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How to Use Animal Hide Glue

Natural Animal Hide Glue for primitive crafts and weaponry projects:

Always use a premium quality hide glue formulated to be water soluble and usable at different thicknesses. Animal hide glue is the go-to adhesive for primitive crafts including hafting and fletching arrows, gluing blades into handles, laminating sinew on bow backs, and much more. Animal hide glue is also used to stabilize powdered pigments to make traditional paints for decoration or historic restoration, restoring furniture, and mold making

To use as glue:

To mix:  Prepare a double boiler or pan that is clean and can take some heat. Mix approximately 50% by volume glue and water. Allow the glue to absorb the water completely. Apply the heat to thoroughly mix and liquefy the glue granules. Add more water as needed to bring the glue to the proper consistency. Most people try to use glue that is too thick. If you add too much water, either add more glue or cook the extra water out of the mix. Scorching or boiling the glue mix can hurt the properties of the glue and cause objectionable odors...so do not scorch or boil the glue!

To use:  Keep the workpiece clean and free of excess glue by carefully applying glue and quickly wiping spills with a wet cloth. Moisten wrapping, sinew, or rawhide first with water then with the glue mix and squeeze out any excess before wrapping the item.

Hide glue is liquid when hot or very warm and will gel or thicken if allowed to become cold. Do not hesitate to add more water or change the temperature of the glue to make it more usable. After the final application layer, use a warm, wet finger to smooth the surface of the glue and even out lumps or thin spots. You can clean your workpiece with a toothbrush moistened with warm water.

If you are wanting an antique look, throw some dry dust onto the moist surface of the hide glue as it dries.

Set your piece aside and allow 10 to 24 hours for glue to dry completely before waxing or using. Hide glue can be sanded smooth after drying, but pains should be taken to do the best job possible during the wet stages.

Natural hide glue will become sticky if exposed to excessive moisture but must be soaked for hours before it will soften enough to lose its grip. Finishing with paste wax such as Johnson's brand is recommended for all applications that will see use. To antique use a dirty or pigmented paste wax.

Natural hide glue is compatible with natural sinews, gut hafting material, rawhide, and leather. It will adhere to these materials and make a very strong, fiber-reinforced bond. It is not compatible with waxed artificial sinew, nylon, plastic or water-resistant materials.

To make your hide glue look less refined and new, you can add ochre pigments or a little dry dust. A touch of dull yellow and a touch of black iron oxide or magnetite will make a nice brownish-green that matches burned wood, the patina on some stones, and patinated bone handle materials.

Making Molds using Hide Glue

If you make your hide glue especially thin, and cool it, it will congeal into a gelatin like Jell-O but a bit stronger. You may have to experiment with the exact mix, but this was used to make molds for plasterwork for a very long time.

Make a box that will contain your model. It is best to make the box with screws so it can be partially disassembled during casting. Affix your model to the bottom of the box using hot glue or something NOT water soluble. The attachment should be on the back or somewhere that will eventually become the opening through which the Plaster of Paris is poured.

Spray the entire inside of the box with a vegetable cooking spray like Pam or use petrolatum like Vaseline applied with a brush to keep the glue from sticking to the model or the box.

Mix the hide glue hot and pour it around the original you desire to reproduce and fill the box with glue. Tamp and tap the box to release air bubbles. Allow to cool until congealed.

Remove one or more sides of your box and carefully remove the mold original. The mold will start to dry out so use it quickly. Replace the cooled gelatin mold into the box for firmness and immediately pour in mixed plaster, filling the mold. Agitate and settle to remove air bubbles from the plaster. Allow to harden for 25 minutes.

Remove and recast as desired for multiple copies. You can reuse your glue if you do not allow it to dry out too much or become contaminated with debris. The wet mold can be frozen to keep it from spoiling, but hide glue molds do not keep well, and you may have to remake your mold.