I will say it as I see it

Back in 1998, I started my clock making business. I worked very long hours for very little return. I did this until 2010, upon which I said to my wife that I need to get a job to make proper money. During that time, I never fully gave up on making clocks. Anything I made from them was extra money in my pocket. Besides me now working and making clocks, I studied 3d. I learned 3ds max, AutoCAD, inventor, Photoshop, illustrator, premier, word and excel. I became proficient in them all and couldn’t land a job to the lack of work experience and self-confidence. I stopped making clocks in 2017 and started the magazine. Now in 2021, I started woodworking professionally again, hoping things have changed and that I would make a decent living out of it. This is my life in a nutshell.

I’ve been hand tool woodworking since my early 20s. In 2010, I bought machinery for the first time. They lasted 12 months in my shop before I realised I never needed them to woodwork; I fell for the marketing garbage, like most of us do. I paid a hefty price for it because I lost money on the sales. In the meantime, I’m up early every morning, working every day in my shop, sawing, planing, chopping, gluing and cursing and I’m no better off than I was when I started in 1998. Actually, my skills have improved since, but this freedom I’ve read countless of times and getting off the conveyor belt hasn’t come to fruition. I cannot say there’s no money in it because there could be for you, but there’s no money in it for me. Does this mean I’ll give up? No, how can I give up the craft I love? It’s like when you’re trying to have a baby for years and then your doctor tells you she can’t have children. Would you then leave her? Well, not if you love her, and that’s the same with my craft.

I’m saying as I see it. There’s no money in the craft. There’s plenty of enjoyment and a good physical workout but actual money to where it will give you a normal life, UHM no. But there is for those who teach (popular teachers) and those that sell books and sell tools, but you to actually get something back from what they sold you, um, nope.

The internet is full of so many lies from the largest corporation to the smallest guy. People find a niche and then exploit it and the vulnerable fall for it. When people tell you not to go to university and get a degree, kindly tell them to piss off. That degree can land you a well-paying job that would support you and your craft, and now you have the best of both worlds.

Maybe in the USA you could make something out of the craft. Heck I know people who have made money from the stuff they’ve made there, but here in Australia it’s a hard sell to make it.

Don’t worry, nothing is changing here. I will continue to post like I always do because I want to pass on what I learn and what I know. I’m just venting.

Hide Glue – New Information Part III

THE USE OF HIDE GLUE AS AN ADHESIVE

For general adhesive purposes, hide glues are prepared in the range of 25 to 50 percent dry glue concentrations, depending on the test grade of the glue selected, the mechanical requirements employed for applying the adhesive, and the nature of the gluing operation.  With a specific dry glue, the glue-water ratio is so adjusted that the fluidity of the glue solution is adequate for processing requirements.  In most cases a paint-like flow is desirable.  The higher-testing (meaning higher gel strength, gram values) grades of glue will take more water for a given fluidity than the lower-testing grades, and in many applications this feature permits lower unit adhesive costs.  In other applications the lower-testing grades are more suited, where a film of low water content is desired.  In most applications the cost of the glue is insignificant to the value of the substrates being glued.

The unique property of hide glue in jelling when a solution is cooled makes hide glue admirably suited for many industrial uses as an adhesive.  If a process requires a quick-setting glue, a correct gluing technique may be developed by establishing the proper relationship between a specific grade of glue (high test), the concentration (heavy), and working temperature (low) of the solution.  Other outside factors with a tendency to speed-up the set are:  low temperature of the object to be glued, low room temperature and humidity, a thin spread of glue, an absorbent surface, and the presence of air currents around the glue film.  By proper control of these factors, the conversion from the liquid to the jelly state may be sped up so as to result in a fast initial set.

On the other hand, if a slow setting property or a long “tack” period is desired, it can be had by making changes in the reverse direction in any or all of the above factors.

