Hide glue shelf life

Discussion in 'Setup & Repair [DB]' started by Eric Jackson, Jul 25, 2005.

  1. Last week our air conditioning broke down and the temperature in the house got to 84 degrees or so. As a result, I now have a new repair project.

    A bass I recently acquired popped the seam where the bottom of the back meets the ribs. I don't know what this bass has been glued with- there was gooey glue oozing from old cracks in the back and the glue in the seam was very stringy and gummy. I'm planning to reglue it myself, I have spool clamps, etc. I have some granular hide glue that's probably 5 or 6 years old. I realize once it's been dissolved and heated it's only good for a day or so. Does it deteriorate in granular form? Should I toss this stuff and buy fresh glue? Where's a good source to buy quality glue?
  2. I thought it could be re-heated, perhaps some water added to replace that evaporated, and used until it runs out… :confused:

    - Wil
  3. uptonbass

    uptonbass Proprietor, Upton Bass String Instrument Co.

    Oct 8, 2002
    Mystic CT
    Founder UptonBass.com

    I purchased a LARGE quantity of Millign & Higgins (special unadvertised blend, 300g weight) in the mid 90's that is still being used today. This is used daily for work we stand behind, I wouldn't waste my time with it if the glue were bad.

    I know for a fact that some of the best makers in the country are using this exact same glue from this EXACT SAME batch, even as I type. It was specially requested by the AFVBM, and many times referred to as the "holy grail" of hide glue....

    Now I am off topic!
  4. Jeff Bollbach

    Jeff Bollbach Jeff Bollbach Luthier, Inc.

    Dec 12, 2001
    freeport, ny
    Hide glue in granular form will last your lifetime. In gel form you can get more than a day out of it with refrigeration. Some will say just throw it out after a day, but I think that is a little wasteful. That being said I would never use anything other than fresh glue for jobs that are crucial-center joints, grafts, neck sets, etc.

    Heres a link to my source, I am sure Gary's is great but here is another option-
  5. uptonbass

    uptonbass Proprietor, Upton Bass String Instrument Co.

    Oct 8, 2002
    Mystic CT
    Founder UptonBass.com
    If I may, hide glue is strongest after one gel cycle and that would be the choice for the crucial jobs...

    http://www.bjorn.net/ Good stuff Jeff? Do they offer specific gram weights or do they send you what they think is best? If so what does Eugene recommend for instrument making? Assuming you have spoken to him on a few occasions.

    Mr. Hide Glue eh? Must know his hide glue!

    As we use a thinner or weaker glue for the top, I wonder what Eugene would think for a lower gram weight for this application instead of a thinner glue? Your thoughts?
  6. Will:
    I've been told repeated reheating of hide glue causes it to lose its strength rapidly, something about protein structure breakdown?, I don't remember...

    Off topic? I don't think so, if it's bass- related it's all good. I asked a nickel question and got a buck and a quarter answer. I wasn't aware there was a "holy grail" of hide glue. I don't know what "300g weight" means, care to elaborate?

    Thanks for the link. Think I'll dig around and see if I can find the American Woodworker article referenced, I have a pile of old A.W.'s.

    Has anyone encountered sticky, runny glue in an instrument before? I would have thought it would have to get hotter than 84 and more humid than 60% to cause this. My other bass doesn't show any ill effects.
  7. I think your 5 year old stuff is fine. If you don't want to risk it, send it to me before you throw it away. My experience is that unless it absorbs considerable moisture and then molds (you can see that easily) then it is OK. When I was in the picture framing industry, my boss had aquired a barrel of hide glue from a furniture maker that went out of business. It was old when he got it. When I started working there, he was about 1/4 the way into the barrel (after 15 years) and we made 32 custom frames per day. It was not the flake variety that luthiers use, but was bundled as a rubbery consistency about like cheese in tough hermetically sealed plastic casings, like a salami. Once you cut the plastic, it would harden to solid at the edge, but packaged like that, it was easier to liquify and reduced the time we spent mixing fresh glue (a daily chore). Anyway, that stuff lasted forever. We tried to use it up on anything that it would stick together (except the archival stuff, we used wheat or rice starch for that ) and I'm sure that barrel probably still has some in it.

