Saturday, April 4, 2020

Synthetic Glues Rub Me The Wrong Way

One Ton of Milligan and Higgins Glue

In my somewhat distinguished and long career as a woodworker, I can say with confidence that I have never been concerned about running out of wood glue.  In fact, I cannot remember the last time I actually went out of the shop to a store to buy glue.  Of course I do go from time to time to places like Home Depot to get something and then I usually walk by the isle of glue and wonder what all that stuff is good for?  Gorilla glue, Titebond, Elmers, epoxy, contact cement, "super" confusing.  Don't even take the time to ask a salesman which glue should I use.  The answer you will get depends on what glue they sell the most or which glue they need to sell more of.  I can guarantee that the salesman who is advising you has never used any glue for any reason.

As a furniture conservator in private practice I have seen the results of amateur woodworkers trying to repair broken furniture by following the advice of these young salesmen.


Here are a few examples:

Hot Melt Craft Glue Gun

In the hobby field of home crafts, there are many people who use a hot melt glue gun.  This devise appeals to those who want to hold a gun in their hand and quickly stick two things together by melting semi liquid plastic.  The photo above shows how you can attach a loose molding to an 18th century tall case clock easily and permanently by simply using a hot melt glue gun.

Gorilla Glue Failure 
For Some Reason This Repair Failed Also

One of the most commercially successful brands in the past decade has been the dominance of Gorilla Glue on the market.  This stuff is made in China and imported in large quantities.  The success of this product is in the advertising and product placement.   Even the smallest hardware store in the most isolated town has a special stand with this glue front and center.  The slogan "Strongest glue on planet Earth" is catchy, but I shudder when I see the result.  Frankly it should not be used.

Yellow Glue Failure

Even Nails Do Not Help

Various forms of "yellow" glue are essentially a type of plastic.  It doesn't flow well and has a weak resistance to creep.  If the joint is not properly clamped quick enough the glue creates a thick layer which really doesn't stick to any surface completely, but must be removed using invasive methods before a proper repair can be done.

Yellow Glue on top of Protein Glue

Restoring damage like this is how I make a living.



Or this:

I Repeat: WTF???

This photo shows the application of these remarkable repairs:

This is NO Way to Treat a Lady!

I am an old hippy, but when I see work like this I just want to do bodily harm to the perp.

This was the repair made to a French Napoleon III card table as an effort to attach the leg.  Perhaps the best feature was the inclusion of the twisted steel staple, perhaps as a last resort.  You should know that removing these staples causes more damage than you can imagine.

Here is my repair using protein glue, of course!  (Matching veneer added later)

And now, something completely different!

Glue Block Rubbed in with Hot Glue

The video I am posting today discusses rub joints.  Here is a simple glue block rubbed in with hot glue on a piece of furniture made just after the Civil War.  Notice that it remains in place after a century.  No nails or screws or staples.  Just simple protein glue properly used.

Time for another installment of the Fine Woodworking series: Hide Glue and Rub Joints

1 comment:

Matt Shacklady said...

Hi Patrick,

As a DIY home-restorer and woodworker I've encountered a fair few chairs previously glued together with yellow glue - do you have any tips on how best to remove the old non-reversible glue and prepare tenons and other components for a proper fix without losing too much wood? I find if I sand/scrape them clean then the tenon is now loose in the mortise (i.e. legs going into the base, or stretchers between legs). I then glue on a thick shaving of hard wood to beef up the tenon. This seems to work well in getting a nice tight fit again but is very time consuming. Are there any better/easier ways to deal with old yellow glue?

Also, the other problem I struggle with in re-glueing chair legs on is getting the legs even so that the chair doesn't wobble once glued up. Do you have any tips and tricks for ensuring legs are even length after re-glueing? I have a tiny workshop, and plywood bench top that is not flat. Short of building a new bench with a proper top I can flatten are there any clever tricks to ensure the legs are even? I've started using winding sticks on the ends of the legs, but sometimes I end up chasing my tail around the legs in trying to get them equal in length.

thanks in advance!