The time of “set” may be as short as one minute or less or as long as five or even ten minutes depending on the conditions. In other words, as an adhesive, hide glue has a wide working range which is adjustable to practically any set of conditions.  The time of “set” can easily be extended with the addition of a small amount of urea or even common table salt (refer to Dry Mix Ratio/Density page 14). 

Once a specific glue best adapted to the desired results has been selected, its flexibility of use permits it to remain a standard.  Simple adjustments in concentration or temperature or adding a gel depressant will easily offset changes in ambient room temperature and humidity.

The guiding principle in adhesive work using hide glues is that of depositing a very thin, uniform, continuous adhesive film at the surfaces to be bonded.  Warm hide glue solutions as prepared and applied for adhesive purposes deposit such desired films.  The cooling effect at the time of application promotes a rapid jelling action of the glue film, thereby holding the adhesive at these surfaces, eliminating undue bleeding of the adhesive into the stock being glued, providing ample tackiness, and insuring maximum overall economy and efficiency. 

Stylistic and decorative processes and techniques

Constructional style and stylization

In general, furniture can be designed in two styles, one of which is constructional in that the appearance of the piece reflects the way it is put together, and the other of which is stylized in that the appearance of the piece conceals the way it is put together, the principle being to make the joints flush with adjoining members so as to give the impression that the object is made in one piece.

Examples of furniture made in a purely constructive style are forms employing wickerwork or bamboo, in which even the greatest display of imaginativeness in design and pattern serves to make the construction stronger and more resilient.

Constructional details and joints are not normally visible and are, therefore, seldom of aesthetic importance to the external appearance, but joints can be emphasized artistically. The Greek form of chair known as the klismos demonstrates its joints boldly in the form of solid junctions holding the legs, seat, and stiles together. The curvature of the legs and of the backrest suggests elasticity. Extremely delicate joinery with invisible joints can be deliberately indicated by means of inlay work, examples of which can be seen in ancient Egyptian furniture.

Stick-back and tubular steel chairs are also examples of constructional styles. The stick-back chair consists of a solid seat into which the legs, back staves, and possibly the armrests are directly mortised (joined by a tenon or projecting part of one piece of wood and mortise or groove in the other piece). Furniture of bent steel tubing, particularly tables, chairs, and stools, was manufactured in Germany in the 1920s. In this fashion a new constructional style arose, for the steel tube, which makes smaller dimensions possible, was so strong that it opened up the possibility of completely new designs. Bent steel tubes form a resilient structure.

In contrast to the constructional style is stylization, in which there is no internal conformity between the motifs and the strength of the joints. There have been any number of examples of stylization throughout the history of furniture. In both Egyptian and Chinese furniture the joints might be deliberately concealed by painting or lacquer. Chinese furniture can also appear stylized in the sense that it gives an impression of having been put together in a more constructive manner than is actually the case. (In other words, stylization attempts to make joints flush with adjoining members so as to give the impression of an uninterrupted, harmonious, or sensitive contour. When two pieces of wood are joined together with a modern, strong glue, the resulting joint will be so rigid that, in the event of a severe shock to the piece, the wood itself will be more likely to break than will the actual joint.)

A good example of stylization is to be found in French furniture made around the middle of the 18th century. In French Rococo commodes, only the back is straight. The serpentine front and sides meet in sharp corners, at which the joints are covered by brass mounts. The number and position of the drawers is concealed by an overall pattern of veneer and bronze ornament that disregards the edges of the drawers. (In a number of cases the bronze mounts on the front consist of fanciful handles and keyhole escutcheons but are never emphasized the way they are in corresponding English commodes, even in the case of false drawer fronts or drawers provided with moulding to protect the veneer.) The fully developed French Rococo armchair has no visible joints. The back, arms, and frame form a continuous whole; the difference between supported and supporting members is concealed. There are no stretchers (horizontal rods) between the legs to strengthen the construction, which is solid enough by reason of the thick dimensions of the members that meet in the seat frame. To counteract the impression of heaviness in these essentially thick dimensions, the wood is moulded to give a sensation of lightness without in any way weakening the construction. A chair of this type when painted or gilded looks as if it had been made in one piece.

