, the life of the glue is greatly extended, as the tests at Franklin showed (which I repeated in my shop).

You don’t have to freeze it. You don’t have to store it in the fridge. In fact, Zimmerman cautioned that by storing it in a cooler the glue could take on water from condensation when you warm it up. Zimmerman’s advice: Just keep it sealed up in a cool basement.

Now some woodworkers would argue that glue is the cheapest part of any project, so why take a chance with old glue? It’s a good point, but think of it this way: If you store your liquid hide glue properly you don’t have to stress about the expiration date.

How do you test hide glue to see if it’s still good? That will be the subject of my next entry on this topic.

— Christopher Schwarz

11 thoughts on “Rethink the Rules of Liquid Hide Glue

  1. JasonS

    Hey Chris,

    Would you let us know which month its going to be in? Looking forward to the complete article.

    Thanks,
    Jason

    1. Megan FitzpatrickMegan Fitzpatrick

      Not Chris (I’m a bit less hirsute), but the answer is the Jan/Feb 17 issue. Mails to subscribers 12/21/16, on newsstands 1/3/17.

  2. 8iowa

    Way back in the mid-fifties, in my Jr. High woodworking shop, thew instructor heated glue in a pot before it could be used. I suspect that this was the traditional type of glue. Now we have liquid hide glue in a plastic squeeze bottle. What gives? There must be several types of hide glue available now.

  3. johnbrownmd

    I am sure you cover this and I am a subscriber but how about the hide glue you mix yourself – are there advantages and is it the best form to use with veneering if you do not want to deal with other glues?

    1. ThomasP

      My Dad had, what he called Horse Glue. It came in a crystal form only requiring water to be added. He used this same container of dry glue for at least 30 yrs with little deterioration in performance if any! So, I would be interested also if a powdered form of Hide Glue would have a timeless shelf life!
      Talk about shelf lives; I am still using up the remnants of a gallon jug of Elmer’s Carpenter’s Glue that I purchased ~43 yrs ago for what I expected to be a major set of projects! Needless to say, the “projects” turned out to be not as big as I expected!! Although the glue is a bit thicker now, I still use it for wooden jigs that I build with no problems!! I use newer premium glues for all furniture and other projects that I now build.
      Thomas

  4. AdmiralBumbleBee

    So, for someone that’s never been in or seen a basement in his life, what temperature/humidity should we be shooting for?

    (I did try and google for common/average values for a basement, but they seem to be +/- 30°f and +/- 50% humidity)

    1. moonchaser

      I hope most basements are not close to the +/-30f temperature you found, as the utility (water/natural gas) inlet lines are usually present there. Temperatures at 30f are okay for natural gas (not necessarily ideal, but okay) but if a temperature of 30f is sustained in an area where water is not being run through the lines, the lines can freeze, which can lead to burst lines and a water disaster. Ideally a basement will be above 45-50f (winter) and less than 80f (summer). I can’t speak to the humidity, but in my house the bsement is usually more humid than other areas of the house. Humidity would also depend on the climate of the area and the climate control of the building.

      1. AdmiralBumbleBee

        Thank you for the reply. I actually have no clue how basements ‘work’ other than googling it. We simply do not have basements in this area of the US.

    2. pdennis

      My Basement in Central New York has never gotten below 55 Degrees and never above 73 degrees. I don’t heat it but I do run a dehumidifier in it to keep it at about 50% humidity. I think I get about a gallon of water a day out of it in the summer. My tools don’t rust down here so I’m happy.

  5. Woodworks by John

    Something I learned the hard way about Liquid Hide is to not use it for putting in manufactured caning. Unlike a PVA white glue that shrinks up as it dries and helps to pull the caning tight, the liquid hide doesn’t have that property. Good thing it’s reversible though!

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