By Joseph A. McGeough

The remote origin of the chisel may lie with the stone hand axe, the almond-shaped tool that was sharp at one end. Although long rectangular chisel-shaped flints appeared about 8000 BCE, the later Neolithic Period evinced a version that was finished by grinding. With care, flint and obsidian chisels can be used on soft stone, as shown by intricate sculptures in pre-Columbian South and Central America. Gouges—i.e., chisels with concave instead of flat sections, able to scoop hollows or form holes with curved instead of flat walls—were also used during this period. Chisels and gouges of very hard stone were used to rough out both the exteriors and interiors of bowls of softer stone such as alabaster, gypsum, soapstone, and volcanic rock. The final finish was produced by abrasion and polishing.

The earliest copper chisels were long, in the manner of their flint forebears. Such so-called solid chisels of copper (and later of bronze) were used not only for working wood but soft rock as well, as many magnificent Egyptian monuments of limestone and sandstone testify.

By using bronze, a better casting metal than copper, and moulds, it was possible to economize on metal by hafting a short chisel to a wooden handle. This also resulted in less damage to the mallet. The round handle was either impaled on a tang with a cast-on stop (tanged) or set into a socket (socketed); both forms of hafting presaged modern forms. The Egyptians used the chisel and club like mallet with great skill and imagination to make joints in the construction of small drawers, panelled boxes, furniture, caskets, and chests.

The use of iron meant that tools had to be forged; no longer were the flowing lines and easily made cavities of casting available to the toolmaker. Consequently, early iron chisels were rude and solid. Tanged chisels were easier to make than socketed chisels, for which the socket had to be bent from a T-shaped forging. Hardened steel edges (first developed by accident) were created by repeatedly placing the iron in contact with carbon from the charcoal of the forge fire.

Chisels and gouges were made in great variety in later centuries as generally increasing wealth created a demand for more decoration and luxury in both religious and secular trappings and furniture. The rough and heavy tools of the carpenter were refined into more delicate models suited to woodcarvers, to joiners who did wall panelling and made stairs, doors, and windows, and to cabinetmakers. In the 18th century a woodcarver’s kit may have contained more than 70 chisels and gouges.


By Joseph A. McGeough

The file’s many tiny chisel-like teeth point in the direction in which it must be pushed in order to be effective. Because little material is removed with each stroke, the tool is well suited to smoothing a rough workpiece or altering its details. The file was unknown in early antiquity, during which time smoothing was done with abrasive stone or powder or with sharkskin, the granular surface of which approximates sandpaper.

Files of copper are unknown, but bronze was shaped into flat files in Egypt in 1500 BCE. A combined round and flat file of bronze was produced in Europe by 400 BCE. The file became popular in the Iron Age and a number of specimens survive from Roman times. The longest is flat, one-inch-wide, about 38 cm (15 inches) long including the handle, and has about 20 cm (8 inches) of working length. A number of shorter files of about 10-cm (4-inch) working length are particularly interesting because of the notch they carry near the handle. The V-shaped cross section (called knife-shaped today) indicates that these files were intended for dressing saw teeth. The notch enabled the worker to set the teeth—i.e., bend successive teeth to alternate sides to gain a free-running saw. These files had straight-across and coarse toothing, but the advantages of obliquely cut teeth and of double-cut (intersecting) teeth were appreciated early.

A treatise written in 1100 mentions files of square, round, triangular, and other shapes. At this time files were made of carburized steel that was hardened after the files were cut by either a sharp, chisel-like hammer or a chisel and hammer. An illustrated manuscript of 1405 that was copied by a succession of later authors shows a polygonal file; the screeching of the filing operation is commented upon too, with the curious suggestion that files be made hollow and filled with lead to eliminate the noise. In 1578 a writer asserted that the only way in which threads could be cut in screws was with the file.

Although Leonardo da Vinci had sketched a file-making machine, the first working machine was not produced until 1750, and it was a century later before machine-cut files substantially replaced those cut by hand. Power-driven, hand-cut rotary files are still used on dense metals because hand-formed, discontinuous teeth dissipate the heat well.

