I use hide glue quite a bit and recently a European woodworker I correspond with recommended I try bone glue.

He said it is popular in Eastern Europe, partly because it is less expensive than hide glue, but also because it has more open time than hide glue. He also said, and some articles I've come across have said, that it dries even harder than hide glue. For these reasons he thought it would be great for lutherie. 

He also said some people mix some bone glue into hide glue to increase open time. Sounds interesting.

I bought a pound of bone glue and I'm going to see how it works on some test pieces, etc. Sounds like it should be great, but being without time-travel equipment, I wonder if there could be problems and adventures down the road; does bone glue, being harder than hide glue, mean a joint is more likely to fracture from a blow, etc. 

If any of you have worked with bone glue please let me know your thoughts about it.



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Good question. I figured there must be a reason bone glue is not mainstream in luthiery work and turned up this article;

Here is a quote borrowed from the article that gives a short but good enough explanation why hide glue is preferred.

"Animal bones, or at least the sinew in the joints, can also be used to make glue. But “bone” glue is greasy, more odorous, and has less tacking strength than hide glue, so it is not a good choice. Contrary to what you often read, horns and hoofs are never used because they don’t contain collagen."

One of the great things about hide glue is it's ability to tack and hold. Often a rubbed joint is adequate and no clamping necessary. Installing cleats to the underside of a top at the end a pointed reaching tool is a good example of the tack being an asset.

Hide glue is already rather cheap to purchase, so any savings there would be minimal.

I pretty much stick with hide glue but have used fish and rabbit glues in a pinch, when I wasn't near my shop and that was all that was available, worked fine for the applications.

Hi Paul,

Thanks for the info and thoughts. Greasy = no good!

And rub joints are my friend!

Hey Doug!  Talk to Dave Collins about bone glue, he hates it.  He says it stinks to high heaven for one thing.

It is marketed in Europe as HHG at times and that's deceptive because it's kind of like a pre Upton Sinclair and The Jungle hot dog from the Chicago meat packing houses.  You will never know what (or who...) is in the mix. :)

Well Hesh, you are right! The stuff reeks! Actually, it reminds me of the smell you get when hide glue goes bad. Plus hot dogs!

Oh well, it was a $7.00 experiment. Usually when I try a new material or tool that doesn't work out I spend a lot more money than that! :)

Back to good old, reliable hide glue!


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