Hide Glue – New Information Part II

GENERAL PROPERTIES OF HIDE GLUE

In physical form, hide glues are odorless, dry, hard materials ranging in color from amber to dark brown.  Generally they are supplied in ground form but occasionally pearl and flake forms are available.  Form and color have no relationship to grading or quality. Ground forms are easiest to use as they more readily absorb water.  They are stable in ambient storage conditions under which they have an unlimited shelf life.

PREPARATION OF HIDE GLUE FOR USE

The preparation of hide glue is exceedingly simple.  The proper amounts of dry glue and cold water are mixed together and the glue allowed to soak until swollen.  The swollen glue is then melted at 140o F (mild heat) and stirred until dissolved.  The glue solution is then ready for immediate use.

While hide glue will stand considerable abuse in its preparation and use, there are a few basic considerations which will enable the user to always obtain maximum economy and uniformity of working properties in the handling of this material.

  1. Use Clean Equipment

      Clean equipment means a clean glue solution with best results.

2.  Weigh Glue and Water

      Correct glue-water ratios insure uniform, consistent working properties of the glue solution.  While it is best to weigh the glue and water, adequate control can be obtained with careful volume measurement (refer to Dry Mix and Ratio/Density page 15).      

  • Soak in Clean, Cold Water

      For general adhesive work the dry glue should always be soaked in clean, cold tap water to insure speedy glue preparation.  Typical ground glue will require 30-45 minutes to soak.  Coarser ground glues will require 1 to 2 hours to thoroughly swell; flake glues, from 2 to 8 hours, depending on thickness of the flake. 

  • Pour Dry Glue into Water

      To minimize possible lumping and to insure speedy glue preparation, the dry glue is preferably added slowly to the cold water with constant stirring until the dry glue is wet-out.  Then let stand to allow the ground glue to become swollen.

  • Use Gentle Heat

      When glue has been thoroughly soaked until soft, it is then preferably heated in a jacketed tank or pot.  Swollen glue dissolves readily at temperatures from 110o to 150o F with gentle stirring.  A glue temperature in excess of 140o to 150o F is unnecessary as it, increases evaporation losses, slows the speed of set, and introduces needless process variables.

  • Preparation Equipment

      A jacketed mixing kettle permits optimum preparation of glue solutions.  This kettle may be large or small, depending on specific needs.  For very small batches a “double boiler” is satisfactory or the use of a water-jacketed glue pot.  The “jacketed” feature permits even heat transfer, more uniform storage temperatures, and minimizes local overheating.  It is desirable to keep the glue covered so that evaporated moisture will be returned to the glue pot and thereby maintain a more uniform mixture.

Hide Glue – New Information Found Part 1

I’ve done extensive research and have written several articles on this glue. I thought that’s all the information there is until I met Eugene. He was kind enough to release a 15 page dossier on this glue. He’s been working with and selling hide glue since the 50s and he has summarized and simplified the information of the last 70 years of working knowledge in 15 pages. Make a cuppa, sit back and have a read. I will not post all 15 pages in one post, but will do so in several posts over several days.

BY: EUGENE  B  THORDAHL

“40 Centuries Old And Still Holding”

INTRODUCTION

Nearly 4,000 years ago, the Egyptians were using hide glue for their furniture adhesive.  This is proven by chairs found in Pharaoh’s tombs and by stone carvings depicting the process of gluing different woods.  Hide glue is still in use today for wood gluing and over the years much has been written about the manufacture and use of hide glue for hundreds of other adhesive applications.  With the evolution of synthetic (ready to use) adhesives, hide glue has taken a lesser role in industry but has maintained a major role in repair and restoration of antique furniture, reproduction of period furniture, restoration, production and repair of musical instruments as well as numerous other applications.

