All About Animal Glue

All About Animal Glue

Posted by Riya Gupta on 28th Jun 2023

     Have you ever wondered what is holding your instrument together? Animal glue, also known as hide glue, is a high-quality, strong glue that acts as an adhesive on the surfaces of wooden instruments. This glue is the typical glue used when crafting a wooden instrument, as the possibility of the wood being damaged is low. Hide glue is easy to undo and will not harm the instrument. In fact, there is a high probability that if the glue joint will break, it’ll do so cleanly, preventing any damage from being inflicted upon the instrument.

     Animal glue is made from the collagen from skins, bones, tendons, and other tissues, similar to gelatin. The animals typically referred to in this glue are horses, and occasional rabbits and fish. Hide glue is produced in the form of pearl glue as well as dry grains. The adhesive quality from this glue is created in a process called rendering.

     To create the adhesiveness of this product, there are multiple steps one must do. To start, one should put the glue in cold water, allowing it to absorb the water and swell - not dissolve. The size of the pearls will increase, and the amount of water relative to the pearls will decrease. When the pearls have fully swelled, one should place the solution into a warm - not boiling - water bath. The maximum temperature that should be used is 60°. This will allow the pearls to dissolve and create a solution that will now act as glue. When utilizing the glue, it must be at a warm temperature and is typically applied with a brush or spatula. After using the glue, the hide glue will gel until reheated, and will once again restore its adhesive properties. This process has been used for centuries.

     Animal glue can be dated back to 6000 years ago, and was used by many ancient civilizations, like the Egyptians and Greeks. Around 1500 BC and 2000 BC, animal glue was discovered to be used on murals, wooden furnishings, and even the caskets of Egyptian Pharaohs. Similar to modern use, the Egyptian records described the glue being created over a fire and applied by a brush delicately. Ancient Greeks were found to use animal glue for similar purposes as it is used today. They used it as an adhesive for wooden craft and fixing pottery imperfections. Today, animal glue is used as a varnish, used to restore artifacts, and to hold the wooden instruments we play and listen to together.

Crystals of the Animal Glue