Strong as the Union: Franklin Liquid Hide Glue
I use hide glue for almost everything in my shop (except as a party dip on a cracker), and have tried all modes of this versatile adhesive. But my usual go-to, work-a-day version of this wood glue doesn’t get much love out there on the Internet, and I am bewildered by this fact.
Most of my hide glue comes from my corner hardware store: Franklin Liquid Hide Glue. It is inexpensive because there is no waste. It is easy to get at most hardware stores. It is liquid at room temperature. It doesn’t smell bad. It tacks up quickly and holds firmly. It can be turned into “hot hide glue” with 13 seconds in my microwave.
And it is reversible.
Yes, like with all hide glues, you can release the bond using heat and moisture. This feature has saved my bacon on many occasions.
And even though I have had nothing but success with this glue, I am constantly asked about it when people see it on my bench. Isn’t it crap compared to “real” hide glue? Isn’t it weak? I’ve heard from people who say that it never really sets hard. My scraper would disagree.
The truth is that the glue works very well for general joinery in my experience. I haven’t used it much for marquetry or large veneering projects, so maybe its faults lie there and I am blind to them. But if you need a glue that can glue dovetails, mortises and tenons, edge joints, bridle joints, butt joints, miter joints and other standard stuff, you can’t go wrong with the Franklin stuff.
And it’s reversible (like almost all hide glues).
The Franklin glue is also an entree into the wider world of hide glues, which are much more “tunable” than any polyvinyl acetate I’ve used. After using the Franklin stuff, you won’t find Patrick Edwards’s nice “Old Brown Glue” so exotic. And then it’s a short hop to a cast-iron glue pot and hide glues with different gram strengths for different applications.
And lest you be concerned about the historical pedigree of using a glue in a modern brown plastic bottle, remember this: Franklin developed its formula for liquid hide glue in 1935, and it’s the same formula the company uses today. See some of the attached historical photos and advertisements I’ve dug up from eBay below.
From a graphic design standpoint, I love the old red Franklin glue can with its catchphrase: “Strong as the Union.” If they brought that back, I’d buy it by the gallon just for the cool logo. But until they bring back the cool bottle, I’ll buy it because it works.
— Christopher Schwarz