Tuesday, February 2, 2010

try Hide Glue, epoxy, and repairability

I've been addicted to Titebond II since it came out, and based on my success with it, use quite a bit of Titebond III now too.  They both create amazing bonds to the wood, to the point where I wonder if  mortice and tenon joints are just overkill and do we really need more than half-lap joints?  In tests I've seen in the last few years, the wood tends to fail before the glue does!
However, what about repairability?  A lot of people talk about hide glue (the original woodworkers glue and still the choice of Luthiers / instrument makers) as being the best / only repairable glue joint.  Bob Smalser did a test of the various glues, but to "repair" he use epoxy and discovered that none of the Titebond glues create good bonds to epoxy.  Epoxy being the most likely glue to use to repair a failed joint.  Of course his criteria for repairability is that of a boat builder / restorer, where joint strength and watertight are both equally important, and water based glues such as hide glue is right out!  So, his test involved just glues that a boat builder might reasonably use.
As an aspiring furniture maker I have been wondering about hide glue though.  Sure, it isn't the glue of choice for even kitchen cutting boards, but hide glue is the traditional glue of woodworking, and the best choice for repairing antiques.  The reason that hide glue is so cool is that it is waterbased and reversible.  Simply get the glue wet again and it turns back into gel.  Get it warm again and it turns back into runny glue.
Most everything you need to know about hide glue is available on Frank Ford's www.Frets.com website.
Something that I've seen in a few different places is an easy way to try Hide Glue out.  Gelatine - like Knox unflavored Gelatine available in nearly any supermarket IS hide glue.  Gelatine is super refined for food use, but still Hide Glue.  Sandor Nagyszalanczy talks about it in his book: Fixing and Avoiding Woodworking Mistakes, as does Frank Ford on his website in his Kitchen Glue page.
I probably won't try hide glue until necessity requires it - which will be the next time I'm faced with repairing an antique originally made with Hide Glue, or, when I want to reinforce a joint with a rubbed glue block.  But, good to have in our bag of tricks.

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