Purchasing hide glue in Europe: not so easy

So I went shopping for hide glue in 192-gram or even 164-gram Bloom strength and found that in Italy all you can find nowadays is bone glue. The difference is that hide glue is made with cows’ skins and tendons while bone glue is made with bones. Hide glue is in granules or powder, while bone glue is in pearls.
Only a handful of sellers/resellers in Europe do sell hide glue but it’s usually from 251-gram up, this is what I used, along with bone glue. Bone glue, which I can find in most woodworking shops around here (albeit in not-so-great quality, it’s usually very dark), is usually sold without any information about its Bloom strength, which however I’ve found should be about 180-gram.
I’ve asked everywhere: the USA-based company Milligan&Higgins has no European reseller; the German Fritz Haeker doesn’t make glue anymore but only industrial-grade animal glue with impossibly high Bloom; the Netherlandian Trobas doesn’t make hide glue anymore but only edible gelatines; the Spanish CAM Moreu only sells from 25 Kg up (55 lbs). And then there are vendors like Kremer-pigmente who only sells hide glue in a Bloom strength of 235-265 (235 is near enough to the auspicable limit of 192, but fact is there is uncertainity about what Bloom strength actually is the glue they sell, from 235 to 265). Kremer says they could talk to their provider (I assume it’s Mulligan&Higgins) but I’d need to order a minimum of 500 Kg. Similar response by other vendors.

So there are US vendors online. They have 192 or 164-gram hide glue, but most of them don’t ship to Europe because hide glue is a biological product and it could be stopped at the customs etc. etc. Ebay sellers have a ridicolously high price. I ordered from woodfinishingenterprises.com for 45 US$ each 5 lbs bag (2.4 Kg). Compare with 63 US$ for a 3 lbs bag (1.3 Kg) of a prominent Ebay vendor. More than US$ 90 for shipping to Italy.

Problem is, I have only been able to locate two makers, as opposed to resellers, of hide glue worldwide: Milligan&Higgins and Cam Moreu (who by the way is specialised in rabbit skins and only has two choises for hide glue, fortunately one of those is “about 200”.

While searching the vendor I have developed a bit of understanding of the market I will write of in my next post.

Try here:

Ok, it’s not vital. 251-gram has a bit short open time, but with a good technique you can work around. Better is 192 and, as Owen Daly has written extensively, better yet is 164 with a good open time.

Important: the Bloom strenght is defined as follows: how many grams of force a metal probe need to penetrate a certain deepness in the gelled glue. Bloom strength does not say nothing about the joint strength, which is what we are interested in.
However, high Bloom means a short open time, low Bloom mean a longer open time, which is usually preferable for harpsichord makers when dealing with long/big pieces (soundboard/base/lid slat jointing, bridges, soundboard to liners etc). So joints made with a 164-gram glue are just as strong than joints made with 360-gram glue.

Bone glue (should be about 180-gram) is bad spoken of on the old harpsichord list archives, but my experience has been good. No failing and a very strong bond.
Bone glue bond is described as “hard bond” and hide glue as “elastic bond” in some websites as Dictum and Marc Vogel, but don’t be fooled: “elastic” does not mean the joint could creep. It seems that “elastic” means simply that hide glue is more prone to comply with the natural wood movements, still not failing and not creeping. How this happens I don’t know. Sorry I didn’t save where I read this.

Many websites (for example Kremer-pigmente again) list some “gelatines” for bookbinding or the like. Well, they are just hide glue, only with a very high Bloom unsuited for woodworking.

However, even 251-gram is workable with a correct technique. When I switched from Titebond to Hide/bone glue my error was me using the hide glue just as it was Titebond. Now I brush the hot hide glue on the pieces (pre-sized) and, if the glue gels, I re-heat and re-hydrate it or the joint. Rehydratation is simply squirt or spray some water with a garden sprayer.
In an old post on the FB group of Ketil Haugsand (sorry i can’t find it again, FB is terrible) someone posted an experiment where he left the glue gelling for eight minutes (that’s right: eight minutes) and then clamping the pieces together, with the glue gelled and not liquid anymore. Results, the joint was still as strong or stronger than wood. Not exactly recommendable, but this shows there is no need to rush and gasp. However, if you are in the USA, you will have no problem in finding 164 or 192 gram.

Thanks Ed, Bjorn was the very first I tried just after having realized I would have no luck in Europe. They don’t ship to Europe.

I do not know about glue supply, but in case you are interested in alternatives, might this help?


(PDF) Animal glues: a review of their key properties relevant to conservation


Why do you need low strength glue, usually something that is used, I think, if one has to take structures apart again?

Thank you for the paper, Wolfgang, I’ll read it as soon as possible.

As I stated, the low Bloom strength is all about the gelled but not yet cured glue. It isn’t related to the strength of joint. A joint made with a 164 gram is as strong as a joint made with a 360 gram.

Probably however, the low-Bloom joint is easier to take apart, not because it’s a weaker joint, but because the low-bloom glue needs less water to help re-melting and again one has more open time to disassemble the joint after re-heating and watering it.

But the expert is Owen, if he is reading he may want to jump in.

