UKRay

A Very 'sticky' Question

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As one of two of you may know, I'm interested in the history of leatherworking and using old techniques (sometimes with a modern spin). Right now I'm researching old fashioned glues and pastes. If you have any information and/or recipes I'd be most grateful to know more.

I do have a couple of specific questions:

Does anyone know how to make old fashioned 'rabbit glue'? I believe it might have been made from rabbit skins but can't imagine how. Is it the same as the 'hot' wood glue used by cabinet makers?

Does anyone know what sort of glue or paste was used by book-binders to stick leather to paper? Is there a modern equivalent?

Cheers,

Ray

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Ray, I'm continually both amazed and confounded by the questions you generate. But, I can appreciate your interest in leather history......heck, you've been around for most of it, right?

http://www.ehow.com/about_4620962_what-rabbit-skin-glue.html

My Google-Fu is strong today, and there are apparently even some videos on how to make Rabbit Skin Glue. Short version- Let a rabbit skin swell in water, then melt in a double boiler, being careful not to actually boil. Apply hot. Seems like Rabbit glue is used for all kinds of things from sizing painters canvas to ..........binding books.

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I'm not old enough ( thank God ) to have any first hand experience with the kind of adhesives you're asking about but I have heard old saddlemakers talk about using hide glue. They described it as a powder you had to mix with water to make your own paste. It must have worked well enough it held everything together for a long time, but I never heard anyone say anything good about using it. Kinda off topic but someone might be interested to know that the guy I learned some from converted from hide glue to plain old white Elmers glue and used it for thirty years. I've never heard it discussed on here but it is a very good leather glue and you can do things with it you can't with any contact cement. It has the ability to dry and bond under wet leather with no air allowing you to put something together and position it exactly how you want it, not the grabby one chance you get with cement. The down side to it is everything has to be glued, weighted and set aside for a day to allow it to do it's thing. It's not as convenient as cement for most things but it is more convenient in the right circumstance, and a very cheap and accessible alternative to contact cement.

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I knew I was going to attract abuse... but this time you have it all wrong, Mike. My favorite cousin, Luke Hatley is the man you are thinking of, not me. We actually share the same birthday but I understand he has had one or two more than me. Don't say anything, but I'm almost sure he was the guy who invented rabbit glue though I don't like to ask... LOL

I know it is hard to believe, but I did take a look at the web before posting this question because I didn't find anything particularly helpful about how to make the stuff. Boiling rabbit skins - or not - seems a pretty loose set of instructions to me. I want something a tad more definitive. How long do you need to boil your bunny? What does the stuff look like when you have made it? How do you use it? Does it really work and has it got a use in my workshop today?

Thanks for your wise words, Jim. Nice to see there is one sensible person on here. Now that was more like it. Unfortunately, living in the UK, I have never heard of Elmer's glue - who is Elmer and what makes his glue special? Are we talking some kind of PVA adhesive here? Anything is better than contact adhesive... although the fumes do tend to give you a nice warm woozy feeling if you use it all afternoon with the windows closed...

So - anyone know where can I get ready made rabbit glue? An art shop? Ironmongers/hardware store? Builder's merchant? Where?

Ray

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I knew I was going to attract abuse... but this time you have it all wrong, Mike. My favorite cousin, Luke Hatley is the man you are thinking of, not me. We actually share the same birthday but I understand he has had one or two more than me. Don't say anything, but I'm almost sure he was the guy who invented rabbit glue though I don't like to ask... LOL

I know it is hard to believe, but I did take a look at the web before posting this question because I didn't find anything particularly helpful about how to make the stuff. Boiling rabbit skins - or not - seems a pretty loose set of instructions to me. I want something a tad more definitive. How long do you need to boil your bunny? What does the stuff look like when you have made it? How do you use it? Does it really work and has it got a use in my workshop today?

Thanks for your wise words, Jim. Nice to see there is one sensible person on here. Now that was more like it. Unfortunately, living in the UK, I have never heard of Elmer's glue - who is Elmer and what makes his glue special? Are we talking some kind of PVA adhesive here? Anything is better than contact adhesive... although the fumes do tend to give you a nice warm woozy feeling if you use it all afternoon with the windows closed...

So - anyone know where can I get ready made rabbit glue? An art shop? Ironmongers/hardware store? Builder's merchant? Where?

Ray

Ray, many years ago when I went to school and attended "Wood Butchering" classes we used what was called Pearl Glue which we melted in a pot in boiling water. It had an awful odour but I think the teacher may have said it came from hides. Try Pearl Glue on Google and see what you get.

Kind regards, Tony.

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Ray, many years ago when I went to school and attended "Wood Butchering" classes we used what was called Pearl Glue which we melted in a pot in boiling water. It had an awful odour but I think the teacher may have said it came from hides. Try Pearl Glue on Google and see what you get.

Kind regards, Tony.

