10 Reasons NOT to Use Liquid Hide Glue for Furniture - Popular Woodworking Magazine

10 Reasons NOT to Use Liquid Hide Glue for Furniture

 In Chris Schwarz Blog, Joinery, Raw Materials, Woodworking Blogs

A personal list. Your reasons may vary.
10. If you rub your glue-y hands on your pants they will smell like a horse’s bum that has been boiled and then left in the sun (but the smell washes out).

— Christopher Schwarz

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Showing 46 comments
  • tconover@fuse.net

    I am just getting started in woodworking (at age 66) and would like to do most of my work with hand tools and using traditional methods where practical.
    Is Chris’s list telling us that the only drawback to using hide glue is the smell?

    • Megan Fitzpatrick
      Megan Fitzpatrick


  • dwchat

    Looks like Letterman has nothing to worry about.

  • Bones

    The NUMBER 1. reason NOT to use it is the same reason that we do not drive 1937 Fords. The new cars are better for almost everything.

  • graphicgranny

    I would like toknow the reasons #1 – 9 as they didn’t show here. Hide glue is perfect if you want to do a crackle finish! Just spread the glue where you want it, both thick and thin. Let it dry and use acrylic paints to cover! Try this on a scarp piece of wookd top see the results.

  • CarlosJD

    It’s true that I may be a little slow, but I’m assuming that because 1 thru 9 did not show up you advocate the use of hide glue for furniture? I live in Las Vegas and a friend had me re-glue a box made in Hawaii and put together with hide glue. It was summer and I thought that the heat caused it to come apart. Is this possible?

  • khalsans

    OK, how about 10 good uses for that foamy polyurethane glue, the stuff with the image of a large primate on the label? My list kinda looks like the one above, with the exception of #10. It’s good for fixing loose drywall anchors, but does it have a niche in woodworking?

    • BillT

      Years ago, I sat in on a one-day seminar led by Kelly Mehler, well-known custom woodworker from Berea, KY. He said that polyurethane glue (which is what Gorilla Glue is) is good for edge-gluing table tops and similar panels. I don’t know whether he still advocates that – this was about 10 years ago.

  • CharlesWilson

    1. My German Shepherd dogs start chasing me.

  • allenworb

    Seems like a lot of conversation over just gluing things up. I’m exhausted! Fun descriptions of the stink made me LOL @work!

    If anyone is interested in glue creep I did a study for Gorilla Glue a while back. Used lots of glues, but not the old school LHG. Either way, I promise it doesn’t stink.


  • rclcan

    Chris –

    Spelling error in #7…


  • Jim McCoy

    I agree with 1 through 9. I would say the smell is more like the garbage cans sitting out behind the tannery for a week in the hot summer sun. But then working my way through school as a garbage man 35 years ago had its downsides too.

  • Christopher Hawkins

    My son is a luthier and believes liquid hide glue is horrible stuff. His reasons… Urea is added to the liquify it and this causes the hide glue to have a limited shelf life. The liquid hide glue does not harden if it is too old. You don’t know it has gone bad until you try to glue something up. The standard hide glue is easy to use so why mess around with a product with a limited shelf life?

  • R.Hoppe

    I’ll say it.

    In other words, there is NO reason not to use liquid hide glue!

    • Dave Ring

      …unless you have dogs.

  • iampapabear


    Your wit is as sharp as your blades.

    Am i wrong, or do only a few of us “get it”?

  • Anderson

    You need to rub hide glue on your pants to get them to smell like that? I just need a week for my shop pants.

  • mkvernon

    I love wood geeks–especially literary wood geeks! I’m going to buy a baby bottle warmer tomorrow! (already got the liquid hide glue)

  • KirkH

    9. The glued joint will, yes will, require repair because the hide glue failed, sooner or later.

    • BillT

      Why would it fail? There is 200+ year-old furniture assembled using hide glue that still is together today.

    • BillT

      Unless what you were getting at was the difference between the liquid hide glue in a bottle versus hot hide glue in a pot.

  • Phil Spencer
    Phil Spencer

    The bench dog loves to help with cleaning up the squeeze out, only with the original hyde glue the additive used to extend the drying time may make bench dog sick.

    • Dave Ring

      Yup! Mine loves the taste too and will go after it long after the glue is dry and the squeezeout(apparently)all cleaned up.

  • bko

    I heat my liquid hide glue using an old baby bottle warmer and small glass baby food jar. It makes the smell worse, but it makes the glue work much better in my cold New England basement workshop.

    I have found that if I heat up the entire bottle of LHG in the warmer, the shelf life of the glue is reduced, so I just heat up a small portion.

    I would not use any other glue on fine furniture.

    • damnhippie

      “I would not use any other glue on fine furniture.”

      Why not? What are the advantages of liquid hide glue that make it superior to all other glues?

      • bko

        The advantages for me are:

        1. If I don’t clean up all the squeeze out, a quick pass with a card scraper is generally all that is required to enable stain or finish to look good.

        2. If I make a boo-boo, I can use hot water (and/or vinegar) to reverse the glue. Old glue in the joint does not need to be completely removed to affect a repair.

