Thousands of years ago Neanderthals used animal glues in their paints to guard their works from moisture. ◊ As pyramids rose from northern Africa, craftsmen used animal glue in casket assembly for their Egyptian Pharaohs. Since the 16th century, hide glue has been used in construction of violins.
Why so popular? Can’t speak for all. For luthiers, exceptional sheer vs. tensile vs. brittle strength make hide glue perfect for exacting requirements. Modern technology has not synthesized an improvement. Baring government mandate, what is not broken will hopefully not be fixed.
Shortly after instruments appeared on my front stoop, it became apparent the small jar of hide glue gifted by a violin technician would soon empty. Every instrument, nearly, had some top separation. Were they all faulty? No. A violin top is glued as close to failure as possible. Humidity and temperature alter the shape of a violin. You want a top to detach from ribs (sides) rather than remain firmly glued, which would lead to a cracked top.
Behlen has a proven track record with ATB with their stringed instrument lacquer. Research shows Behlen hide glue the most popular and trusted. We ordered the gold standard of granular hide glues. Following directions on the can, failure became familiarity. Success followed. Advice from David brought it all together. The Goldilocks Principle. Not too thick, not too thin. Just right. Temperature has a lot to do with it. A digital thermometer is most helpful, in lieu of an actual “glue pot”.
Special thanks to David Michie Violins, 1714 Locust St, Philadelphia, for their donation of older-style cello clamps pictured below.