    I was recently investigating hide glue sources and wanted specifically to get some in different gram strengths because even though the general 300+ gram strength that is available by the pound can probably work for most everything, there are some advantages to having weaker and stronger gram strengths to choose from. Higher gram strengths set up faster and produce stronger bonds while the lower gram strengths allow more working time and are OK where you want the bond to break before the wood. I was able to get what I wanted from Luscombe Vilolins in Ontario (google 'em). The amounts are reasonalbly small (100grams) and the price is higher than the per pound stuff, but it really is still cheap compared to other glues. Luscombe provided the following gram strengths:

    195, 315, 380, and 480. I just used some of the 480 to make a minor repair to my bow frog which chipped when it hit a tile floor. It sets up fast enough that you can hold it in place by hand until it grabs and then put it in a clamp. I was carving the glued on pieces just 2 hrs. later. The 480 is like the super glue of hide glues.

    Whatever was gluing that instrument together, you need to get it all out of there before you try to use the hide glue. That will be a bigger problem than the glue being old. It sounds like rubber cement or contact cement or worse (yuck!) Good luck with that one.
  8. M_A_T_T


    Mar 4, 2004
    I've read the higher the bloom strenght, the higher the grade of glue, however, the more brittle it is. I've read something in the early 200's is a good choice. I use a 260 bloom strenght myself.
  9. I'm assuming bloom strength is the same as gram strength? I think the most common stuff that comes in the pound cans is mid 300's. With the selection I have, I can mix two to hit a midpoint in between as well. I have not used the 480 in an area where flexibility is an issue, but I thought all hide glue is relatively brittle. Super glue is brittle as well and I did consider using that, but I really wanted this to be easier to undo, if necessary. I mixed the glue pretty thin and just made about a thimble full. I fitted the two parts about a day apart as my schedule allowed and used the same glue, which I refrigerated in between use. I heated it up in the old microwave in a glass jar in a water bath (cereal bowl), careful not to boil it, but about scalding. It grabbed pretty fast after thin coating (I call it glue priming) both parts, then holding them together for about 1 minute, then clamping. It was set solid in 2 hrs flat and stable enough to put a knife blade to it.
  10. Uncletoad


    May 6, 2003
    Columbus Ohio
    Proprietor Fifth Avenue Fret Shop. Technical Editor Bass Gear Magazine
    +1 I use his glue in my shop too. It's quite good.
  11. 1st Bass

    1st Bass

    May 26, 2005
    Forest Grove, OR
    Is it possible someone reassembled the instrument using liquid hide glue from Franklin? I have heard some ugly stories about fingerboards coming off during a concert, in humid weather, etc.

    The glue simply grabs enough moisture out of the air to reconstitute, and away it goes.
  12. I've never used the Franklin liquid glue so I don't know it by sight or smell. Whatever was used on this bass seems to be water soluble so it's not contact cement or some such muck. It seems the back seam has been an issue for some time. There's waaaay more glue in it than necessary so maybe someone has tried to reglue it before without cleaning the old glue out. Maybe that's the cause of the failure, just too much glue soaking up moisture, although that doesn't explain the oozing from the cracks.
    Also, it looks like the seam has been creeping, the back overhung the ribs by 1/8"+ at the widest point of the lower bout, but didn't reach the edge of the outer lining at the bottom. I'm going to open it back to the lower corner blocks and even out the overhang when I reglue it. Any stresses induced will be pushing the grain together, not trying to spread it.
    Thanks for all your responses, guys.
  13. 1st Bass

    1st Bass

    May 26, 2005
    Forest Grove, OR
    Franklin liquid hide glue looks just like regular hot hide glue, but does not gel, as it is already in a liquid state at room temperature. It dries by evaporation, not a chemical change, so, if it gets re-humidified, it goes back to being a liquid. If you never leave Tucson, I guess that's OK...:) I used it on my first instrument, out of ignorance (Hey, it says on the label it's for musical instruments!) and have been fortunate-- tha instrument is still together. BUT, if it comes apart, I will have the same mess to deal with that you seem to be looking at.

    You can carefully wash the stuff out, and re-glue the clean wood with hot hide glue.
  14. Damon Rondeau

    Damon Rondeau Journeyman Clam Artist Supporting Member

    Nov 19, 2002
    Winnipeg, baby
    "Bloom strength" appears to be a pharmaceutical industry term referring to a gel film's resistance to pressure. Can't find a detailed description of the thing, though; at least not in the 30 seconds I alot to such things. One supposes that it must refer to the force required to unstick a standard thing stuck standardly to a standard surface. The standard process must involve little stuff -- 250g or so is not much pressure.