        3. If somebody else needs to repair the piece in 30 years, they can.

        4. While weaker than yellow glue, it is still stronger than the wood itself.

        5. I can use rubbed joints when edge joining boards

        6. With everything warm, the open time of the glue is longer, allowing more complicated glue-ups to proceed without panic.

        7. I don’t have to deal with soaking granules of hide glue and I don’t have to heat LHG up to same heat as granular hide glue. My little baby-bottle warmer at around body temperature is perfect.

        I don’t use it for cutting boards or other things that might see a lot of water, but it is otherwise the best choice for me. You need to find you own path and your own best choice–your needs may be completely different from mine.

        • damnhippie

          Hey bko, thanks for the informative reply! I was afraid as a noob of getting flamed. I’ve built only a few pieces, and have used PVA and epoxy. For my next project maybe I’ll try LHG, for comparison. Thanks again!

        • Steve_OH

          As stated, your items 3 and 4 are contradictory: If the glue really is stronger than the wood, then that means that if the piece fails, it’s going to fail somewhere other than at a glue joint, in which case the type of glue used in the joint is irrelevant.

          On the other hand, if you had said, “If somebody else wants to disassemble the piece in 30 years…,” then that makes a lot more sense.

          The distinction may seem trivial, but it’s not. Thinking about how a piece may be disassembled can guide not only what kinds of glues you use but also what kinds of joints. There’s no point in using hide glue for its easy of disassembly in a fox-wedged mortise and tenon joint, for example.


          • John Cashman

            3 and 4 really aren’t contradictory. I’ve repaired a lot of spindles and stretchers in chairs, for instance, where it was not the joints that failed, but the wood in the spindle or stretcher itself. If yellow glue was used, the parts are a real bear to disassemble. When they are hide glue, it is a simple matter to take apart and fix.

            • Steve_OH

              You are correct–“contradictory” isn’t really what I meant, but it was the closest word I could come up with at the time. What I meant was more along the lines of “conceptually at odds with.” The basic point I was trying to make is that “disassembly” is distinct from “repair.” Neither one implies the other, and the use of hide glue is about disassembly.


              (And why does the Firefox spell checker not like the word “disassembly”?)

              • bko

                You might want to take a look at Stephan Shepard’s blog. He does a lot of repair on spinning wheels and furniture, often working in an historically accurate style. He has very strong opinions about modern glues versus the old fashioned hide glues.

                Please see:




                Certainly in restoration work, a non-reversible glue would never be used. I learned the hard way repairing our kitchen chair spindle backs that the more I tried to use things like epoxy and polyurethane glues, the harder it was to repair them the NEXT time a spindle broke.

                Thanks to this thread, I need to go order some fish glue from Lee Valley to try now!

        • BillT

          Another positive about hide glue – if you miss a little spot of it here or there, it will take linseed oil and shellac finishes, unlike PVA, which will stand out as a white blotch because it prevents the finish from getting to the wood.

    • adrian

      I heated up the liquid hide glue using 130 deg water (which was the hottest temp recommended) and I still had less than 5 minutes of open time in my shop, which is about 62 degrees in the winter. If I didn’t heat up the hide glue it was solid in the bottle.

      Does anybody know about the relative merits of fish glue as compared to hide glue? Because the fish glue has a fantastic open time (an hour) and appears to be similar to hide glue in many characteristics.

  • damnhippie

    What about the results of the glue test?


    (sorry to post a link from the competition :S )

  • BLZeebub

    Are we talking store bought brown bottle stuff or the heat ’em up and stink up the shop stuff?


    • Justin Tyson

      Liquid hide glue is store-bought in a bottle (though you can make your own). Hot hide glue is the stuff you have to heat, and not everyone finds the smell offensive.

    • JWatriss

      SOME brands smell atrocious. I tried Behlen’s and it was horrible… but it was hide and bone and other things. Real hide glue does have an odor, but it’s nowhere near as bad.

  • adrian

    My reason for not using it was that even when I warmed it up in hot water first, in my cool shop it had an open time of about 3 minutes. Five minutes tops. I’m just not that fast… The liquid fish glue, on the other hand, has a nice long open time.

    • JWatriss

      I’ve seen people use heat lamps in the shop to help with exactly that. I feel your unheated pain… but yellow glue is even worse. I remember reading about how yellow glue doesn’t work very well below 50 degrees, and thinking “Who the hell would be working in a shop that’s colder than 50 degrees?”

      • John Cashman

        Al Breed always has a couple of heat guns handy when doing assembly. He heats the glue in a glass jar in a jar of water on a hotplate, and heats the joints with a heat gun. The hotter everything is, the more time you have. With the same glue, with cooler wood, you can do a rub joint and have parts assembled in under a minute. It’s a very flexible system.

  • Dazzzle

    What about the 10 reasons to use!?

  • whintor

    What’s wrong with smelling like a horse’s bum? Wear you medal with pride!
    Because you’re worth it.

  • is9582


    Dude, that is way funny. Keep up the good work.



  • chuckbeck

    After two days of repairing piano parts from 1868 glued in with a mammal’s ass, I really appreciate hot hide. I’m soaking the next batch to heat in the morning. Long live mammals.

    • JWatriss

      You mean “Long live dead mammals?”

  • bstjohn

    Wow. Scathing. You just love stirring up controversy, don’t you?

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