I used that pearl glue stuff at school too, Tony. What a pong!

(aside: I wasn't much of a woodworker and I'll never forget my old woodwork teacher who was a real character saying: "Damn and blast you boy, be careful with that wood, it doesn't grow on trees you know!")

I have a feeling that rabbit glue is going to be along the same lines as pearl glue but I've an idea the stuff now comes as a dry powder that can be mixed with water but needs to be heated before use. Much the same idea as pearl glue but a finer consistency more suited to restoration and museum reproduction work.

Anyone used Cascamite as a leather glue? (I hope I got the product right as I believe there is a 'heavy duty' laxative with a very similar name and we wouldn't want to use that now would we? LOL ).

Somehow, the idea of bunny boiling for real is almost too good to let go...

Ray

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Ray, It appears Elmer is a happy bull. You can tell that he is a bull because he has a ring in his nose, NOT because he has horns. Cows can have horns too! (Working hard to dispel another urban myth...)

post-5669-056930200 1290738583_thumb.jpg

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Hi Ray, hide glue is still used by alot of traditional woodworkers those who do french polishing and I know I've come across a forum where it was mentioned how it was made I think it may of been one of the Australian woodwork forums. rdb posted the link which covers most of the commercial hide glues I've seen, I can get the Titebond stuff in Australia so I would think the wood work shops in the UK would stock it as well.

Cheers,

Clair

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Hi again Ray, not the place I was thinking of but from what I remember it seems to be the same http://www.ronliskey.com/content/making-hide-glue and a brief explanation of making rabbit skin glue http://wiki.budgardr.org/villagers/oksana/recipe_for_making_rabbit_skin_glue

There also a few videos on youtube for making hide glue.

Hope this helps a bit

Cheers,

Clair

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As one of two of you may know, I'm interested in the history of leatherworking and using old techniques (sometimes with a modern spin). Right now I'm researching old fashioned glues and pastes. If you have any information and/or recipes I'd be most grateful to know more.

I do have a couple of specific questions:

Does anyone know how to make old fashioned 'rabbit glue'? I believe it might have been made from rabbit skins but can't imagine how. Is it the same as the 'hot' wood glue used by cabinet makers?

Does anyone know what sort of glue or paste was used by book-binders to stick leather to paper? Is there a modern equivalent?

Cheers,

Ray

If you are using rabbit or pearl glue remember you need a double glue pot with water in the outside pan, never apply direct heat to pearl glue, it burns, and as for bookbinding I think they use a corn starch paste, just corn flour like you use to thicken gravy and water

cheers

Mike

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Any idea how they mixed that corn starch paste, Mike? Quantities, etc?

I'm happy to experiment but if you have a recipe... well, you know what I mean!

Ray

Thanks Paul and Cem. very helpful.

Ray

Ray, It appears Elmer is a happy bull. You can tell that he is a bull because he has a ring in his nose, NOT because he has horns. Cows can have horns too! (Working hard to dispel another urban myth...)

post-5669-056930200 1290738583_thumb.jpg

Denise, I could have looked at that bottle for ages without noticing that. LOL

Thanks, Dave.

Ray

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Any idea how they mixed that corn starch paste, Mike? Quantities, etc?

I'm happy to experiment but if you have a recipe... well, you know what I mean!

Ray

I have a bootmaker friend who uses it, I'll have a word with him and get back to you, but I'm sure someone else will have given you the answers by then

cheers

Mike

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Any joy with that corn starch recipe, Mike?

Ray

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Ray,

I do not know about Rabbit glue(sounds yucky like horse hide and hoof glues) but what I use is water based Liquid Stitch for my soft leather and Elmer's(or equivalent) waterproof wood glue for the harder ones. Both work well dry fast and allow you to move it around till you get it right...and yes it does need to be held down till it sets some but hey are we really in that big a hurry!

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Hi Ray,

if you download this pdf and go to page 233 you'll find a lot of different recipes that were used a while back

The art of shoe and bootmaking

the picture shows a list of the receipts.

Moe.

post-14483-069870700 1291941230_thumb.jp

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hi Ray

here in the philippines there is a glue here used and is i think the cornstarch thing we are talking about here. i remember making them as glue to use for covering my school books. its like goo when mixed with boiling water. it has a whitish tansparency characteristic and is like a white slime same stuff you see on rubber trees and sticks up and hardens after application. its easy as one two three to make as it comes in powdered form and just mix it with boiling H20. but its not basically cornstarch. it just happens to look like one so people here call it cornstarch when they talk about it. its old school stuff and my grandma used to use it a lot on fabrics when i spent time at here home. very common here.

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You guys are outstanding! Many thanks for all the help.