Hi Domenico, in Holland there are various resellers. You could contact them and ask for options if you can’t find your flavor on their websites. Just in Holland: baptist.nl, labshop.nl, vanbeekart.nl or dullerenco.nl sell hideglue for restauration and music instruments. Generally they do not mention who produces their stock, so you should ask.

Oh thanks a lot! I missed all these. I have perused only baptist.nl for now and having troibles in translating (the website in English only translates the menus but the descriptions are in dutch). Now I have already ordered in the USA, but I’ll try to understand the descriptions and will record those resellers for next time.

If necessary, I could help translate Dutch to English.


Thanks a lot Dale. I seem to have understood the fundamental things (with a little help from google translate), but I’ll write you privately if I need.

LeeValley. ca or com supplies three versions of hide glue.

Dear Domenico.

I spoke with a close friend of my son’s (violinist) who is a major restorer/repairer of large string instruments, mostly great bases, in the USA (e.g. players of major US Philharmonics like New York, Los Angeles…. He has half to a full year’s waiting time for response).

Not long ago he became totally sold on Fish Glue which he believes comes from Germany. He sys it has a very good (long) application time and does very well for him.

I googled for https://woodfinishingenterprises.com/

I’ll try to contact that company tomorrow during business hours to find out whether one can get this in Germany and where. I would hope they would divulge that under your circumstances


Thank Wolfgang. That link is where I ordered my batch of hide glue, they do ship in Europe. However, fish glue is easily found in Europe. For example Kremer-pigmente, search Isinglass, Fish glue and Sturgeon glue. Or Dictum.de. Don’t know which glue is better for our purposes. Sturgeon is impossibly costly, however: from 588 to 1280 euros/kg. Dictum less than half the price of Kremer.
Harpsichords have been made with fish glue - our David Pickett, maybe? - and they hold just as well. Don’t know anything else on fish glue, sorry.

I found only two: in 260-Bloomgram and about 150 Bloomgram in pearls. Albeit named “hide”, the latter is probably bone glue.

What the ancient makers used remains untold, I think? Bone, hide, fish. What about different glues in different towns? Maybe Giusti used bone, Mietke hide, Hitchcock fish, Donzelague rabbit’s skin…
Is there any study on the exact glue used in harpsichord or at least in cabinet making in the XVI-XVIII centuries?

This company does not ship from America to Europe, but here is a very good page that has some accurate albeit short information on gram strength.

The answer to buying hide glue is obviously smuggling. :slight_smile:

1 Like

Yes. In pre-global warming days (20 years ago), when I lived in Michigan, I built a little ZHI Italian. For all but two weeks of the year, it was not possible to keep hide glue at the required temperature to stop it setting too fast, so I used liquid fish glue. I bought this from Lee Valley in Canada. RH was around 25% when I installed the sb.

I can report no problems whatsoever from the choice of glue. I subsequently took this instrument to Houston, TX, where the high humidity did no damage and, now here in Austria and strung in Birkett brass, the instrument is still a pleasure to play. The joints have not crept at all. The gap has narrowed, as happens with this design, but the sliders are still free.


Smuggling? you mean illegal? (or this is what my dictionary says)

I vaguely remember there was something along this line at the times of the “mad cow disease”, it’s that?

From the Oxford English Dictionary II:

It’s odd that one US company will send it to Europe and one won’t, referencing legislated restriction on shipment of biological goods. Seems highly inconsistent to me. Or maybe Company A is just doing it illegally.

Thanks for the link to the dictionary, I haven’t ever seen the word “smuggling”.

I don’t think so, however. Here is what http://www.toolsforworkingwood.com replied to me:

I am sorry but we are currently not shipping to Italy. More importantly however is Hide Glue is an organic product and shipping it internationally has always been hit or miss as it gets stopped in customs and we don’t have a prodedure for solving that. I am sorry but don’t have a good solution for you.

“hit or miss” may depend on what the person at the customs think that morning. I can understand that, there are a lot of conflicting or uncertain laws (the more you regulate, the more conflicts you introduce. For example: “woodworking goods are permitted”; “animal goods are not permitted”). The CJEU (Court of Justice of the European Union) has a lot of work on these things every year, with many important sentences (I know because I had to study some of them…).

By the way, I did not count the customs payment, 57 euros.
Ok, I have payed this glue three times than a US person.

A purchase group should be formed, so we could buy directly from Milligan&Higgins from 25 Kg up.

This came up during the BSE scare some years ago. The problem is how the product is described. “Hide glue” raises bovine biological flags. If it is declared as “technical gelatine” there is no issue internationally (except the tax to pay).


Dear Domenico.

The information that the glue from “finishingenterprises" comes from Germany is not correct. I called them and the ay said they get it in the USA. Sorry!

In Germany, there are at least two sources for a variety of hide glues. These are Dictum ( a good source for high qualtiy tools) and Kremer Pigmente. There are probably others as well that I do not know of.

Do any of you have experience with adding salt to extend the working time or gelatin to increase flexiblility?

Here are links to the products from Dictum and Kremer glues:


















Andrew Wedman