Wood Glue vs Hide Glue: Which One is Better for Woodworking?


With so many choices for glues available in the market, it becomes a task to decide the best glue for woodworking projects. While common wood glue works for most woodworking tasks, you will need different glues when you’re dealing with specific gluing needs for your wood. Of the many widely argued glues for use on wood, the debate of whether wood glues or hide glues are better has been long-standing.

Wood glue is better than hide glue for most woodworking projects. That being said, there are definitely times when you would feel that a hide glue could have been the ideal choice. These include cases where you would need reversibility and clean finishes.

Before the advent of wood glues and similar adhesives for wood, hide glues were the go-to adhesives for woodworking. When urea was added to hot hide glues, they increased the glues’ working time, which had a significant impact as woodworkers had more time to finish intricate woodwork and assemble the pieces.

However, a few drawbacks of hide glues have paved the way for wood glues to take over and be the predominant glues for woodworking in modern times.

Can You Use Hide Glue Instead of Wood Glue?

Even though wood glues are the ones majorly used in woodworking these days, there are times when using hide glues will be the best choice for your work. Some properties of hide glues make them more suitable than wood glues in specific instances. We will take a look at the properties that make hide glues more suitable and the work they are suitable for.

While there are a few desired properties of hide glues that make them a good choice for woodwork, we consider reversibility and clear finishes as the two reasons why they will work great for your woodwork.

Let’s take a look at these and compare them with wood glues to see how hide glues perform better.

Reversibility

One of the most important reasons you might want to use hide glues is when you want your woodwork to be reversed, meaning that you might need to remove the wooden pieces put together apart at some time in the future and put them back together again. You might want to do this for several reasons, including the fact that you might want to tighten the pieces again.

Since hide glues can be reversed with heat and humidity, you can even remove wooden pieces together many years ago with hide glue and strengthen them up with more hide glue and rejoin them again.

Clear Finish

Unlike most wood glues, hide glues do not leave stains behind. You can even finish the wood on top of the hide glues without sanding the wood, and there would not be any marks of the glue on the wood.

This is an advantage of using hide glues over wood glues. However, these days a few types of wood glue match this, and while you might need a little bit of sanding, they can provide near-clear finishes on the wood.

Now that we’ve taken a look at the important properties that make hide glues better suited than wood glues for certain woodwork, we will have a look at the woodwork that favors hide glues over wood glues.

It is important to understand that when it comes to strength, wood glues are better than hide glues. Wood glues are absorbed into the fibers of the wood and shrink to form a tight bond that is not easily broken.

Where hide glues perform better than wood glues in woodwork are where they can take advantage of their unique properties.

1. Antique Furniture

A lot of antique furniture makes use of hide glues for joining the wood pieces together. If you’re looking to remain true to the overall look and build of the furniture, then hide glues should be used in repairs and restoration works of antique furniture.

These furniture pieces can be separated carefully without damaging wooden fibers because they are sealed with hide glues. You will have to use steam and hot water to loosen the joints and separate the wood pieces. This is not possible with wood glues because they cannot be removed without causing some damage to the wood fibers.

The best part about the repair and restoration process of antique furniture is that you can use hide glues on top of the old hide glues without any problem. With wood glue, you will have to remove the old wood glue before using the new wood glue to seal the joint.

2. Musical Instruments

Musical instruments like violins and guitars need removal for repairs, refurbishes, and replacements. This is especially true for violins that need the removal of the top for adjustments or replacements. In this case, it is the best decision to use hide glues because you know that you will be taking apart the wooden pieces of the musical instrument.

Both bottled hide glue and hot hide glue will work well for this type of work on the violin family of instruments. The glue and the parts it is glued to can be removed effortlessly, which makes hide glues the preferred glues.

Pros and Cons of Hide Glue in Woodworking

After we’ve seen the instances where hide glues outperformed wood glues and were the choice for certain types of woodwork, we will get deeper into understanding the pros and cons of using hide glues in woodworking.

