View Full Version : How would you make glue
Did anyone watch the TV programme Time Team last night? In it a shield was made and it was covered with leather.
The glue used to stick the leather to the shield was made from milk, vinegar and water that had wood ash soaked in it for a while.
I realised that I know very little about making glue in the old ways. I was wondering if you guys might share what you know about making glue from natural resourses?
Hide glue: boil hide scrapings or rawhide (you can also use sinew) until the boiling breaks down the skin and leaves a thin watersoluble glue. Boil more to thicken, and leave the glue to dry by pouring onto a flat pan or something similar (if left in a deep pot / casserole or whatever you use when boiling the stuff, it will eventually turn bad and smelly before it dries). This glue is very good and strong, but unfortunately it will dissolve in water. When using the glue you will have to dissolve in water and use as ordinary glue. It will gel quite quickly, but you can make it liquid again with heat.
Pitch glue: Sap from most conifers such as pine etc makes excellent glue when boiled and thickened. Gather it with sticks where it seeps from wounds or swells into blisters beneath the bark. Heat / boil to let the turpentine evaporate, leaving only thick resin behind. During this process you may also want to filter out any bark or debris. For the pitch glue to harden you need to ad some sort of catalyst. This could be fine wood ashes (makes it hard and brittle), charred powdered eggshell (makes it sort of flexible - at least more so than the wood ashes), and some even say that you can add bees wax - I have not tried the last part, so I can not comment on that. Experiment with different additives to get the quality and kind of glue you want. When making "stoneage" knives I fix the blades into the shaft with a mixture of pitch and finely powdered charcoal (works similar to the ash) and a small amount of nettle fibers (or similar plantfibers). Works very well !
I know of a Swedish guy who recently hunted warthogs successfully in South Africa with flint tipped arrows, where the arrowpoints was fastened with the pitch / charcoal mixture only. None of the heads came loose.
Tar made of birch bark. It will take too much space here to describe this process, but it is similar to the way they made charcoal in the old days. I think that Ray Mears demonstrated a small scale version of how to make this birch tar on one of his dvds (the Belarus version I think). Good stuff, and also good as an insect repellant (to a certain extent - the buggers seems to bite me no matter what I use to try to repel them !).
This is what I have made and used. Involves some work and may be quite smelly (specially the hide glue), but easy to make.
Thanks! I notice you make 'stoneage' knives. I'm just getting into making knives and I want to use pitch to fix the handles.
Can I ask you how you collect your pitch and also how do you incorperate the nettle fibres into the resin glue please?
I know this might be a bit off topic but I'm struggling a bit with this, hopefully the post will be allowed - just this once...please :-D
I usually gather the pitch sap from pine trees or spruce with a stick. I mainly take pitch from open wounds in the trees, but may also punch a hole in sap blisters if I find large ones.
Everything is collected in a tin, which also is used for boiling the stuff on the fire (take care, the turpentine fumes will ignite quite easy). Boil and when liquid you may also filter through grass or something similar to get rid of bark and other debris.
When making the charcoal / pitch glue I usually mix the charcoal when the pitch is very liquid. Then I let the stuff cool for a while, but just before it sets hard I scoop it out and roll into thin sticks. These can be used as ordinary hot melt glue. When you are going to use it, you just heat the tip of the stick and smear the stuff on whatever you are going to glue. It sets quickly, so you may want to heat it a second time when smeared onto say the flintblade and handle before fixing the two together.
The nettle fibers are added just before smearing onto the blade. I usually take a small amount of fibers and tie around the base of the blade. Then smear hot glue on that, and thoroughly mix the fibers and glue before adding more glue. The fibers work in a similar way as iron reinforcements in concretebuildings. However they might burn if you are using fire for heating. Donít use too much fiber as this will weaken the bond and not let the glue fasten to whatever you are trying to glue.
Pine pitch and shellac was used in old times to fasten the tang into the handle on traditional Norwegian (noggin) knives. Today most Norwegian knifemakers use a two component epoxy glue, but there are still a few people who use shellac.
For my modern style knives, and all blades of steel I use epoxy, but for the "stoneage" knives the pitchglue seems more appropriate.
Thanks for the info. I'm looking forward to experimenting with this. :-D I've read some great reports about using pitch for securing handles.
I had real problems with Pitch Glue. It seems to set in milliseconds! So by the time i have transferred it to the arrow, put the flint or feather inplace its set. I also end up with a gooey mess from boiling it. So had assumed that it just nneded gentle heating to liquify it.
Any chance of writing a full on Glue tutorial ?
Rich... I saw a bloke doing this at a re-enactment display a few years ago. He made his glue over a 'cooking fire' ie all the wood burnt down to coals, and when he was afixing the flint with the glue to the shaft he did it in the heat of the fire..... only when he was happy with it (alot of poking, proding and smoothing with a stick) did he take it out of the heat and let it set.
Hmm Guess you had to be there Ed :-?
I'm very interested in getting this right - but Rich is right, the pitch glue does go off real quick or rather I found it forms a skin that wont let it stick; then it's solid in no time. I haven't tried to glue anything yet but when I boiled down the little I got the other day I noticed this skin forming real quick when away from the heat.
I can't help wondering how a wooden handle would be glued to a tang without marking the wood with the heat. Maybe the handle would be applied in a semi finished state, burnt in the gluing proccess and then cleaned up and finished after glueing. I guess this would be okay as long as the wood didn't fracture or split with the heat, but some how I don't think that's right.
I know a fella on another forum that uses pitch glue a lot. I'll put it to him and post his response.