Video Series on Making Quality Hide Glue

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Howdy folks.  I’ve been MIA on the Paleotechnics blog for a while.  I spent quite a bit of my time, thought and energy this last year focusing on recovering my health and on audio/visual stuff for making videos.  The good news is that my health has been considerably better and I’m getting pretty well set up for shooting decent quality videos, though I still have a lot of progress ahead of me in both goals.

I’m shooting a video series on making high grade hide glue.  At least that is the goal, we’ll see when I test the glue after it’s finished, or maybe have it tested.  The third video, on liming, is uploading to YouTube as I’m typing this.  The approach is a sort of learn as you follow along kind of thing, going through the process of turning a cattle hide from Tamara’s recent cattle processing class into hide glue.  Every time I go to work on the skin, I take some video and edit it down.  One section is sort of a lecture type deal with some chalkboard action, one is on fleshing and, aside from the liming one uploading now, the others will be de-hairing and de-liming, cooking and pouring, then finally cutting and drying.  Maybe at some point there will be one on testing the finished glue.

In the first video I got off to a rough start.  I had just done a shot the night before (LDI, Low Dose Immunotherapy, or LDA) that is something like an allergy shot for systemic autoimmune type issues (including lyme disease related things for you lymies out there).  I was pretty wonky from the initial immune reaction including a low grade fever for most of the day.  In spite of all that I had unusual energy and managed to flesh the entire skin and get it in the lime bath.  So, in the beginning I look kind of like a rat that was partially drowned and hung up overnight to dry and I’m fairly brain dead to boot, but I snap out of it pretty quick, so hang in there!  The LDA Shot seemed to work though!  I’m getting the next one soon and I’m hopeful that I will continue to feel increasingly better and able to bring you good content more often.

This hide glue series will be fairly long, but there are things in there to learn beyond making hide glue.  Little snippets about other stuff relating to tanning skins and such inevitably work their way in.  No process is an island after all.  So far these videos have been decidedly lacking in popularity and the total number of people that really get a lot out of this will probably not be that many.  But it will be there when people are ready for it, and that is most of the reason I do this stuff at this point, as a reference archive and so it doesn’t all die with me one day.  Personally, I think it’s really cool, even though I’ve so far mostly restrained myself from going on long tangents about multiple related processes and ideas.  Poking around looking at other hide glue videos on youtube, a lot (or most?) of them use rawhide chew toys cut up in pieces.  Nothing wrong with that in context I suppose, but that has never been what we, or the genesis of Paleotechnics, has ever been about.  I’m definitely bringing you something closer to the ground up version.

The link below goes to the main Playlist into which all videos in the series will be placed as they come out.  I think anyone with any kind of google account, like Gmail, can subscribe for updates.  My channel, for now, is a mixed bag of stuff I get up to.  I’m also currently also doing a series on amateur apple breeding, which will follow my progress over the years attempting to breed up some new red fleshed apples here at the Turkeysong experimental homestead.  For the hide glue series,  I’m in the dehairing/refleshing/deliming process now, so that one should be up soon.  When finished, I will probably sell the glue on Etsy.  If that works, maybe I’ll add artisan hide glue making to my list of little income sources.  Artisanal hide glue for artisanal artisans, you know instrument makers, fine artists who use traditional materials, fine woodworkers that want their furniture to be fully repairable in the future and the likes of them.  People who are keepin’ it real!  See ya…

 

 

 

Lampblack, what it is and what it’s good for

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Lampblack is a form of carbon.  You can think of it as something like very, very finely divided charcoal.  Because it is so incredibly fine, a small amount covers a large area giving an intense black color.  It forms the basis of the best traditional black inks and has been used to many other ends from shoe polish to blackening gun sights.  Lamblack’s extreme opacity and complete resistance to fading are excellent characteristics for use in the arts

Lampblack can be made from burning oily or resinous materials, while collecting the resulting soot.  The pitch of pine trees and other conifers make good lamp blacks, as do oils burned with a wick.  It has also traditionally been collected from the inside of oil lamp mantles (the clear glass covering over oil lamps), thus the name.  The trick to producing it yourself is to burn the material in such a way that combustion is incomplete.  When combustion is complete, the carbon is fully burned, but if the flame is interrupted, or just plain inefficient, some of the carbon remains as soot along with other unburned chemicals.  The rising black soot can be collected on a metal plate, bowl or flat stone.

