So, I am a hide glue adherent. (See what I did there?)
My buddy who has roughly 50 years of experience repairing instruments strongly suggested using white glue for top cracks and cleats, because it has a little give which helps keep cracks from reopening. I'm feeling skeptical, but I have no hard evidence to back my skepticism.
I do see the usefulness of white glue for gluing where the joint might be contaminated with other unknown glue in the past, on instruments that are of lesser quality of value. (I used white glue to put the back on a Silvertone plywood archtop recently, figuring that the longer work time was far more important than the ability to be taken apart again in the future - if this things fall apart, nobody will be dying to save it.)
Hot hide glue for cracks and cleats.
Hide glue is the most transparent glue joint you can get, works in easily when thinned, will draw a joint tighter while it dries, cleans up super easy, my top pick for crack repair.
A bent/ shaped steel rod with one end sharpened to a point, used with mirrors is an easy effective way to place cleats quickly. Hide glue will tack pretty fast after placing it while you wiggle the applicator rod slightly, loosening the pointed end from the cleat and leaving it in place. If you goof, just re-do it. Any hide glue left behind will reactivate when some fresh stuff hits it. No need to clamp them, the glue will draw it tight as it dries.
That the way I do it too, Paul. I have tried using masking tape but gluing the tape is pretty easy to do and it's not so easy to clean it up. If the location is easy to reach and the cleat is not too big, I sometimes use my fingers to hold it until it was stay in place.
I like to use HHG because a lot of the stuff I work on is old and because I like the characteristics you mentioned earlier. One thing I have problem using it for are long splints. I haven't done a lot of them and I have a hard time getting them secured quickly enough with HHG. For these I feel like I have to use Titebound for the working time. I think the Titebound holds well enough but HHG glue lines look more natural to me when they show at all and are less likely to cause refinishing issues.
I talk about HHG a lot here but use both types of glue depending on the instrument and the task. I tend toward HHG because I haven't ever had a problem with finish touch-up using it (knock on wood). I do trust Titebond to hold and honestly don't think that holding power is as great an issue is we, (including myself) sometimes make it seem.
When I first tried my hand at repairing an instrument, I used Elmer white glue from one of the (hundreds?) of bottles left around the house after being purchased for school. Now they call it school glue but it was just plain "Elmer's" then. I didn't make too bad of a mess of it and the repair was still holding 10 years later which was the last time I saw it. When I learned a bit more, I switched to the yellow professional grade Elmer's that my dad use in his business. Of course, I wouldn't use either of these glues now but, in my ignorance, those glue's did what I need them to do.
Caution: This is NOT an endorsement of the products referenced in this post. No truly good instruments were subjected to the application of this glue. All references to said glue as appropriate for use in instrument repair today is unintended and not the responsibility of the poster, the moderator of this forum or the Frets forum itself. Do not attempt to replicate the results mentioned in this post.