    That stringy, gummy glue sounds like a plastic glue of some kind, Eric. Elmer's carpenter glue, PVA glue, TiteBond, etc.

    I've got some 250g hide flakes from Lee Valley; the stock is about 4 years old or so. I keep it stored safe from moisture in heavy plastic. That stuff is just fine.
  15. I've worked with a good bit of PVA, both Titebond, and Elmer's CWG and this doesn't sound like those. For one, they are much more resistant to heat and moisture. I took a combo amp cabinet to two outdoor gigs this month much hotter and wetter than the conditions described here. It is held together by PVA only, no screws or nails anywhere, except bolts to close the back and hold the head chassis in. Nothing even thought about coming apart and at one gig the amp was partly in direct sun. The transformer also heats up right next to the corners. It would take soaking it water for a long time to loosen the bonds. Just humidity would not do it.

    I think it must be the liquid hide glue. PVA is pretty solid stuff. I'm using some right now because the pieces I'm putting together must stay together at 150+ F. The bond may fail, but no other common wood adhesive wood stand a chance.
  16. Damon Rondeau

    Damon Rondeau Journeyman Clam Artist Supporting Member

    Nov 19, 2002
    Winnipeg, baby
    I know. It's what I use and I've used gallons of it over the years. Great stuff.

    It's not 100% solid stuff, though. Even when fully cured there is a small amount of flex in PVA glue -- that's one reason why it's not recommended for gluing up back plates on basses, for example. It will allow a bit of creeping and movement, believe it or not.

    Just last week I glued up an old boat seat for a pal. A longitudinal crack, glued with TiteBond III. I had to work in some less than ideal conditions -- a very humid basement -- and I was a bit surprised at how the high humidity alone affected curing, which was the slowest and weirdest in my decades of experience. (We're having very weird, exceptional weather this summer.) I saw the boat seat in situ last weekend -- installed in the boat -- and that freaking glue joint was still flexible 7 days later. I could easily make an impression with a thumbnail...

    In my experience, cured hide glue is not likely to have a stringy, gummy texture. Quite the opposite, in fact. It sounds like a glue with plastic in it.
  17. Eric Rene Roy

    Eric Rene Roy Supporting Member

    Mar 19, 2002
    Mystic, CT
    Vice President: Upton Bass String Instrument Co.
    I've always wondered a bit about this application for flatbacks. I have always used hide glue (not Franklins) myself, but wondered if it would be good for the longevity of the instrument, especially a newly made one, to have the braces glued with PVA. This would allow for movement without the braces being the cause of back cracks.

    Any thoughts?
  18. Anywhere there is an end grain / cross grain join or two cross grains at 90 degrees seems like a possible application, excepting the plates. H.S. Wake recommends using PVA (specifically Powdered Plastic Resin Glue by Weldwood, or Titebond) for the parts of the garland (ribs & block) but not for the plates. He points out that the first by Weldwood is completely moisture proof and that Titebone is an "aliphatic resin" which is not moisture proof. The formulations of these glues could be more similar now, particularly the II and III designations.

    George Borun also uses alipatic resin for the rib garland, except for exterior linings.

    The joints of my cabinet are all just butt joints so there are end-grain / cross-grain joints and they do move a little with the seasons, but they are not under any tension except seasonal expansion and gravity so this is not the same. There are some cases where the plasticity is an advantage and sometimes you just can't have it.
  19. M_A_T_T


    Mar 4, 2004
    I used it for the same reason, too, except my instrument began to fall apart. :(

    I only use the real deal, now.

    Interestingly, a similar discussion on a violin making forum has brought up the use of Fish Glue.

    Anybody have experience with this stuff? It's very strong, has a 500F heat resistance, but can easily be brought back to liquid form with some water.
  20. Jeff Bollbach

    Jeff Bollbach Jeff Bollbach Luthier, Inc.

    Dec 12, 2001
    freeport, ny
    That is liquid hide glue, just from a fishes' hide. Danger, Will Robinson! Just ask Nnick and Ahnold.