How to make Horse Glue?

In the crappy old Westerns and Bugs Bunny cartoons that pretty much formed my thought processes as a child, they would always threaten to send the old horse to the glue factory. The question is a) Did this really happen? and b) If so, what’s the recipe for making horse glue?

“Un cheval, pas de glue. Pas de cheval, beaucoup de glue.” --Eddie Izzard


Hide glue is made by soaking the animal hides in lime water and boiling the hides in water. There are many other types of glue, however. Some are made from casein (a milk protein), from fish, and from synthetic materials.

Saturday Night Live did a fake commercial about “all-natural” horse glue which described the glue making process as chopping off the hooves of a horse and then boiling the ex-feet in a big giant open vat. Yum!

Apparently that’s pretty close to the truth… According to this Google cache page, you can make glue out of milk. Fun! The glue making protein casein in milk is apparently also found in horse’s hooves, presumably in higher amounts.

Franklin (now owned by Titebond, I think) still makes a hide glue formulated somehow to stay liquid in bottles. It should be available at your local Home Depot. You can also still buy old style hide glue out of catalogs and at the better woodworking stores. It comes in flakes and has to be heated in a little pot. Nowadays, you use a thing which is a glue pot inside of a pot of water, like used to be used to heat baby bottles (before microwave ovens). I’ve also heard of people using old coffee mugs on those coffee cup warmer mini-hotplate thingies. In the old days, they’d heat the hide glue in little metal pots hung over a fire.

Hide glue has its advantages, which why it’s still around. I use it in veneer work because it is slower to dry and so allows the user to get the piece exactly in place before it “sets”. Helpful hint: once it’s in [place, set it with a clothes iron. If you screw up, more heat from the iron will allow you to peel the veneer piece off.

The exact opposite of this slow-setting glue would be industrial strength contact cememt, which locks up immediately on contact. For whatever, reason, I have seen contact cement recommended for veneer work. My supposition is that this recommendation comes from veneer salesmen and psychotherapists in need of more customers.

Anyway, I suppose you could take hooves and chop them into flakes and see if indirect heat turns them to gluey goo. I have a Dog that I give hooves to (“chew-hooves”, from the pet store), but as they generally smell awful after being exposed to 100 degree Dog salvia, I’ll leave the experimentaion to others.

in the theater dept of my college we euphemistically called it “protein glue” and used it to make homemade scene paint. (a very cheap and practical approach, highly recommended – although you need to clean the paint off of your flats when the show’s over because it does start to rot, not a pretty smell)

I believe that all the proteinaceous (sp?) parts, such as hooves, skin, etc are reduced, the result was a kind of powder that we mixed with water, and in our case, pigments.

Hide glue is also used by musicial instrument builders and repairmen. If you want to see how and why they use it check out this page.

But why horses and not any other animals?

“Hide” type glues are not made exclusively from horses. Other animals (rabbits, fish etc) are used depending on the desired properties of the glue.

Here is an interesting discussion of different animal glue types.

WAG for horses and not other animals…

What else are you going to do with your horse carcass? Most other animals found on farms are eaten. The skin of cattle is turned into leather, thus not used for glue. But horses are on the farm as muscle power, not food source. When they die, you have a big slab of something most people don’t consider food.

What to do? Turn the meat into dog food, turn the skin/hooves into glue.

While we’re sorta on the topic, does anyone know which glues out there do or do not use animal products?

Being a strict vegetarian, I would like to send my kids to school with animal free glue.

I believe gorilla glue doesn’t use actual gorillas. I use that.