Using a large and lumpy, or long, wick will usually create a lot of soot.  Another way to create incomplete combustion is to interrupt the flame.  You may have noticed that when an object is held in a candle flame, soot results.  When the wick is trimmed or made properly and the flame is burning cleanly, the carbon will be completely burned to up at the tip of the flame and no soot results.  The truth is that it is somewhat challenging to make wicks which do NOT soot!  The modern candle wick is an exception, not the rule.  But for making lampblack, you want a whole LOT of soot, so make that flame as dirty as possible.

Flame interrupted.

Flame interrupted.  Note, the soot on the right as the flame combustion is disrupted.  Either making an inefficient wick or disrupting the flame, or both, will result in the production of lampblack.

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Hide Glue Part II: Glue making, the basic essentials

about hide glue headerBy Steven Edholm

Making hide glue, is well within the reach of anyone with access to the necessary materials, and is a great addition to your skill set.  In part one I discussed hide glue in general, what it is, and some of it’s strengths and weaknesses.  This article is a combination of personal experience and research into technical aspects of glue making.  Like most people,  I started my glue making career boiling down hide shavings and stray hock skins, without any further preparation.  Glue strong enough for many uses can be made with little care and marginal materials, but over time and with the input of  glue making professionals of the 19th and early 20th century, I found that a little care goes a long way toward making stronger, prettier and better smelling, glue   Here are the most important basic concepts and steps in making very high quality hide glue.

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Clarity is a good sign. opaque glue is not necessarily bad glue, but clear glue generally indicates that care was taken in processing.

Common materials for glue making are:  Skin (including fish skins), fish air bladders, sinew scraps, and antler.  (Bone can be used to make a glue, but it is harder to make and inferior to glue from the sources we’ll be talking about.) (more…)

Hide Glue part I : Meet Hide Glue

about hide glue headerThis is the first part in what will hopefully be a two or three, or even four, part series on Hide Glue.  Very few people are making really high quality glue these days.  The plan is to provide a solid introduction with practical steps to making high quality glue, and to cover the basics of using it.  Following posts will have to wait for time, energy and pictures.  You can subscribe on the right to receive notification of new posts via email so you don’t have to stay glued to your screen.

Collagen Glue, aka hide glue or animal glue, is made from the parts of animal bodies which contain large amounts of collagen.  Collagen is abundant in animal bodies, but certain parts are highly concentrated sources of relatively pure collagen of the type useful for making glue.  Commonly used glue materials are skin (including fish skins), sinews (the fibers which connect bones to muscles) and antler.  Fish air bladders have been used to make an especially strong glue.  The common practice of using skin scraps to make glue has given us the term Hide Glue, which is generally used for all collagen glues regardless of the raw material used to produce it.  The materials are cooked long and slow to dissolve the collagen, followed by drying the resulting gelatin which is then reconstituted in water as needed.

There is a misunderstanding that glue is made from hooves.  The horny outer covering of hooves does not contain useful collagen.  Hoof sheaths and horns are more physiologically related to hair and are primarily composed of keratin which does not go into solution when cooked in water.  The bones and ligaments inside the hoof do contain a lot of collagen and have commonly been used to by glue boilers to make glue and neatsfoot oil.  Making glue from the whole lower legs is not generally a good choice for home producers due to contamination from fats and other unwanted substances.  If you try to make glue from the hoof sheath itself, it won’t work.  I know, I’ve tried.  Instead, I recommend extracting some of the glue making parts from the lower legs and feet and then using just those, but that is for another post. (more…)