The ordinary file, in terms of its material and cut, is primarily used on cast iron and soft steel. Other materials—various nonferrous alloys, stainless steels, and plastics—are better accommodated with files of special composition and tooth formation (cut). A wide selection is manufactured.

Rasps, or, more correctly, rasp-cut files, have a series of individual teeth produced by a sharp, narrow, punch like chisel. Their very rough cut is suited to the fast removal of material from soft substances, such as wood, hooves, leather, aluminium, and lead.

A metal sole on a wooden plane?

I saw this picture on an Aussie forum I regularly visit, and this plane was up for sale. What struck me about it was the metal sole. I understand the reasoning behind it, but it’s a dumb move and a poor job of attaching the metal to wood.

The attraction of a wooden bodied plane is that it leaves the surface polished because of the wood on wood burnish effect. By adding a metal sole to it, the owner has essentially stripped the plane of this quality and made it unattractive, especially with those countless screws you see in the picture. The surface it will leave behind may still be smooth and somewhat polished, but it won’t be the same if it was entirely wooden.

There is a small learning curve in using a wooden plane in terms of adjustment. There is no depth adjusting knob, no lateral adjusting lever, and no lever cap to release the blade. These 3 elements people struggle with the most, yet they are very simple to learn.

Follow these basic steps on how to adjust a wooden bodied plane.

Upon inserting the iron place your forefinger and middle finger into the mouth from the sole of the plane to stop the iron from falling through out of the mouth. No, you won’t cut yourself unless you’re really unlucky. Tap the wedge lightly to lock the iron in.

Sight down the sole and tap the iron with a hammer until you see a black line. That’s the iron protruding. Now tap the iron in either direction until you make it parallel with the sole.

Tip: To see the iron clearly place a white piece of paper in the background. This is why I make my benches from light coloured woods.

NOTE: If you sharpened the iron out of square you will struggle to get the iron parallel to the sole because you don’t have the same amount of leverage in side-to-side movement as you do with a metal plane.

Not much lateral clearance for side to side adjusting

Because I camber all my blades, I use the Charlesworth trick of using a piece of thin wood to make passes on both sides of the blade. I hold the plane in my hand and with the other I stroke the thin piece of wood on the ends of the blade. This will quickly tell me what the eye cannot pick up if you want to take really fine shavings which side is protruding more.

I normally use a longer thin piece, I just couldn’t find it and broke off a piece for demonstration purposes.

After centering the iron, tap on the wedge with one firm tap. DO NOT tap the wedge hard, it will make it super hard to release. Just use enough force to wedge it in place somewhere between light and medium should be enough.

If you want to take a deeper cut, tap the nose of the plane or the top end. If you want to take a lighter shaving, then tap at the heel of the plane, which is the back. Always tap the wedge afterwards.

Using a Warrington hammer is heavier enough to have an effect. Anything lighter will leave unnecessary marring on the plane without having any effect.

To release the wedge to take out the iron, tap with a decisive blow, preferably with a mallet on the heel or flip the plane upside down and whack the top front of the plane on your bench. This method works for all moulding planes as well because they are wooden planes with a profile.

Wooden planes don’t rust, but they move as wood does and gets out of whack and therefore you need to regularly check your planes and flatten when necessary. This also includes moulding planes. People make the mistake when buying vintage moulding planes thinking that they’re ready to use out of the box. Yes, they would be if they were new but not when they’re 50+ years old. You need to check for flatness and flatten them. Don’t think if it’s flat next to the iron, she’ll be right. She needs to be flat from heel to toe, and then you need to reshape the profile if you took off too much. Remember, the sole shape of the plane must match the profile. Therefore it’s best to buy new moulding planes over the used ones on the antique marketplace if you can afford it or even better make them yourselves. I’ve written extensively long articles in the magazine about this. I made an entire set for myself.

Jack Plane sole is flat. You need to check for humps as well.
Moulding plane sole is flat. No light visible.

