Hide Glue

Hide glue is the original super glue for bonding natural fibres together. On many of our projects we refer to using hide glue, from sinew backing bows to producing ink, but what is it & how do you make it?

Hide pic 6Stiff outer edge of worked hide.

 Hide glue is made from extracting the collagen from a hide. This can also be achieved by using bones, sinew or hooves from an animal. For our glue we will be using a byproduct of producing buckskin. When making buckskin from an animal hide you are left with a stiffer outer edge compared to the soft & supple buckskin you have lovingly created through this process.. This is simply because these areas are harder to access and work as it dries & so the collagen remains, this is no more apparent than around the holes in the hide where it has been used to secure it to a frame so it can be worked. You could also use any of the scrapings you collect through processing the hide, or indeed rawhide.

Hide pic7Shavings from the hide through processing

Your local game dealer can be a great source for hides, but as an alternative it is possible to produce a similar product from rawhide dog chews from your local pet store. In our experience however the glue this has produced works, but is not as strong as using the firm edges of the buckskin.

Hide pik 8Rawhide perfect for the task

 Another alternative we have seen reference to, but at time of writing have yet to try is to use rabbit furs. Simply boil up the furs, hair & all to produce your hide glue.

Ok so let’s get started. For our hide glue we have the trimmed edges of some buckskin we made on a previous occasion. These need to be nice & dry before we start. It is now time to trim them up into smaller pieces.  The smaller you can trim them, the less time will be required in processing it to hide glue, so it is worth spending a little extra time trimming them up nice & small.

hide glue cookingHides heating by the fire

Once you have your cuttings place them in an old cooking pot and cover with water. and allow to hydrate, this can be done overnight. Now its time to pile on some fire wood & bring up to a low temperature, roughly just before the water starts to bubble, so at about 70 degrees Centigrade depending on your altitude, pop the lid on to help retain your solution. Once up to temperature keep stirring it occasionally. This is a task best done when you are working around camp with other projects as it is a slow process, and can take up to 8 hours. It is at this point that any dog owner will recognize the special distinct aroma of wet dog drying out, which this process has an uncanny resemblance to.

Keep going, remembering to stir occasionally & topping it up with water to prevent it boiling dry. In order to determine how far your hide glue has come allow to cool. You are looking for the mixture to solidify into a gelatinous lump. If it does not then you need to keep heating for longer.

hide pic 1Cooled & solidified hide glue, ready for the next stage

hide pic 2Hide trimmings suspended in hide glue.

Once it forms into a solid, cut it up into small chunks adding a little water & bring it to a heat up again. Once you have achieved a nice viscous consistency strain all the pieces of hide from the liquid.  Add the liquid to the heat again & bring to a simmer once more, this will concentrate  your glue. When you have reached this stage, allow to cool & then remove from your container.

Slice the set jelly into thin strips and allow to air dry in a cool place, heat will cause it to liquify.  You do however  want it to dry quickly as it can easily go off or mouldy.  Once completely dry it will solidify into hard brittle lumps.

You can reform your glue if you prefer into smaller pieces. Simply break up the dried slices & place them into the pan with a little water & heat into a liquid again. Pour this liquid into a silicon mould (ice cube trays work well) & allow to set into small convenient sized blocks or you can even grind the solid lumps into a powder and store it like that.  As long as it stays dry, it should keep indefinitely.

hide glue bitSolid hide glue lump

Your hide glue is now ready to use whenever you need to fletch your arrow, make your ink or whatever project you have in store. To use, melt a block into a little warm water & apply the glue to the surface of your project to be glued. Below we can see two hides glued together with hide glue to form a chimney to smoke buckskin.

glued hidesTwo hides, hide glued together to smoke

Now you have your hide glue you can set to task in using it on your own project. You do have to consider that the glued areas will be soluble in water, so applying it to the appropriate task.


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