HIDE GLUE PRODUCTION – FROM HIDES?

Yes, from animal hides, almost any animal but primarily from cattle hides.  This is simply because of the abundance of cattle hides due to the enormous world wide consumption of beef and subsequent tanning of hides for leather.  The trimmed hide pieces (too small or irregular shapes to provide useable leather) are shipped to the hide glue plant.  The glue manufacturing process is basically the following:

  • wash to remove dirt
  • soak in lime water for 60-90 days
  • wash to remove hair and lime
  • neutralize with acid, drain, wash & drain
  • add water, heat to 110-120o F for 2-4 hours (called an extraction)
  • drain off the dilute glue solution, evaporate, chill, dry, grind
  • repeat last 2 steps 3-4 times to extract all of the glue with the temperature being increased 20-25o F each time.

The process can lend itself to “home brewing” but it is messy and the aroma is found by some to be less than exciting!  Your best bet is to buy the finished product from a reliable supplier.

CHEMICAL COMPOSITION

Hide glue is a protein derived from the simple hydrolysis of collagen which is a principal protein constituent of animal hides.  Collagen, hide glue and gelatin are very closely related as to protein and chemical composition.  An approximate chemical composition for glue is:

                        Carbon                                   51-52%

                        Hydrogen                              6-7%

                         Oxygen                                  24-25%

                        Nitrogen                                 18-19%

                                                                         100 %

The molecular weight of hide glue has a wide range from 20,000 – 250,000.  The higher the gel strength, the higher the molecular weight.

TESTING HIDE GLUE AND STANDARD GRADES

Peter Cooper, founder of the domestic glue industry in the early 1800’s, is generally credited with developing the standard methods of testing and grading glue.  The standard is recognized worldwide.  The main components are viscosity and gel strength (or jelly strength which is measured in grams).

The viscosity and jelly determinations are made on a 12.5 percent solution of hide glue, employing 15 +/- 0.01 g of commercially dry glue with 105 +/- 0.2 g of distilled water at 25o +/- 2o C using a standard 150 ml test bottle.  The viscosity is determined by timing the outflow of 100 ml of the glue solution at 60.0o C from a calibrated glass pipette under closely controlled conditions.  The millipoise value is determined by proper reference to the time of outflow in seconds and the constants of the specially calibrated pipette.  The jelly value in Bloom grams is obtained by subjecting the viscosity sample to rigidly controlled gelation in a water bath maintained at 10o +/- 0.1o C for 17 hours, followed by measurement of the force in grams required to depress the surface of the glue jelly 4.0 mm by a mechanically loaded plunger approximately 0.5000 inches in diameter, using the Bloom gelometer.

A chart of Standard Grades follows.  Note the glue grade designation is the “Standard Mid-Point Grams”.

Standard Hide Glue Grades

Standard Mid-Point Grams  Range GramsStandard Millipoise ValueRange Millipoise ValuePeter Cooper Grade Designation
512496-529191183-1995A Extra
477461-494175167-1824A Extra
444428-460157152-1663A Extra
411395-427145138-1512A Extra
379363-394131125-137A Extra
347331-362121113-1241 Extra
315299-330111102-1121 Extra Special
283267-29810192-101No. 1
251237-2669283-911XM
222207-2368275-821X
192178-2067267-741-1/4
164150-1776360-661-3/8
135122-1495853-591-1/2
10895-1215347-521-5/8
8570-944437-461-3/4
5847-693428-361-7/8
3210-463020-27No. 2

GENERAL PROPERTIES:

            Moisture:                    10 – 15%

            pH                               6.0 – 7.5

            Form                           Dry Granular 8 – 10 Mesh

            Color                          Yellow/Amber to Brown

            Specific Gravity        1.27

A later discussion will present the value and reasons for using different grades.  Generally, the higher the gel strength (in grams):