Always check the sole with the iron inserted but not protruding. The same applies to metal planes, new or old.

When they make metal planes they never insert the iron and then flatten the sole. They just mill the sole on a milling machine, tell you it’s flat within so many thou. But when you insert the blade into the plane it’s not truly flat because the iron creates a small hump from the pressure. I learned this from David Charlesworth in an old LN video.

There is more moulding planes on top of the cabinet and behind the metal planes.

With Covid creating dilemma in the world with production ceased , it only makes sense to build your own planes if you don’t have any. Wooden planes are just as high quality premium planes as any metal bodied premium plane like LN or Veritas.


By Joseph A. McGeough

The chipped flint knife, with its irregular edge, was not a saw in the proper sense, for though it could sever wood fibres and gash bone or horn, it could not remove small pieces of material in the manner of a saw. Furthermore, the necessarily broad V-shaped profile of the flint saw severely limited its penetration into the workpiece; the nature of its cut was limited to making an encircling groove on a branch or a notch on something flat.

The true saw, a blade with teeth, one of the first great innovations of the Metal Age, was a completely new tool, able to cut through wood instead of merely gashing the surface. It developed with smelted copper, from which a blade could be cast. Many of the early copper saws have the general appearance of large meat-carving knives, with bone or wooden handles riveted to a tang at one end. Egyptian illustrations from about 1500 BCE onward show the saw being used to rip boards, the timber being lashed to a vertical post set into the ground.

The use of relatively narrow, thin, and not quite flat blades made of a metal having a tendency to buckle, coupled with poorly shaped teeth that created high friction, required that the cutting take place on the pull stroke. In this stroke the sawyer could exert the most force without peril of buckling the saw. Furthermore, a pull saw could be thinner than a push saw and would waste less of the material being sawed.

The familiar modern handsaw, with its thin but wide steel blade, cuts on the push stroke; this permits down hand sawing on wood laid across the knee or on a stool, and the sawing pressure helps to hold the wood still. Operator control is superior, and, because the line being sawed is not obscured by the fuzz of undetached wood fibres or sawdust, greater accuracy is possible. Some tree-pruning saws have teeth raked to cut on the pull stroke to draw the branch toward the operator. Blades that are thin and narrow, as in the coping saw (fretsaw or scroll saw), are pulled through the workpiece by a frame holding the blade. Electric reciprocating and sabre saws, which have narrow blades that are supported at only one end, pull the blade when cutting to prevent buckling. The carpenter’s pull saw for wood requires sitting on the floor and using one’s feet to stabilize the wood while sawing. Long forgotten by the Western world, it has been kept alive in China and Japan, where some craftspersons still favour it.

Although there is no positive evidence of either the type of saw or the method used, the Egyptians were able to saw hard stone with copper and bronze implements. The blade, probably toothless, rode on an abrasive material such as moistened quartz sand. The 2-metre (7.5-foot) granite coffer still in the Great Pyramid carries saw marks.

During the Bronze Age the use of saws for woodworking was greatly extended, and the modern form began to evolve. Some saws with narrow blades looked very much like hacksaw blades, even to the holes at either end. They might have been held in a frame or pinned into a springy bow of wood.

Iron saws resembling those of copper or bronze date from the middle of the 7th century BCE. A major contribution to saw design was noted in the 1st century CE by Pliny the Elder, whose works are one of the major sources on the technology of the ancients. Pliny observed that setting the teeth—that is, bending the teeth slightly away from the plane of the blade alternately to one side and the other, so creating a kerf, or saw slot, wider than the thickness of the blade—helps discharge the sawdust. He seems to have missed the more practical point that the saw also runs with less friction in the now wider slot. The Romans, always ingenious mechanics, added numerous improvements to both simply handled saws and frame saws but did not make push saws despite the advantage of the kerf that made the saw easier to work with and less liable to buckle. Roman saw sets and files have been found in substantial numbers. The small handsaws were sometimes backed with a stiffening rib to prevent the buckling of thin blades; today’s backsaw still carries the rib. Frame saws, in which a narrow blade is held in tension by a wooden frame, were exploited in many sizes, from the small carpenter’s saws to two-person crosscut saws and ripsaws used for making boards.

