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How to: Make Glue

Posted by on 2011/04/27

Throughout SurviveWhatever we’ll be doing things that require glue.  If glue can’t be scavenged in your scenario, you’re going to need to figure out how to make your own.

Pitch Glue:  Requires Charcoal and Pine Trees.

In the wild, Pine trees are a valuable resource.  You can make cordage out of the roots, you can make a tea from the needles that, while it may not taste fantastic, will have some nutritional value, and the sap (pitch, tar) has no shit, like seven trillion uses.   Pine is a sappy tree, it will ooze sap from wounds that will harden into a resin and is easily collected.  Pine resin, pitch, is moderately flammable, and can be used as an accelerant in low intensity fires for short bright bursts of heat.

Pitch glue is made by mixing one part crushed (powdered) charcoal, and 2-3 parts pine sap.   First crush your charcoal into a fine powder, and heat your pine sap in a fireproof container (Clay pot, metal pan, etc) until it is fairly viscous.  Add your charcoal and stir.  As it cools it will harden, and bind whatever you need glued.  Reheating it will loosen the bond, meaning you can make a large batch of it all at once and heat it as you need it.   Pitch glue is sufficient for simple tasks like arrow-making.  Large clumps of pitch glue are also effective as a kind of bush-craft napalm.  Pine sap is also has limited applications for waterproofing.

The downside to pitch is how ridiculously sticky it is, and it’s a bitch to get off skin.


Hide Glue: Requires Raw Hide and Boiling

Hide glue is a stronger than pitch glue, and won’t break down when you heat it, instead, it will break down if soaked in water.
It’s really simple.  Take clean rawhide, soak it in water, and boil it. Keep boiling it until it breaks down into a goo.  Strain off the water to separate the goo, and pour the goo out onto a slab. As it dries, it will harden into a resin that can be chipped and flaked.  So do that, crushing it into granules for storage.  When you need to glue shit, you can soften the flakes in warm water until they liquify, and as they dry they will adhere.   There are lots of recipes for hide glue, but this is the easiest, most rudimentary method, that will yield a reasonable amount of a somewhat useful glue.

The most effective process for making hide glue involves a bit more.   You’ll need Lime, (the product of burning limestone, not the fruit) and some of the stomach acid of the animal who’s hide you’re breaking down.  So first, you carefully treat the hide by soaking it in a solution of water and lime, which over time will break the hide down, after a few hours, rinse the hide to remove excess lime and, in clean water add a splash of acid to neutralize the remaining lime, gradually raise the temperature.  The hide will begin to gel as the water heats up, and the gel can be drawn off and allowed to harden.

Hoof Glue: Requires acid

The strongest of the nature glues, bone and hoof glue is great for hot wood-on-wood action, making sturdy tools, sealing glass into frames, stiffening rope for bow strings, and lots of other stuff.  Hoof glue is made by crushing your hooves into small chunks, mixing them with a small amount of acid (the stomach acids of your hoofed animal will work) and boiling the whole thing.   Like other glues, Hoof glue hardens as it dries and can be stored in granules until needed, reactivated by hot water. It is not water proof, and will not become brittle as it dries, like hide or pitch glue.

Animal glue can be stored in granules or in powder form, but pitch glue is typically stored in large hunks.  Pitch glue is good for water proofing, roofing, and simple tool making. Hide Glue is good for rough bushcraft, trap making, and simple furniture.  Hoof glue is typically used for high quality wood working and strengthening fibers, but has the widest applications and the greatest durability.

Other glues can be made from bone (similar methodology to hoof glue), derived from petroleum, or made from more complex chemical reactions which I haven’t learned or figured out how to explain yet, so we’ll leave those off the list for now.





10 Responses to How to: Make Glue

  1. john

    Keep it up. These articles are awesome

  2. JCRogers

    So… is this blog dead? I like the posts I’ve read, but I don’t see a lot of comments (well, none, actually). I see it’s been a few months since the last post. Have you given up? I hope you’ll post more.

  3. Pat

    Planning on writing any more of these? Entertaining and informative – my kind of blog.

  4. Alex

    This was the most useful one you have made (except for the furnace, perhaps.) Would you mind doing cement next? You mentioned it a while back and it’s something I have been interested in for a while.

  5. Tjo992

    Sorry this is unrelated to the glue post; but is there a way to download this website as a hardcopy to a hardrive? Just because I feel like most of the situations where I would need the information offered are also situations where internet would be unattainable. Any information would be helpful.

  6. Terry

    I’m Guessing this whole guide will come in handy this year? Maybe…

  7. chance

    Alex, I’m working on cement now; I’ll have a basic guide up shortly.

  8. chance

    Tjo992 – This blog is essentially my workshop for a book, which, if I can’t get published, I’ll release as an indexed pdf.

  9. Zak L


  10. Glenn

    So, did you ever get the book published? Or, did you ever turn this into an indexed PDF? Are you going to add more to this site? There is a lot of very useful info here. It’d be sad to see it die out completely.

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