The most stressful glue-up of my life was assembling my tool chest in 1998. The main carcase had 120 mating surfaces that had to be glued. Foolishly, I chose yellow glue as the adhesive.
As a result, another editor and I spent an hour furiously beating and clamping the chest together. In the end, there were a few gaps we couldn’t close because the yellow glue had set , luckily it was nothing milk paint couldn’t fix.
These days I’m smarter about glue. When I started building chairs years ago, I was introduced to liquid hide glue, and boy has that changed the way I work. I think I have an extra inch of stomach lining thanks to liquid hide glue (and no, that’s not because I drank some).
The liquid hide glue is almost as simple to use as yellow glue (warming it up a little in a water bath helps it flow). It’s reversible. Let me say that again: It’s reversible! Once I stuck a chair leg in the wrong socket. All it took was a little heat and moisture and the leg came right out. Easy-peasy.
Liquid hide glue also cleans up nicely with water, doesn’t smell bad and gives you a long open time for complex assemblies. If my shop is warm (65Ã?Â° F or so) I can manipulate my parts for 45 minutes or more before things start to get hairy.
I still use yellow glue , just not for everything. When I’m gluing up lots of panels, for example, I like the way yellow glue sets up quickly and doesn’t need a lot of clamping time. This frees up clamps and lets me work faster. Ditto that when building jigs and fixtures or planting mouldings on a carcase , I want a glue that sets up fast.
I’ll also choose a yellow glue that is water-resistant for projects that might have to endure a soaking.
What about other adhesives? Hot hide glue? Polyurethane? Epoxy? Plastic resin? I’ve used them all and sometimes I do break them out for certain applications. But for most of my work, which is building new pieces of furniture, liquid hide glue and yellow glue get used the most.
Maybe some day I’ll get even smarter and get one of these.
– Christopher Schwarz
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