The time and provenance of the push saw are uncertain, although it appears that it may date from the end of Roman times, well before the Middle Ages. Nevertheless, after the decline of the Roman Empire in the West, the use of the saw seems to have declined as well. The axe again became the principal tool on the return to the more primitive state of technology. Saw artefacts are very few in number, and even the Bayeux Tapestry of about 1100 shows no saw in the fairly detailed panels dealing with the construction of William the Conqueror’s invasion fleet; only axe, adz, hammer, and breast auger are among the woodworking tools.

With the Middle Ages came the search for a nonclogging tooth to be used when crosscutting green and wet wood. The new saws were long, with handles at both ends, so that two men might each pull, adjacent teeth being raked in opposite directions. To provide space for the cuttings, M-shaped teeth with gaps (gullets) between them were developed; this tooth conformation, first noted in the mid-15th century, is still used in modern crosscut saws manufactured for coarse work and for cutting heavy timber.

Perhaps even more important than crosscutting was the need to rip a log lengthwise to produce boards. Saws for this purpose were generally called pit saws because they were operated in the vertical plane by two people, one of whom, the pitman, sometimes stood in a pit below the timber or under a trestle supporting the timber being sawed. The other stood on the timber above, pulling the saw up; the pitman and gravity did the work of cutting on the down stroke, for which the teeth were raked. A pit saw occasionally was nothing more than a long blade with two handles (a whipsaw), but more often it was constructed as a frame saw, which used less steel and put the blade under tension.

The fretsaw was a mid-16th century invention that resulted from innovations in spring-driven clocks. It consisted of a U-shaped metal frame, on which was stretched a narrow blade made from a clock spring, the best and most uniform steel available, for it was not forged but rolled in small, hand-powered mills. These relatively thin blades had fine teeth that were well suited to cutting veneer stock from decorative wood for furniture of all kinds.

By the middle of the 17th century, large water powered rolling mills in England and some parts of the Continent were able to furnish broad strips of steel from which wide saws could be fashioned in many varieties. In particular, the awkwardly framed pit saw was largely replaced by a long, two-handled blade of increased stiffness. Smaller general-purpose saws were developed from this rolling-mill stock into the broad-blade saws of today. The modern broad-blade handsaw is taper ground, that is, the blade is not of uniform thickness but is several thousandths of an inch thinner at the back than at the toothed edge. This makes possible no-bind cutting, and such saws require little set for fast and easy cutting. Continental craftspersons still use the frame saw for benchwork. Since the only purchased part is the blade itself, workers often make their own wooden frame, which is tightened by twisting a cord with a short stick.

Results from the new saw filing technique

Having sharp tool is a must in the craft, for many reasons including safety. When you work with blunt tools accidents happen because you’re exhorting more pressure on the tool than needed. Most cringe at the idea of using a handsaw to saw a board. They think it’ll take forever to get the job done and their arm would drop off from fatigue. None of this is true if your saw is sharp. There are of course some species of wood like iron bark where even a circular saw would struggle, let alone a handsaw. I avoid these types of wood. The picture you see below is American white oak, this is a tough timber to saw, plane and chisel. Yet I sawed through it with little effort at all because I sharpened my saw using the technique I recently learned upon reading Mark’s article. Look at the clean surface it left on the end grain and the very minimal tear out on the back side. There is a steep learning curve to sharpening saws, something I’m working towards getting real good at. You need a good saw vice, the right size high quality saw files, and plenty of patience through practice. In time, you’ll get to be a great beginner.

Now I’m going back to finish the rest of my saws. Thanks Mark.

