Trial & Error with Fish Glue


This is going to be a very short post, but I want to share a finding with you.  I purchased 1 litre bottle of fish glue from Lee Valley.  The day it arrived was the day I put it to use.  The glue’s consistency is very thick, and I tried it as is on two moulding planes I made.  The results were poor.  It’s not that it’s not doing its job, that part is fine.  It held on strong and still holding strong, but it needs thinning prior to use.  I knew that all along but since I’ve had previous success with it with their tiny bottled version I didn’t think it would make any difference, but I was wrong.  Like any glue it should flow like maple syrup as they say, I’ve never actually seen maple syrup but I know what it should flow like as I use hide glue.

So, today I thinned it by eye, I can’t say exactly how many percentages you should thin it by, but it should flow off your brush or stick or whatever you’re using like maple syrup.  Not too thick and not too thin.The results immediately showed a remarkable improvement.  It flowed and spread easily with no lumps that caused the two pieces not to fully close.  Another words not show any gaps.  By adding water to any glue your taking away it’s strength, but to render it useless would be to add too much water.

Remember you have to add water to hide glue but only enough to take away the lumps. I’ve set the pieces aside to dry and will check it in the morning.  It’s spring here, and it’s slowly warming up so I’ll see if it’s still holding strong in a weeks time.  I don’t have any reason for it not too.

You may wonder why all the fuss with fish glue as I normally use hide glue.  Well, to be honest it’s sheer laziness on my part.  The part about preparing hide glue and heating it up, OK I have liquid hide glue as well and that too is a pain as I need to heat it up and keep it heated to 140° F (60°C).  It’s easier to use liquid hide than regular hide because it’s open time is longer.

With fish glue you use it in it’s cold state just like regular glue and if I’m confident in it’s holding abilities like I am with hide glue, then I’ll make the switch.  So far this glue hasn’t let me down but I need to use it for a while to be certain of all it’s pro’s and con’s.

Final Thoughts

Is all this fuss really necessary? White glue and yellow glue work fine.

I think the fuss is necessary if your building fine items that’s going to end up in some antique roadshow or shop in a hundred years time.  I glue all my clocks with hide glue and furniture I built prior to clocks I used regular glue.  None of it was reproduction antiques except for the hotel I built for.

You have to ask yourself.  Are you building furniture that it recyclable or furniture that is exquisite and made to last?

In this modern age of consumerism, women mostly like to replace their furniture every 24 months and many would like to replace it every six months if they could afford it.  So when you think about it; do you really think it’s going to end up in some antique shop or someone is going to bother themselves to repair it? No, it will end up at the city dump like most items.

Like I said earlier, unless your building something extraordinary like a secretary, highboy, fancy clocks or you do veneer work, all this unnecessary extra expenditure on glue pots and paying the ridiculously high costs of both fish and hide isn’t worth it. Rather invest your money into timber or a new tool or even some video or book where you will learn something that will benefit you in the long run than on these glues.

You know how much I love these glues and I won’t stop using them, but the truth is the truth and there’s no point in deluding yourselves to think otherwise.


4 thoughts on “Trial & Error with Fish Glue

  1. I liked your conclusion…
    And I add my personal experience. White PVA glue is cheap and ready to go every single time, always have a botle of it, but it peal my fingers skin (some kind of skin allergy) – as I don’t like to use gloves – animal protein glue is my 1st choice! 😉


  2. I think each maker (whatever it is) has to decide for themselves what bonding method or material to hold their creation together.

    Yellow glue and high glue (liquid or otherwise) are used in my shop, not for the reason you stated here (that the work wold appear in a museum). I use good joinery and glue suitable for a build, but I don’t care if my work will still be around after one hundred years (let alone more), or if it broke, whether someone would be able to reverse the joint and fix it. Who knows what will happen after two hundred years? The custom piece you made may have found its way to the landfill before it had broken.

    I doubt that in the future (hundreds of years later) people would care about fixing something made by the average furniture makers. Some people may still know a chair by Sam Maloof is worth fixing but the rest of consumers may have no attachment to a piece made by John Doe or Jane Roe that was passed down by their ancestors.

    If anyone today feels good about using high glue, fish glue or whatnot, they don’t really need a justification, as long as the glue proves to be as strong and long lasting as they want it to be,


    1. I think in a hundred years if our civilisation even lasts that long, someone will attempt to fix it if it’s a worthy item to be fixed. So it does matter what type of glue is being used, but as you said you need to feel good about what your using and not need any justification in using it. I do feel good about using animal glues and I highly recommend them. They have received unworthy and unjustified criticism over the years, but having said that I don’t want to give the impression that everyone should use it and if they don’t, they are lesser of a craftsman. Like you said, whatever one is comfortable with is what they should use.


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