Doug Berch

Dulcimer Maker And Musician

cropped Dulcimer Builders and Makers 1 23

Tag: Hide Glue Page 2 of 3

Yet Another Reason I Prefer Using Hide Glue


Wood + Hide Glue = Dulcimers

Slowly but surely I am recovering from back surgery and lutherie has commenced in the form of cleaning and organizing the shop in short installments.

While cleaning out the shop I ventured into the quagmire of the closet; the dark, scary place where useful things mingle with forgotten somewhat-useful and mostly useless things from the past. Within this portal of doom lurk dead cans of finish, expired bottles of yellow glue, useless tools of questionable manufacture, parts of tools I do not own, mysterious objects that somehow made their way across time and space and into my workspace, etc.

And among these many things I found a small treasure; a box with 3 pounds of dry hide glue. This stuff is probably 3 years old and as good as the day I bought it.

And why, you might ask, do I consider this newsworthy?

Well, I also found a leaky box of very old epoxy that made an 8 inch round toxic puddle on one of the shelves. I have not used epoxy in years and I have no idea how long this oozing abomination has tainted the fine particle board shelf upon which it resides.

It is neither solid nor liquid but something in-between, something not of this world, something evil.

Hide glue does not do this! I’m adding this fact to the list of reasons I prefer hide glue.

Luckily most of the stuff I pried loose from this resinous swamp was going to get tossed anyway.

The real reason for this post?

I am avoiding going back upstairs to cleanup this awful mess!


Hide Glue Haiku

warming the glue pot

I thank animals now gone

hide glue is my friend


Traditional glue pot and brush

A New Five Dollar Glue Pot!

It’s a thrill a minute here today! Let it not be said that a dulcimer maker doesn’t lead an exciting life!

For several years I used this little water boiling contraption as my glue pot. I measured the temperature with a candy thermometer and marked the spot on the temperature dial that kept the water at 140°. It worked very well.

My old glue pot that went wacko. So long, it's been good to know ya!

Recently the thermostat had become very unreliable. The thermostat had a mind of it’s own and the temperature would often fluctuate wildly, usually towards suddenly boiling the water surrounding the little jar of hide glue inside. This overheats the glue and ruins it very quickly.

I can’t complain as the pot cost me $1.00 at a yard sale a few years ago.

Of I went hippity hop to the local big supermarket that sells everything one needs to live, depending on your life style.

And behold, I found this little crock-pot for $5.00. It takes a while to warm up but holds the water stable at about 135°. This is a little cooler than what I prefer but I haven’t noticed any significant difference when working with hide glue.

My new cool & groovy $5 glue pot!

It is also heavier than my old glue pot and sits more securely on the bench so it is less likely to get knocked over.


Keeping The Dulcimer Shop Warm

My wife and I live in a 100-year-old farm-house. What once were fields around us are now house-farms, but that is another story.

It is a challenge keeping the house comfortably warm but that too is another story.

My shop is in what once was an upstairs bedroom. Since I spend a lot of time there during the day I keep the heat set low in the rest of the house. If I’m doing lots of planing and sawing I like having the shop on the cool side because I get heated up pretty fast from the workout of using hand tools.

Edge-joining two boards with hot hide glue

When doing glue-ups I use a space-heater to warm up the shop. When using hide glue I heat the shop  70 ° F. If the room is much cooler than 70 ° F  hide glue will being to gel before I have time for proper assembly and clamping.

An old-style heated glue pot

The hide glue cooks in a double boiler at 140 ° F. The combined heat of the space-heater, the glue-pot and a halogen floor lamp quickly bring the temperature up to 70 ° F. This is one advantage of having a very small shop!

My highly effective third world electric glue pot

I have written other posts about why I love using hide glue. It is my glue-of-choice for assembling many parts of the dulcimers I make. I do use other adhesives where the qualities of hide glue are either not optimal or necessary.

But I love hide glue for its workability, strength, reversibility and most importantly the quality it adds to tone.

I Knocked Over My Glue Pot

I thought I’d get a little work done in the shop this afternoon.

I have a cold and I am not at my best so I figured I’d keep it simple and glue some braces to the backs of the three dulcimers I’m currently making.

Here is my apprentice mixing me a fresh batch of hide glue.


While the glue was drying I thought I’d clean up the shop a bit.

The shop vacuum hose gently grazed the cord of the little crock pot that keeps my hide glue warm and the pot gently fell to the floor, delicately spilling warm water everywhere.

Luckily I had the lid on the jar of hide glue and it didn’t spill a drop. And the sawdust on the floor soaked up a lot of the water too.

Not a bid deal, not even a big mess but enough of an adventure for me to decide that even though I love my work it is still work and I have a cold and should take it easy.

So I guess its time to enjoy the dancing monkeys!


The two musicians on the left play a wonderful rendition of “Dancing Queen,” the favorite song of Marjorie, the young lady on the right.

Her two older sisters often tease her about dancing by herself  but I told her that they are just jealous of the attention she is getting from the sax player.

Doug Berch & Dulcimer Makers