Sharpening in the “Bad Axe” Style

Anyone that truly works with hand tools knows the value in having sharp tools. Sharp tools minimises muscle fatigue and accidents that arise from frustration by unnecessarily over exerting yourself to get the work done. Handsaws are no different to planes, chisels, or any other hand tool. A mediocre sharpened saw works well, but super sharp saws like the ones from “Bad Axe” perform better than more modern manufactured saws. Admittedly, I have never tried a “Bad Axe” saw because I live in Australia, but I have read so many articles about its superiority and cutting speed that I have only imagined how fast it actually cuts until now. I have wished to pick Mark’s brain on what rake and fleam he uses that makes his saws so superior to the way other sawyers have sharpened their saws.

Today I found an old in FWW article on how to sharpen a saw on Mark’s website. I anxiously downloaded the article and read it slowly and carefully, making sure not to miss anything. When I finished, I was a little confused. I didn’t find any rake and fleam that he favours. In fact, it says to stick with the angle determined by the manufacturer. The only thing I got from the article was the stroke method he used. Medium, heavy, then a light finishing stroke he say’s. Making sure every tooth is of equal height and every gullet of equal depth. That’s it! That’s all he does. I pulled out my saw vice and a spare LN backsaw, which I intend to sell and sharpened it using Mark’s recommendation. Upon completion, I was surprised at how prickly the saw teeth felt. I put it to the test on some scrap pine and it just went through it like butter, then I tried some white oak which he recommended and it too sawed through effortlessly. I then pulled out my other backsaw sharpened by Lie Nielson and tried it sawing white oak with it, and it struggled. I had difficulties pushing it through the wood.. I nearly fell on my arse in awe of Mark’s expert sharpening technique. The rake and fleam I used was the manufacturer’s default of 15°. What I changed was the method of stroke as per Mark’s recommendation. Not only did it saw faster, but there was zero tear out on the back. Go figure that one out. I highly recommend you download this article, read it, and then give it a go. I guarantee you will never look, read or watch another saw sharpening video again.

One last note, use the recommended size files that Mark recommends. You can find other sized files on his website. Bad Axe Saw Sharpening Files by Friedrich Dick ( Take the time to read his articles, I’m sure you’ll agree them to be very informative.

Drilling and Boring Tools

By Joseph A. McGeough

A varied terminology is related to making holes with revolving tools. A hole may be drilled or bored; awls, gimlets, and augers also produce holes. An awl is the simplest hole maker, for, like a needle, it simply pushes material to one side without removing it. Drills, gimlets, and augers, however, have cutting edges that detach material to leave a hole. A drilled hole is ordinarily small and usually made in metal; a bored hole is large and in wood or, if in metal, is usually made by enlarging a small hole. Drilling usually requires high speed and low torque (turning force), with little material being removed during each revolution of the tool. Low speed but high torque is characteristic of boring because the boring tool has a larger radius than a drill.

The Upper Palaeolithic Period furnished the first perforated objects of shell, ivory, antler, bone, and tooth, although softer, perishable materials, such as leather and wood, were undoubtedly given holes by the use of bone or antler splinters. How holes were made in harder materials is subject to speculation; it has been suggested that flint blades were trimmed to sharp points by bilateral flaking and that these points were turned by hand, a very slow process. Another scheme involved the use of an abrasive sand under the end of a stick that was twirled back and forth between the palms. At some unknown time, more efficient rotation was attained by wrapping a thong around the stick or shaft and pulling on the ends of the thong. Such a strap, or thong, drill could be applied to drilling either with an abrasive or with a tool point hafted onto the end of the stick. The upper end of the shaft required a pad or socket (drill pad) in which it could rotate freely.

After the invention of the bow, sometime in the Upper Palaeolithic Period, the ends of the thong were fastened to a bow, or a slack bowstring was wrapped around the shaft to create the bow drill. Because of its simplicity, it maintained itself in Europe in small shops until the 20th century and is still used in other parts of the world. Abrasive drilling in stone was well suited to the high-speed bow drill. For larger holes the amount of material that had to be reduced to powder led to the idea of using a tube, such as a rolled copper strip, instead of a solid cylinder. This is called a core drill because the abrasive trapped between rotating tube and stone grinds out a ring containing a core that can be removed.