  • the higher the molecular weight
  • the higher the viscosity
  • the faster the tack and set

the shorter time you have to complete a lamination

Bjorn Hide Glue

Eugene Bjorn Thordahl

I met this wonderful, kind, most knowledgeable man on the internet that’s still is in the hide glue business. This man has taught me in the last few days via email about hide glue that I have thought possible. I thought I knew it all, which is usually the opposite for me as I always say you never think you know it all because you close the doors to gaining knowledge. He has generously provided me with a 15 page document which I will release to you over the coming days in small batches as, according to the statistics, to keep your interests high, blog posts need to be small.

Eugene Bjorn Thordahl began work in the hide glue business back in the 50s for a corporation that had a monopoly in the hide glue business. They were the major suppliers to businesses, US and foreign governments worldwide. Eugene was in the thick of it all and worked for every department until he reached Vice President. Sadly, the business closed in the 1980s but this wasn’t the end. Eugene picked up where they left off and started Bjorn industries continuing to sell quality hide glue till this day and God willing for many more years to come.

Eugene sources his glue from the last manufacturer left In America M&H, which is well known for its manufacturing quality. This is the same supplier that Patrick Edwards buys from and Tools for working wood and any other quality woodworking store that sells hide glue. It is also the only source I have ever used. M&H uses preservatives to extend the life of the glue and dispels the awful odour that hide glue is infamously known for. They are made in granules as opposed to the pearl version which you will read in the coming posts on why granules are better than pearls. Make no mistake, though the quality between the two is identical.

Eugene has gained extensive knowledge on the subject more so than anyone I have ever met. He easily puts to rest some of the misinformation that’s out there on the world wide web.

P.S. I may sound harsh sometimes in my posts and I note that people have good intentions. They sadly parrot from one another like the blind leading the blind, so to speak, not fully comprehending the subject and therefore misinforming the masses via YouTube, blog posts and websites. When things go wrong, the user blames the glue rather than the source from the poor practices they picked up from.

As you can buy hide glue from the other suppliers I mentioned above and probably around the same price, what you cannot find with anyone else are the two forms available, which are “High Clarity” and “Regular Clarity” glue. The high clarity means that the join lines will be clear whilst regular clarity you will see the glue line, much like what you see with yellow glue and the Titebond III. In addition, he also offers various “Bloom Strengths.”

As for shipping to Australia, our spastic government has apparently imposed a six-page document that needs to be filled out to get it through customs. My only take on this would be to get it through a US shipping company like myus.com or others like it. I’m not entirely sure if that is the answer. I’m just saying it’s a possibility worth exploring.

Have a look around his website I’m sure you will be pleased with what you’ll see and if you’ve never used hide glue before, then give it a go and live a bit of history. Who knows, maybe you’ll end up throwing away your old glue bottles and replacing them with hide.

If you need to send him an email, avoid using the contact form on his website as none of my emails got through to him.

https://bjornhideglue.com

email at info@bjorn.net. or give him a call 704-953-2026

Other materials

Among other secondary materials in furniture making, glass has been used in the form of mirror glass or as a purely decorative, illusionistic element in cabinets and writing desks. Italian craftsmen have made glass furniture; that is, wooden furniture covered with silvered glass in various colours. Ivory and other forms of bone were used as inlay material in Egyptian furniture. During the 17th and 18th centuries, ivory was widely used for inlay work in cupboard doors and table tops and expensive Continental furniture.

Tortoiseshell was also used, as a costly inlay on a silvered ground, in furniture made during the Renaissance and Baroque periods. Mother-of-pearl has been used, particularly as inlay material and for keyhole escutcheons. Marble and, to a certain extent, plaster of Paris have been used, especially in the 18th century, for the tops of chests of drawers and console tables, and in the 19th century for the tops of washstands and dressing tables.