As with all kinds of glues used in woodworking, hide glues have their pros and cons that make them suitable or not ideal for woodworking projects.

Pros of Hide Glue in Woodworking

The biggest positive attribute that works for hide glues is their ability to be reversed and the fact that they do not affect the integrity of wood joints while they are removed.

  • Reversible glue – ideal for restoring old furniture and antique wooden items
  • Facilitates clear finishes
  • Bonds well with old hide glue
  • Can be dyed and stained without any problems
  • Activates on heat
  • Ability to created rubbed joints

Cons of Hide Glue in Woodworking

A few notable cons of using hide glue can put off a few woodworkers who might turn to alternatives to do the work.

  • Short assembly/working time
  • Heating and maintaining routine
  • Unpleasant smell
  • Not resistant to water
  • No gap-filling ability

Pros and Cons of Wood Glue in Woodworking

There is a reason that more and more people use wood glues in the place of hide glues for most woodworking projects. The convenience combined with the advantages of the wood glue makes it a better option for most woodwork.

We will understand the pros and cons of wood glue to understand where it excels and where it can do better in woodworking.

Pros of Wood Glue in Woodworking

The strength of the wood glue along with its wide availability set it apart from hide glues which are used rarely for commercial purposes.

  • Strong binding strength for most woodworking projects
  • Different types of wood glues for setting slowly or quickly
  • Water-resistant and water-proof wood glues available
  • Cost-effective
  • Water cleanup
  • Non-toxic

Cons of Wood Glue in Woodworking

The near-irreversible damage to wood fibers on separation can cause concern for use on woodwork that needs periodic resetting.

  • Weak end grain connections
  • Certain wood glues cannot be used outdoors.
  • Can be slow to dry

Which one is Better for Woodwork: Hide Glue or Wood Glue

When it comes time to settle the debate and decide a winner, the selection comes down to which glue is the most effective in most of the conditions, and for that, we will have to give it to the wood glue.

Wood glue is extremely versatile and provides a strong bond for wood-to-wood connections. They are formulated especially to be used on wood, which makes them do the work they are best at doing. The wood fibers are tightly held together by the wood glue, and this ensures that the glue forms a bond stronger than the wood in itself.

Wood glues are preferred over hide glues because of their bond strength, availability, assembly time, water resistance, and cost-effectiveness.

We will look at these standout features of wood glue and compare them with hide glue to validate our pick of wood glues as the better glues for woodworking.

1. Bond Strength

While hide glues form bonds that can be reversed with heat, wood glues form a stronger bond than the wood. The bond is so strong that the wood breaks before the glue bond. When these glues are applied to the wood, they are absorbed into the wood fibers and dry after a clamp time to give a solid bond that is hard to break.

Wood glues come in different types and can be used for wooden items used indoors and outdoors. Certain types of wood glues can resist heat and rain, making them suitable for outdoor furniture. This is contrary to hide glues that are not resistant to heat and water. They are only suited for wooden items that are handled with care and/or used indoors.

2. Availability

Wood glues are available at your local hardware stores and online retailers with many popular brands, including Titebond, Elmer’s, and Gorilla Glue having a range of different types of wood glues with different properties for various kinds of woodwork. They are widely used commercially and have a constant demand from woodworkers, DIYers, and hobbyists.

Meanwhile, hide glues are not available commercially. You can buy bottled hide glues that are more widely available. However, if you are looking for hot hide glues, you will have to make an effort to prepare them yourself. Preparation is not an easy task, and you will need constant heating and storage to use your hot hide glues.

3. Assembly Time

The assembly time varies with various wood glues. However, many types of wood glue provide a good assembly time for woodworkers to set their wooden pieces in the right places for the glue to bond together perfectly. This is suitable for woodwork that has many details and pieces have to be put together carefully to bond.