A new and more complicated tool, the pump drill, was developed in Roman times. A crosspiece that could slide up and down the spindle was attached by cords that wound and unwound about it. Thus, a downward push on the crosspiece imparted a rotation to the spindle. A flywheel on the spindle kept the motion going, so that the cords rewound in reverse to raise the crosspiece as the drill slowed, and the next downward push brought the spindle into rotation in the opposite direction.

The earliest (perhaps Bronze Age) drill points had sharp edges that ultimately developed into arrow shapes with two distinct cutting edges. This shape was effective, especially when made of iron or steel, and remained popular until the end of the 19th century, when factory-made, spiral-fluted drills became available at reasonable cost to displace the blacksmith-made articles.

The basic auger originated in the Iron Age as a tool for enlarging existing holes. It had a crossbar so that it might be turned with two hands, and it resembled a pipe split lengthwise. The auger was sharpened in several ways: on the inside of the semi-circular end, along the length, or on both. The end might be forged into a spoon shape and the edges sharpened so that cutting could take place at the bottom of the hole in addition to the sides. To clear the hole of parings it was necessary to pull the auger from its hole and turn the work piece over. Augers with spiral or helical stems that brought the shavings or chips to the surface were an invention of the Middle Ages, although one example dates from Roman Britain.

The familiar and common brace, a crank with a breast swivel at one end and a drill point at the other, is first seen in a painting of about 1425 that shows the biblical Joseph at his bench. This brace and other early examples are shown fitted with a bit of small diameter. It has been suggested that the function of the new tool was to make a small, or pilot, hole for the larger auger bit. This is a reasonable assumption, for the crank, fashioned from a wide board, had insufficient strength (because of its cross grain) to drive a large bit. This weakness was later counteracted by reinforcing the two weak sections with metal plates, a practice that continued until about 1900 despite the commercial introduction of iron sweeps (cranks) in about 1860. This invention permitted the boring of holes of up to one inch in diameter with one-handed operation; larger holes still required two-handed augers. An iron sweep is noted in a German manuscript of 1505, and an English book of 1683 has a metal brace as part of a blacksmith’s kit.

Early wooden braces were equipped with a large socket into which bits with appropriate shanks could be fitted interchangeably. When the sweep came to be made of iron, bits were given square shanks that fit into simple split chucks (holders) and were secured with a thumbscrew. Soon the screwed shell chuck and ratchet was devised to set the standard for the modern tool. By 1900 the swivel turned on ball bearings instead of a leather washer, and the metal parts were nickel-plated.

The bow and pump drills, suitable only to small work, required two hands, one to steady the tool, the other to operate it. One-hand drills began to appear in about 1825. Their essential elements were a steeply pitched screw and a nut that mated with it; when the latter was pushed down, the screw and attached bit turned. Many variations of the principle were offered before the modern push drill assumed its present, convenient form. It is still suitable for only light work in wood.

Both the bow and pump drills remained the metalworker’s prime tool for drilling small holes until the first geared hand drill was invented in 1805. Like every other tool, it underwent many improvements before acquiring its present rugged simplicity. Its great advantage lies in its unidirectional motion and the gearing that rotates the drill faster than the rate at which the crank is turned. The one-directional motion allowed better drills to be designed, and, with their greater mechanical efficiency in chip production, it was not long (1822) before drills with spiral flutes were proposed. A manufacturing problem—the flutes had to be hand filed—was not solved until the 1860s when the invention of a milling machine made possible the now universal twist drills.

Augers were used for boring both across the grain of wood and along the grain. The latter operation produced wooden pipes and pump casings or wheel hubs; special bits of many forms were designed for these purposes. The more common use of the auger or bit was in the cross-grain direction to make holes for wooden pins (treenails, or trunnels) or bolts for connections. The modern auger bit has a screw ahead of the cutting edges that pulls the auger into the work piece. This screw provides an automatic feed and relieves the worker of the necessity of pushing the tool. Although the idea appeared in the mid-16th century, application of the principle was limited until the advent of screw-making machinery in the mid-19th century.

