Sunday, December 30, 2012

Book Review: Hide Glue

Ever since my class at Marc Adams, where I got to use hide glue for the first time, I have really been excited to learn more about hide glue.  I wasn't having a ton of luck in old texts.  The old texts seem to assume that everyone just used hide glue as a part of their lives.  They would also discuss additives to the glue that have very obscure names or simply not available today.  When you see ingredients like Gum of Ammoniac, Spirits of Wine, and Gum of Sandarac its pretty discouraging.  

Over the last several thousand years we have been using hide glue in one form or another.  It feel into obscurity after World War II when PVA glues were commonly available.  Over the last 10 years I have had to forget what I thought about woodworking and start fresh.  In my shop where there used to be a radial arm saw there is now a hand tool workbench.  What used to be my table saw is now a catch all for my hand tool projects.  As a matter of fact I have spent more on hand tools than I ever did on power tools.  Along with my power tools my glue choices have also changed.  My old standard, Titebond I, is replaced by a bottle of Old Brown Glue.

So as part of my christmas this year I bought some hot hide glue granuals and the book Hide Glue: Historical & Practical Applications By Stephen A Shepherd from Tools for Working Wood.  I wanted to learn as much as I could about this "hand tool" and try different formulations.  Here were my expectations of the book...
  1. How to select the right hide glue for my uses.  What gram strength?  What formulations (pearls, granules, etc).  
  2. How to properly mix and heat hide glue.
  3. Tips and tricks on how to mixing and heating easier.  For example:  A good crockpot/baby warmer setup.  Type of containers to use to for the product, baby food jars? Small glue bottles? Anything to make life easier.
  4. Different recipes to alter how the hide glue performs.  I understand there are ways to make hide glue water proof, have a long open time, extremely short open time, and more flexible.
  5. A little about the history of the glue.
After reading the book I was a little perplexed and somewhat disappointed.  Mr. Shepherd obviously did a ton on research.  The problem was that he didn't present the information very well.  The book seemed more like the notes that someone would take preparing to write a book, not the book itself.  There also seemed to be a lot of information either left out or stuck in out of the way places in the book.  If I write a book on hide glue my first mission would to be to make sure the reader is very well versed in how to set up a glue pot, what glue to buy, how to mix it, and how to apply it properly.  This seemed to be quickly passed over but devotes a great deal of the time on the organic chemistry of the glue.  I'm sure there are a few guys out there who would be interested in that.  As for myself, I don't care about covalent bonds, simply explain how different properties of the glue work for or against me.  This chapter of the book left me feeling like Penny on Big Bang Theory when Sheldon is attempting to teach her physics.

"It's a warm summer evening circa 1600 B.C..."

On the good side, there is a ton of valuable information in the book.  It's just unorganized.  You find yourself looking forever for things.  He also delves deeply into the history of the glue.  My favorite thing in the book is the glossary.  It explains what some of those cryptic ingredients are that you see in a lot of the old woodworking texts.  Would I recommend it?  Yes, there just simply isn't any other books out there that I know of.  I would have like to have seen Mr. Shepherd team up with someone in the woodworking community that deals more in the book publishing side of the world.  Surely someone at Popular Woodworking, Fine Woodworking, or Lost Art Press would have been interested in a book like this.  To my knowledge there isn't any other books dedicated to hide glue.  I have gotten the impression from the blogs and forums that hide glue is making a big come back.

As for my adventures in hide glue, I haven't really gotten started yet.  I have hope to get out to the shop soon and begin doing some testing.  

Wednesday, December 5, 2012

Ray Iles Drawbore Pins

I am currently working on a coat tree that will have the legs mortised to a central post.  I decided that the best way to join the legs to the post was with a draw bored mortise and tenon.  I almost have the legs done and I'm getting ready to start on the mortises.  In the past I have always used a machinist drift pin as a draw bore pin.  For the most part it works ok.  Its lack of a handle (and my laziness to make one for it) has been a real draw back.  So it bit the bullet and bought a pair of Ray Iles Draw bore pins.

So why did I choose the Ray Iles version.  Mainly because they are the only current model that is turned eccentrically.  This means that the center line of the turning is slightly skewed.  I could see how this would be an advantage when trying to pull a joint together.  I also don't own any of they Ray's tools and wanted to give them shot.

My initial impressions of the tools as I unwrapped them was that I was less than impressed.  The tips of the pins were just roughly formed.  The handles had dents and dings in finish and there is just something people leaving tail stock holes in their handles that turns me off.  The pins seemed to be roughly turned.  I don't mean to be overly critical, maybe Lie-Nielsen & Lee Valley just have me spoiled.  When I buy a premium tool not only do I expect it to work great but look and feel great also.  I had even considered calling Tools For Working Wood and asking them about the pins.  In the end I decided I could fix the roughly formed tips of the pins and that was my major complaint.

I just felt like this tool was unfinished.  A few minutes at the grinder cleaned them up nicely.
 In use I have far fewer complaints.  The tool works exceptionally well.  You don't have to put any downward force on the pin.  I can remember watching one of Chris Schwarz's videos on using draw bore pins and I recall him talking about how important a good handle was because of all the tight turning and pressure you would use with it.  This tool didn't require all of that work.  Simply drop in the hole and with little effort it will pull your joint together tightly.  As a matter of fact you have to be very careful not to enlarge your hole by advancing the pin to far.  I do wish the pins had a more gradual taper to assist with this issue.

Over all the pins work great.  They are a huge advancement from the drift pin I was using.  I just wish a little more time had been spend on fit and finish.  I still plan on purchasing Ray's mortise chisels and look forward to giving them a try.