Hide Glue

Animal protein glue has been around for a long time. Its use predates known written records. By around 2000 B.C. written procedures on animal glue use emerge in Ancient Egypt. How is it possible that such primitive, ancient material can still be useful in a luthier’s workshop today?! It turns out that this glue has many beneficial properties, one of which is referred to as reversibility. When needed, glue joints can be released cleanly, without tearing-up the wood and destroying delicate surfaces of guitar soundboards.

Hide glue consists of rendered animal collagen, extracted from skins and tannery byproducts. It is similar to gelatin sold in grocery stores, albeit less refined. With proper technique, wood joinery with hide glue is strong, with nearly invisible glue lines.

To prepare a batch of hide glue for use, it is soaked in cold water, allowed to swell, and then gently heated to 140-150 F, at which point it turns into a honey-colored liquid. Lately, I’ve been using antique 19th century cast iron glue pots.



Traditional glues have been largely supplanted by modern synthetic adhesives, although not entirely. Guitarmakers, museum conservators, period furniture restorers and woodworkers, along with a few other specialty trades continue to rely on this time-tested adhesive.

hide glue pot with glue and strips of wood glued down for tests
Testing different batches and gram strengths of hot hide glue on wood scraps







For lutherie geeks (since you are still reading)! :)

Over the years, I’ve experimented with different glue heating contraptions; from larger commercial pots, to DIY, re-purposed contraptions. The one below was made from a yard sale special, a water heating pot. After all, we just need a warm water jacket around our glue vessel. Not the fanciest set-up, but it worked okay. The temperature control (rheostat) on this tea pot was not very sensitive, and maintaining stable temperature was tricky.


I also used the same pot with a baby food jar, installed in the original teapot lid (modified with an opening to accommodate the glass jar).


Here is a hefty, cast aluminum large capacity glue pot, with a solid copper liner. It was manufactured under Sta-Warm brand in the USA. I thought this pot was a higher-quality, sturdier version of a better-known Hold-Heet glue pot, which is still available through woodworking stores and luthiery supply houses. After using it a bit, I sold my Sta-Warm behemoth as it was too large for my needs. Otherwise, it was an excellent example of a plug-in type pot.


Currently, I use a laboratory hotplate to heat my glue pots. I like the absence of electrical cords around my bench. These antique glue pots are the original cordless equipment! Cast iron + water have enough mass and sufficient heat capacity to allow me to glue for 15-20 minutes before the pots need to return to the hotplate.


Slightly off-topic, but still related to hide glue….the glue brush. Traditionally, they are made without metal, in order to prevent the glue from becoming stained or discolored. A traditional glue brush can be purchased from a violin supply house, or even better, it can be made in house! All that’s needed is a few minutes and some bristles.


Glue…the difference between a guitar, and a pile of kindling.


  1. Mitja, the glue you are describing in the vintage bass neck might be a urea type glue used in plywood manufacture and glue-lam structures. Some of the chemical names used are: Resorcinol/Formaldehyde Adhesive
    Synonyms: Cascophen, Penacolite, Weldwood
    Here is a helpful link: http://www.chemical-supermarket.com/product.php?productid=90
    I hope you will find it helpful. I don’t know of specific suppliers in Slovenia, but I hope the chemical descriptions will be sufficient to track it down.

  2. what in your mind is best glue to do long thin lamination of somewhat oily wood as wenge /think warwick 7 ply bass necks /or carl thompson basses /like primus rainbow bass// i got few custom made basses /one i like spetially was made in slovenija some 30 plus years ago ,,the master who build it /sadly he deceased / said at time ,,i remember altho it was in late 80,s to 90 //that he uses glue that is ment for big plywood superstructures like open air market roof superstructure made from waterproof plywood i think or other big wood constructions ,bigger than let say sailing musts ,,he also speetialy told i remember it lively ,that surface of wood prior to glueing must be glass like smooth /no pore filling there// can you help me find 2021 wood glue that would fit this description ,,i know that mark of glue in my bass//yugoslavija/slovenija since 91 ,,is impossible to be found,, but after description ,can you mail me what glue do i want in my soon to be ordered bass,, warwick sayes some about crystalline set glue,,i want as little glue seam as possible and strong bond,, as on my soon to be 40 year old bass ,,neck lamin,lines are like 0,01 lines as new,,please help me ,,name brand /as titebond3 or hide glue ,,etc that is possible to buy today ,, i am waiting for your advice,, please help a left handed bassist with will to go step fwd,, i plan headed bass with rear tuners like on headless steinberger// nut plus zero fret for consistency ,, PS, i am glad to send you some videos or albums of me playing,, i play left bass altho right handed ,,because i got thumb and 1st finger on my left hand //i was an abbot chemist when 12 old so ,, i play all kind of music but like primus lines for recreation // RESPECT/mitja kavec slovenia

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