Glue Choice for an Antique Clock Repair

Craftsman wonders whether to use hide glue or modern yellow glue. January 27, 2008

I am a cabinetmaker used to working with new material and plain old yellow glue. Yesterday I was asked by a neighbor to repair an antique grandfather clock that had fallen over and cracked the case. Should I use hide glue to make this repair (to maintain the authenticity of this old piece)? Will hide glue be strong enough to hold together a long crack (about 20") down the side of this clock, or should I just stick with Titebond?

Forum Responses
(Furniture Making Forum)
From contributor L:
Stick with what you know so you don't have to learn how to do it again.

From contributor D:
If they'd had Titebond, they'd have used it too.

From contributor J:
Hide glue is the choice of professionals. It can be reversed with warm water or vinegar. You can buy cold hide in most big box stores. It works as easy as or easier than Titebond. It will be stronger than the wood when cured.

From contributor K:
If you use Titebond, they make a dark color glue for dark woods such as walnut, mahogany, etc. If the clock is dark, I would use that. Your glue line will be near invisible.

From contributor M:
If you were working on a joint that might have to be reversed, then hide glue is the correct glue to use. If I understand correctly, the case has been broken and needs to be repaired. Since this is not likely something that will need to be reversed, and was not part of the cabinetmaker's design, then use a permanent glue.

From contributor X:
First off, I'd check and see if there are any dates on the clock movements or ask how old the clock is. White and yellow glue has been used for a very long time. 40 years ago it may have been assembled with yellow glue. Try to date it so as too know what was done prior.

Also take into consideration the finish. Will it have to be redone? Some of the new glues used sparingly may suffice. As long as you don't make a mess of it.

From the original questioner:
Thanks. This clock is over 100 years old, but I agree that if the original builder had yellow glue, that is probably what they would have used, and the point made that this repair will never have to be taken apart leads me towards using yellow glue. I haven't tried to pull the broken pieces together yet. When I do, if there is any kind of a gap, I probably would lean towards hide glue just because it seems that the glue itself would be less noticeable. Once again, thanks for the input.

From contributor K:
Iíve learned the hard way that repairs, even apparently perfect, seamless repairs, can drastically reduce the value of a piece, if not done correctly. I always tell folks that I can restore beauty and functionality, but I am not a restorer. If there is any question that this might be a piece of significant value, I urge folks to see a professional. If they persist, and I am reasonably sure of the pieceís ordinariness, Iíll price it. Then, if they donít mind paying me more than Grandmaís dressing table is worth, Iím glad to spend some time with it. If you are a small enough operation where you can afford to get paid to putz, it can be very rewarding.

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

Comment from contributor B:
Hide glue has the advantage of being reversible. It doesn't affect the finish, maintains the integrity/authenticity of the piece, and it is incredibly resilient. Joints secured with hide glue can last hundreds of years. The same cannot be said for modern glues. In fact, once you start working with hide glue, you'll probably never go back to modern adhesives.