The Best Glue for Furniture?
Why liquid hide glue should be your first choice as an adhesive.
by Christopher Schwarz
Since the beginnings of civilization up until World War II, most pieces of furniture were assembled using animal-based glues. That fact changed almost overnight in the 20th century, however, with the introduction of polyvinyl acetate (PVA), what we call yellow or white glue.
In some ways, these modern glues are great. They are cheap, easy to use and available everywhere – even the grocery store. But they might not be the best choice for the individual woodworker making furniture.
Modern glues aren’t reversible – so fixing furniture or undoing your mistakes is agonizing. They set up fast – sometimes too fast when you’re working alone. And PVAs are prone to show up as white splotches when coated with a finish if you aren’t fastidious about cleaning squeeze-out.
Frustrated by these downsides to yellow and white PVAs, I began looking for an alternative. As is usually the case in woodworking, the problem could be solved by investigating traditional shop practices.
More than a decade ago, I began using liquid hide glue. And now it’s rare for me to use anything else. I don’t use hide glue because I build historical reproductions, wear frilly shirts or work at a living history museum. I use it because it simply is the better glue for me – a guy who builds pieces of furniture one at a time in a small shop. The guy who occasionally puts slot A into tab B by accident and needs to fix the mistake.
Video: Watch a hide glue joint being reversed.
Website: Read more about Old Brown Glue and Titebond’s Liquid Hide Glue.
Book: Buy Stephen A. Shepherd’s “Hide Glue: Traditional & Practical Applications.”
In our store: “10 Essential Furniture Repairs” with Joshua Klein.
From the February 2017 issue, #230