What’s so great about hide glue?

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Issue 300 March 08, 2018

What’s so great about Hide Glue? Dan Erlewine loves the stuff, and shows us why. It has to do with the hardness, and the ability to heat-and-release a glue joint, and there’s more. Dan tells it better — check it out!

In this Trade Secrets video:
  • Dan's reasons for choosing hot glue
  • How to mix hide glue
  • Ideas for warming guitar parts before you glue
  • Mix a batch — it can be reused for months!

Video Transcription

[on-screen text reads: StewMac tools + ideas for guitarmaking]

Hot tips for hot glue

Dan Erlewine: This is Hide Glue, one of my favorite glues in the shop. A lot of people are nervous about using this or don't understand it, and that was me until 30 years ago, when I tried it and got stuck on it. It's got so many jobs around the shop that it's valuable for. It's transparent. The glue lines hardly show. It's rock hard and super strong and it doesn't creep. Other white glues can creep a bit. The joints can move a bit. Not with hide glue. It's repairable. If you're doing a job with hide glue and it sets up too quick, you can reheat parts and do it over again.

The one thing about hide glue is you got to move fast. I won't use it for a job that I can't do really quickly, like within two minutes. If I do a dry run, two or three times, even, for a tricky guitar, because I know I don't want to fail.

Pre-warm the parts

It's a good idea to always prewarm the parts that you're going to put together because then they hold that heat and it helps keep the glue molten for a while. For small parts like this bridge, I set it on top of the glue pot. Gets a little moisture and the heat heats it up just perfect. You can heat it with a heat gun. For a bigger part, like a fingerboard, I set it on this oil filled heater.

How to mix hide glue

I'll warm up the area where the bridge is going to get glued on with my desk lamp. So after all that, here's how to mix hide glue. It's pretty easy. I'm going to go down in there and dish out a cup full of granules. Then I want to use an equal amount of water. Maybe a little more. Stir it up. Then you're going to have to let this sit for a while.

It's been about an hour and a half, maybe two, and it looks kind of like brown tapioca or brown sugar. Okay, we're going to warm it up. You can do this on a stove top with a cooking pan and water. I've been using this Hold-Heet Electric Glue Pot forever. Keep that thermometer around so you know when you're at 145. You can let it heat for maybe two hours, up to four. This is the first time you're heating it. You just want it to all meld together.

Well, it's been about two hours and look what I got. Beautiful honey-like, golden hide glue, ready to use. When I'm done with this, I'm going to take it downstairs and put it in the refrigerator, just like that. Then later, when I want a piece tomorrow or next week, I'll go in there with a spoon, dig out a chunk, put that in a little mixing cup, and put it in the microwave for 30 seconds and it'll be ready to use. So that's an introduction to hide glue. I think it covers it. Give it a try.



Dan Erlewine

Guitar Repairman and Builder

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