Whenever I talk about glue to clubs and classes, I hand around a bottle of liquid hide glue and ask them to tell me what its disadvantages are.
“It’s weak.” Actually no, it produces a bond stronger than the wood itself.
“It stinks.” Hide glue smells only as bad as a wet rawhide chew toy. It’s not bad at all.
“It is sensitive to heat and moisture.” Ah, but that is its strength. Because of this characteristic, you can reverse its bond with a heat and moisture.
This weekend I built a six-board chest for members of the Alabama Woodworkers Guild. During the demonstration, I added mitered moulding around the base. I wanted to show them how to miter with a hand-powered miter box. But I really didn’t want to add mitered moulding to the finished chest. I have other plans for its plinth.
So this morning I removed the moulding on the returns. First, I pulled the nails. Then I wetted the joint and applied heat with a clothes iron. (By the way, the iron was set to its highest setting.)
Each strip of moulding took about three minutes of heat and moisture to come loose. When the moulding popped off, the glue was hot and sticky, just like it was freshly heated. Then I cleaned off the glue with a wet rag.
If you’ve ever wondered about hide glue, try picking up a small bottle of liquid hide at your local hardware store. Be sure to check the expiration date because its only real disadvantage is that it has a shelf life when in liquid form. After that date, it won’t set up.
If you want to learn more – a lot more – on hide glue, check out Stephen A. Shepherd’s book “Hide Glue.”
— Christopher Schwarz
P.S. The music in the video is from the Black Twig Pickers, downloadable free here.
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