Animal and hide glues

Animal-based glues have all but disappeared in most woodworking applications. 1998.

by Professor Gene Wengert

I would welcome any comments you have on animal or hide glues as well as sources of information on it's uses.

Regarding the use of animal and hide glues in wood gluing, I still see them used once in a while, but they are not widely used anymore. A few of the reasons are that they require heat to soften and cooling to cure. This can be a problem, or just a pain in the butt. A PVA joint is often stronger. PVA is more easily spread onto large surfaces. PVA systems, including glue costs, are usually less expensive. PVA glues do not discolor the wood and are more forgiving in some ways. In some sense, it is also the same reason why some people like a Ford rather than a Chevy pick-up truck....

For information about using these old glues, the USDA has an older booklet on gluing. Also, check out some of the used book stores--my favorite is Powell's in Portland, OR--they have a WEB page and a large supply of woodworking materials.

(Editor's note: Powell's Technical Books can be found at:

Professor Gene Wengert is Extension Specialist in Wood Processing at the Department of Forestry, University of Wisconsin-Madison.

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The comments below were added after this Forum discussion was archived as a Knowledge Base article (add your comment).

Comment from contributor A:

Animal hide glue can be purchased at Frank's Cane & Rush Supply. It comes in a quart can in liquid form made by Le Page Company. Ask for animal hide not fish glue. I use it and like its tack time - it is also reversible should the need arise.

Comment from contributor B:
You forgot chairs.

The gluebond in round tenon joints fails eventually 100 percent of the time. If it was originally glued with hot hide glue, it can be reglued successfully with hot hide glue.

Hide glue is the only glue I know of that will dissolve its own hardened residue... and chairs are the only reason it's still around.

To repair one someone has "fixed" with aliphatics, one is forced to remake the joints by plugging and redrilling.

Comment from contributor C:
Chairs are not the only reason hide glue is still around. It is, for example, still used in piano manufacture and repair because of its versatility (you can mix it to the desired thickness and adjust the curing time with urea crystals), its strength, and its reversability. When old parts wear out, it's pretty handy to be able to soften old glue with steam or water to separate the parts.