The cornstarch glue is exactly what I'm trying to find out about. I have a very delicate restoration job in mind and want to use the same (or very similar) materials to those used by the original craftsman several hundred years ago. I have been experimenting with all kinds of wallpaper paste but I keep coming back to the old starch based recipes - but I'm still not certain I've got it right as my paper doesn't stick to my leather as well as it should. There could be an extra ingredient I haven't worked out yet but, hey - I'm a patient man! LOL

If anyone has any other suggestions then please fire away - I'm keen to try almost anything sticky that would have been around in the 14th / 15th centuries.

Ray

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As kids, we used to eat glue. Back then things were safer, not so much chemicals. Any who, here's some receipts from

http://www.canteach.ca/index.html

The library paste one sounds right, i think

Glue & Paste Recipes

Homemade Glue

Ingredients:

  • 3/4 cup water
  • 2 tbsp. corn syrup
  • 1 tsp. white vinegar
  • 1/2 cup cornstarch
  • 3/4 cup cold water
Method:
Mix water, syrup and vinegar in saucepan. Bring to a rolling boil. In small bowl, mix cornstarch and cold water. Add this mixture slowly to first mixture. Stir constantly. Let stand overnight before using.
Waterproof Glue
Ingredients:
  • 2 packets (1/2 ounce) unflavored gelatin
  • 2 tablespoons cold water
  • 3 tablespoons skimmed milk
  • few drops of wintergreen oil (optional)

Method:

In a small bow. sprinkle gelatin over cold water and wait until softened. Pour milk into a pot and bring to a boil. Pour into softened gelatin and stir until dissolved. Add wintergreen oil (acts as a preservative) if you would like to keep it for longer than a day.

This is a good glue when you need to glue for objects other than paper.

Homemade Paste

Ingredients:

  • 1/2 cup flour
  • cold water
Method:
Add flour to a sauce pan. Add cold water until a thick cream forms. Simmer on stove for 5 minutes.
Warning: This paste takes a long time to dry.
Library Paste
Ingredients:
  • 1 cup flour
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1 tsp. alum
  • 4 cups water
  • 30 drops of oil of cloves

Method:

Mix all ingredients in saucepan and cook until clear and thick. Remove from heat and add drops of oil of cloves.

Clear Library Paste

Ingredients:

  • 3/4 cup rice flour
  • 2 tablespoons sugar
  • 3/4 cup cold water
  • 2 1/2 cups boiling water
  • 1/2 teaspoon oil of witnergreen
Method:
Mix rice flour, sugar, and cold water in a pan until smooth. Add boiling water and bring to a boil over low heat, stirring constantly, until mixture thickens. Remove from heat and add oil of wintergreen.
Stamp Gum
Ingredients:
  • 1 packet (1/4 ounce) of unflavored gelatin
  • 1 Tbs. cold water
  • 3 Tbs. boiling water
  • 1/2 tsp. white corn syrup
  • 1/2 tsp. lemon or peppermint extract
  • 2 drops boric acid solution

Method:

Sprinkle the gelatin into the cold water and wait until softened. Pour softened gelatin into the boiling water, stirring until dissolved. Add the remaining ingredients and mix well.

When ready to use brush a little to the area that you would like it and let dry. When you need it to stick, moisten it a bit. If the gum dries up in your storage container, just scoop it out into a saucepan and heat it again.

Envelope Mucilage

Ingredients:

  • 6 tablespoons pure white vinegar
  • 4 packets (1 ounce) unflavored gelatin
  • 1 tablespoon peppermint extract

Method:

Pour vinegar in a pot and bring to a boil. Add gelatin and stir until completely dissolved. Add peppermint extract and stir until thoroughly mixed.

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That is soooo useful, Dave. Thanks muchly fella.

I wonder what the oil of cloves actually does? Anyone here know any chemistry?

Ray

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I think oil of cloves is supposed to relieve toothache . . . perhaps it will relieve your sticky headache, too . . ? ;)

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You don't improve with keeping, do you Terry? LOL

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Ray,

Are you restoring a book that actually dates from the 14th or 15th century?

If you are, are you a specialist restoration bookbinder? Not to diss your skills or anything, but 600 year old books *really* aught to be restored by specialists, preferrably specialists in that particular period of binding.

Something else to remember about corn starch, it's a New World thing, corn coming from the Americas and all so if you want something pre 1500 you'll want to be looking at wheat starch or hide glue, whether rabbit, fish, horse, or cattle.

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Ray,

Are you restoring a book that actually dates from the 14th or 15th century?

If you are, are you a specialist restoration bookbinder? Not to diss your skills or anything, but 600 year old books *really* aught to be restored by specialists, preferrably specialists in that particular period of binding.

Something else to remember about corn starch, it's a New World thing, corn coming from the Americas and all so if you want something pre 1500 you'll want to be looking at wheat starch or hide glue, whether rabbit, fish, horse, or cattle.

I couldn't agree more, Al. Restoration is a delicate art/science.

However, I'm not restoring a book and I'd already taken the starch part of the idea and left the corn out!.

Ray

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