Materials Spotlight: Hot Hide Glue

How do I love thee? Let me count the ways!

Hot hide glue is the ideal glue for many applications in instrument repair and rebuilding, and it has been the adhesive of choice for centuries, until the rise of synthetic glues in the 20th Century.

For wood to wood or leather to wood applications, HHG in this context is hard to beat! A quick rundown of pros and cons:


  • sets up quickly, allowing a higher rate of productivity
  • depending on nature of joint, high tack means clamping is often not required
  • viscosity can be adjusted (somewhat) to purpose
  • dries to form a “brittle” joint, which does not creep
  • water soluble, so completely reversible


  • sets up quickly, so workflow must be organized beforehand and executed efficiently!
  • needs constant source of heat at steady temperature, to maintain working temperature
  • water soluble, subject to moisture infiltration and therefore not suitable in warm environments with elevated humidity

So we can see that HHG has a couple of characteristics which may either be good or bad, depending on how we look at it.

The property of reversibility is a huge plus, where restoration is concerned. It allows a rebuilder to dismantle and break apart wood and leather joints without excessive damage to the constituent parts. And by rebuilding in the same manner, it pays forward the same courtesy to future restorers.

To make use of HHG, you need three basic ingredients: glue granules (sold at suppliers to fine woodworking trade), water, and heat. The source of heat can be any number of things, but again it should be a source of steady heat.

For me personally I have gotten my glue granules from Lee Valley or from Player Care. For the glue pot I use the industry standard “Hold Heet” automatic glue pot, from Emco. It’s available at any number of places online, and it’s the only glue pot you’ll ever need.

Emco “Hold Heet” glue pot

Happy gluing!

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