Hide glues have a very short working time. This makes them unsuitable for work that needs time to assemble all the wooden items for sealing them.

4. Water Resistance

Water-resistant and waterproof wood glues are available in the market, and you can choose them depending on the project you’re working on. If you expect moisture to creep in your work, it is better to use water-resistant and waterproof wood glues to guarantee that your glued woodwork will not be compromised because of water.

Hide glues are not water-resistant and cannot be relied upon for wood projects that will be exposed to water. This puts wood glues at an advantage.

5. Cost-Effectiveness

The wide availability of wood glues and brands competing to give customers the best product at lower prices has meant that wood glues cost less. This doesn’t mean that hide glues are pricier.

Hide glues that are bottled cost less because they are manufactured in large quantities and bottled for use. However, if you want to work with hot hide glues, the cost of manufacturing them, including the time needed to make them is a downside when it comes to cost savings.

When to use Super Glue?

Cyanoacrylate (CA), also known as Super Glue, breathed new life into adhesives with their super-fast setting times that are clear and waterproof. These glues do not need any clamping because they can clear in seconds. Since Super Glue can be used at almost all temperatures both indoors and outdoors, they are suitable for certain woodworking projects that can use their advantages.

The instant adhesion provided by Super Glue should only be a temporary bond while you replace it later with stronger bonding glue. However, this strong temporary bonding will let you proceed with your woodworking tasks faster without worrying about drying and clearing times.

Here are some instances when you should consider using Super Glue in woodworking.

  1. For Fast Setting
  2. When clamping is not possible.
  3. For Repairs (it sticks to old glue)
  4. Filling cracks (by combining with sawdust)
  5. Repairing small cracks and chips

The already fast clearing time of CA glues can boost accelerators that will fasten the clearing process. This will help when cyanoacrylates are used on acidic woods, where they cure slowly. Using an accelerator will speed up the time taken for the glue to cure.

When to use Epoxy?

Epoxy glues come in two parts that have to be mixed to create a strong adhesive known for its high strength and durability. These glues work on a lot of surfaces other than wood, including metal and plastic. They provide a solid bond and cure under most temperatures that other glues do not.

The two-part epoxy is resistant to heat and water, making it perfect for all kinds of outdoor furniture and woodwork. They cure after a clamping time and are excellent for woodwork that is constantly exposed to water.

Here are a few instances when Epoxy will be suitable for your woodworking projects.

  1. Outdoor Furniture and Woodwork
  2. Marine Applications
  3. Gap-filling

Epoxies are the best choice for structural repairs. If you’ve got a joint with visible gaps, it is time to use a mix of epoxy resin and hardener to glue up the gaps. Since epoxies are gap-filling specialists, they will reinforce a firm bond and hold the wood tight where it is applied.

Best Wood Glue for Woodworking

Out of all the various wood glues available in the market from top brands, it is hard to pick one that is a standout and performs well on all fronts. However, after evaluating the best wood glues for woodworking, we think it is fair to say that the best glue for woodworking is Titebond Wood Glue.

Titebond Wood Glue is among the most trusted adhesives for woodworking by woodworkers, carpenters, and hobbyists. As a PVA glue, Titebond Wood Glue eclipses competitors by providing incredible water resistance, natural dry color, and good versatility. This glue is suitable for use on all kinds of hardwoods, softwoods, and wood composites.

It is easy to use, sandable, paintable, stained, and used as a wood filler. Titebond Wood Glue’s clamping time is only 20-30 minutes, and it cures fully in 24 hours. Ensure you use the wood glue on a cleaned and dried surface before application. It works like a charm to bond your wooden pieces together to make a bond tighter than the wood.

With thousands of highly-recommended reviews online across various online retailers, Titebond Wood Glue clearly selects wood glue for all kinds of woodworking projects. Even though close competitors like the Titebond II Premium Wood Glue and Titebond III Ultimate Wood Glue, the Titebond Wood Glue stays as the premium choice for woodworking.

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