Moulding Planes in Practice

Nothing to do with Matt Bickford. This is a video on joiners restoring a historical house using the same tools and methods they used when first built. As I don’t understand the language it’s not hard to follow along and gain a good understanding as to what they’re doing. Start from 11:24 and he’ll show you the different types of moulding planes he uses to reconstruct this beautiful interior. I hope you enjoy it as much as I did. Btw this movie was suggested on Matt’s blog check it out.

Results from making my own Liquid Hide Glue

Let me point out that I’ve made liquid hide glue in the past using urea, but I’ve never used salt before. Making a batch that would cause having a no shelf life was very exciting to me, just goes to show I got no life.

started off with the ingredients from Mortise and Tenon coupled with the methods used by Don Williams. I followed it to the letter and doubled cooked it twice over a two days period as Don does. Everything looked good, even the viscosity was bang on.

This surely was a good sign. I did a test glue up and I dabbed some glue on a piece of scrap

Starting from the left is Titebond LH, it took 1 week to cure, then fish glue from Lee Valley that the bottle is out dated but cured over night. For some reason fish glue doesn’t seem to spoil. I had fish glue that was many years old and worked as well as the day I bought it. I have no answer for why it doesn’t spoil. Next is the outdoor PVA white glue that I’ll use to make some planter boxes. It too dried over night. Next to it is hide glue straight from the pot and that dried fast and hard and finally my LH and hasn’t yet dried even though 6 hours have passed. I can’t blame the glue for being old and I didn’t overcook it but I feel that adding 2 teaspoons of salt which equals 11.8g was way too much and that’s why it hasn’t dried yet.

I will paste an email I got from Don which will demystify why it hasn’t dried and what the deal is with Titebond LH and why it didn’t cure. I hope this email will answer many questions you will actually never find on the web.

Hi Salko

Great to hear from you again.  

My experience from a practical matter is that there is no shelf life limit to glue wherein the gel suppressant is pure canning salt.  The Inevitable terminus of the shelf life in this case is microbial, as long as there is no mold in the batch it seems to work fine.  Exactly what proportions of salt to dry crystal is something of a mystery, I have not found nor created a reliable recipe that works for every situation.  I mix it up one small dispensing bottle at a time (usually a new condiment dispenser bottle from the hardware or home store) and add a healthy pinch or two of salt to the mix after I have the liquid glue fully soaked and double cooked.  At this point in my work I am not necessarily looking for a literal “room temperature liquid” hide glue, I do not mind warming it a bit and just exploit the much longer working and setting time provided by the salt gel suppressant.
The reason some commercial liquid hide glues have shelf life problems is that they use urea as the gel suppressant, which is not a problem if the batch is fresh.  However, over time the urea begins to “unzip” the protein chains, eventually to the point where the glue will almost not dry at all without the input of heat.

Let me know if this is helpful to you.


Absolutely Don this information helps. I’ve learned a tremendous amount just from one experiment and I can’t see myself doing another. Reason being its cost prohibitive. Hide glue is bloody expensive, it’s not expensive for you yanks but for us poor sods living down under and for those living in Europe it’s expensive. It’s mostly the shipping fee that kills it. For me to get it over from the States from Patrick Edwards I would spend $100 in shipping and that’s for 6 pounds. I don’t know how any postal service can justify this amount, but that’s what it is. I can get pearl glue here for much less and the bloom strength is 200, which is on par with what I’m using now. I prefer the stuff I’m using now because it’s from Milligan and Higgins. I’ve only ever used their glue, and I trust the source and know its reputation. But I guess that’s my fault for only ever exposing myself to one product. Then there’s the issue where now US companies are backing away from international shipping because of the excessive shipping charges and the dilemmas involved with damaged goods and what not. It’s funny when you think about it. In the beginning the world was excited that it will sell their goods across the planet and now they’re shying away from it. As far as the test pieces concerned, I will find out tomorrow night whether or not they’re stuck together.

They’ll both be going into the bin if they fail the test. I hope this doesn’t discourage anyone of you from giving it a go. Give it a try you have nothing to lose, but knowledge to gain.