In Victorian England, papier-mâché (a moulding material made of paper pulped with glue and other additives) was used to make such items of furniture as fire screens, small tables and chairs, and clock cases. Finally, since World War II, various plastic materials have been used quite extensively in the construction of chairs with seats and backs moulded in one piece and provided with a metal base.

My New Saw Vice

As you know, I annihilated my Disston saw vice. Now, I know I said I didn’t drop it, but as fate has it, I remembered I did, which caused a small hairline crack I didn’t pick up visually. At the time, it landed on ground dirt. but if it landed on the concrete, it would have broken.

I scouted the net for ideas and I came across this vice on some website I don’t remember which. He said that LN uses this type of vice on their saws. It doesn’t take long to build, but it is worth the time to invest in building it right.

It has an upper lip which I glued a strip of leather for a better, stronger grip or holding power on the saw plate. I did this on both sides.

Metal

Metals have been used since antiquity for making and ornamenting furniture. Splendid Egyptian pieces, such as the thrones and stool that were found in the tomb of the youthful Tutankhamen (14th century BCE), were rich in gold mounts (decorative details). In ancient Greece, bronze, iron, and silver were used for making furniture. Finds that were buried in the ashes of Pompeii and Herculaneum in Italy included tables with folding underframes and beds made partly or entirely of metal.

Throughout the Middle Ages the metal chair—for example, the 7th-century throne belonging to Dagobert I, king of the Franks—was used for special ceremonies.

Various examples of silver furniture have been preserved; not solid metal, they consist of embossed (decorated with relief) or chased (hammered) plates of silver fastened to a wooden core. Silver furniture was made for palaces in the days when monarchs amassed enormous wealth. In times of war, the silver mountings were melted down and turned into silver coins; it was thus that all the silver furniture disappeared from the royal palaces of France.

During the 18th and 19th centuries, iron furniture became a typical industrial product. Iron beds in particular became popular. Because they could be easily folded up, they were much in demand as camp beds; one used by Napoleon at St. Helena is a famous example. As ordinary beds in private homes or hotels, they could be decorated with brass ornaments such as big knobs screwed onto their posts. Iron has also been used for chairs; for instance, rocking chairs or, perhaps more frequently, garden chairs that can stand out in the rain, protected only by a coat of paint.

The possibilities of steel for furniture were explored in Germany during the 1920s, notably by architects associated with the Bauhaus, where architects, designers, and artists experimented with modern materials. Experiments were made with steel springs and chromium plated steel tubing. The genre was soon imitated, and tubular steel furniture became a symbol of functionalism. Since then, thinner tubing and plaited wire, with a resiliency similar to that found in wickerwork chairs have been used. Because of its lightness, aluminium became a furniture material.

Metal, however, is still employed primarily for locks, mounts, and hinges used on furniture or for purely ornamental purposes. In the Middle Ages, simply constructed chests demanded extensive use of iron bands to provide extra strength, and the ends of these bands were cut to form decorative shapes. Cabinets of the Renaissance and Baroque periods were decorated with mounts of pewter or bronze. Inlaid objects, decorated with material such as wood or ivory, set into the surface of the veneer furniture made at royal furniture workshops in France, especially so-called boulle furniture, were marked by an elaborate style of marquetry (patterns formed by the insertion of pieces of wood, shell, ivory, or metal into a wood veneer); they were influenced by Asian traditions, in which blue-tempered steel, brass, and copper were customarily used.

In the 17th and 18th centuries, especially in England and the American colonies, a refined style for furniture mounts, keyhole escutcheons (an ornamental shield around a keyhole), hinges, and the like, all based largely on Chinese models, was developed. The design of these mounts was dictated by a clear functional purpose, in contrast to contemporary French Rococo mounts, the majority of which were ornamental, often at the expense of utility. French bronze founders displayed great skill in making purely decorative mounts for the bodies of chests of drawers and protective mounts for corners and legs.