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Glue For Bellows Work


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I have some bellows repairs to do (initially a few small patches, but I may have to replace some of gussets if that doesn't fix the problem). I would prefer to use a traditional animal glue than PVA or contact adhesive. My initial idea was to use the same un-modified hot hide glue that I use for woodwork, however I came across this modified flexible animal glue for sale at a book-binders' supply house, and wondered if it might be a better choice. Have any of you tried it?
http://www.hewitonline.com/C1_Flexible_Animal_Glue_p/ad-080.htm

I have also read somewhere that bellows were traditionally made with rabbit glue because it is more flexible than hide glue - is that true?

In Bob Tedrow's excellent bellows-making tutorial, he makes this intriguing statement about hide glue for bellows work:

I have lately been using hide glue for most all of the bellows gluing. Hide glue has a character that makes it particlularly useful for bellows making. Properly used and applied, hide glue provides a much more flexible joint than a PVA glue. This is because hide glue dries hard and will fracture into hundreds of tiny glue crystals each tenaciously holding fast upon flexing, while a PVA glue remains ever tough and stiff. A bellows with hide glue joints will require less "break in" and will be more flexible than bellows make with other glues

That sounds like he is using ordinary brittle hide glue and it simply 'breaks in' when you flex the joints after the glue has dried.

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Alex

 

I've not tried the glue you mention but rabbit hide glue works well and there's no reason to suspect that the glue you've seen at Hewit's shouldn't also work.

 

However, if you're just repairing some small patches, the concerns that Bob expresses about PVA (also that it stiffens up in colder weather) aren't so critical. You can use a weaker PVA such as vinyl wallpaper adhesive, or you could also use a bookbinding starch adhesive which would also be one of the traditional glues.

 

Alex West

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Hi Alexi,

(is that the correct plural form of "Alex"?)

I've used Franklin Liquid Hide Glue, which is a cold, out of the bottle glue, for (small) bellows repairs, but I don't really think it compares that favorably with hide glue, except for the fact that it's reversible. It doesn't seem to harden out as well as hot hide glue, but works ok if there's not too much stress on the joints.

 

Adrian

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You're right that it probably doesn't matter a great deal for a few small patches, though I'd rather avoid stiffening the gussets more than necessary. I suppose my question is whether there is any advantage to using an animal glue that has been modified to make it flexible (or rabbit glue for that matter), over ordinary brittle hot hide glue (which I already have plenty of in stock). I suppose I could just buy a block of the flexible glue and carry out my own tests...

 

Is starch paste glue suitable for gluing leather to leather? Or is it more for gluing materials to the cards? What advantages does it have over hot hide glue?

Edited by alex_holden
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Alex

 

See this page for a brief review of the various bookbinding adhesives (http://www.edenworkshops.com/Bookbinding_Adhesives.html). A rabbitskin glue is typically harder than a standard hide glue and therefore shrinks less on drying than a hot hide glue (which is why it was typically used as a "size" for canvas). I've a feeling my bookbinding tutor recommended the starch glues for paper onto leather rather than leather onto leather, but I think it would still work for the reversibility, flexibility and low strength required. One advantage with starch paste is that it's reversible with just water rather than with water and heat

 

I've a feeling (I think I heard it from someone) that there's one of the aliphatic resin glues which also "micro-cracks" like the hide glues - but I can't remember which one - you'll have to search!

Alex West

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Thanks! It sounds like rabbit skin glue is the best bet. :-)

I used different glues in the past to make bellows. I also used rabbit skin glue as well. All belows i bought in the past used buchbinder glue what is really some sort of modified PVA.

like this one: http://www.collall.nl/en/products/glue-and-varnish-glue/bookbinders-glue/ Ther are may diffent brand names with nerly the same formular but it is not the common wood glue. I get a comparable glue direct from a bookbinder.

I also use this modern glue now if i make bellows my self. This glue stays flexible and is transparent once it is try. And the glued ins not water prove! But it my contain plasticiser.

It is easier to work with as with rabbit skin glue.

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  • 2 weeks later...

Fiebings Leathercraft Adhesive has been recommended for bellows repair work by many (I haven't used it).

 

I've built complete bellows for my own use, and experimented a bit with other adhesives, but found that for someone who doesn't do this kind of work all the time, PVA is the most reliable. Belows built with PVA do take a little longer to break in, but the trade off is more reliable results in amateur hands.

 

Certainly for top binding, that's what I would use, as my experiment with hide glue had the most problems with leather to leather (goat skin) adhesion.

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Thanks apprenticeOF. Do you mean that with hide glue you experienced failures that were immediately obvious when you tested the joint after the glue had dried, or did the weaknesses only show up after you had been playing the instrument for a while? I'm not keen on using a non-reversible glue for this particular job because I want to be able to undo it and try again if (probably when) I'm not satisfied with my first attempt.

I now have some rabbit skin glue, book binders' paste (this stuff), goat hide, skiving knife, linen, card and a scrap (but repairable) set of bellows to practice/experiment on. I'll be doing some trials in a few days.

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  • 7 years later...

I’ve been wondering about PVA Sizing which is the rabbit skin glue alternative for canvas sizing.  It’s supoosed to be more flexible than standard PVA which is the reason why folks avoid standard PVA in the first place.  Has anyone used these more flexible versions of PVA in bellow making?  I use bottled liquid Tightbond hide glue for bellows and am messing with rabbit glue but that stuff is so sticky and messy.   So, anyone use PVA Sizing formulas?

 

Seth

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I am no expert at this, but I have made several sets of bellows for myself and friends after a lot of research. The bellows work very well and are neither stiff nor floppy. I don’t know how they will hold up in the distant future of course - but I read that Crabb used flour glue. (not flour paste)

I tested flour glue on wood to wood layers (cherry). If the joint is good and smooth then it takes a good whack with a mallet to undo. I found that when I glued the furry side of thin leather, say <1mm to smooth wood that the leather will tear before the flour glue fails.

So I use a mix of pva and flour glue, about 60/40 to construct and attach bellows. This sort of brew has been referred to as “The mix” in the archives. It makes the glue wetter, and easier to work into the furry side of the leather without rushing. I find that pva gives insufficient open time, whereas the mix slows things down a lot. It gives me plenty of time to reposition things that aren’t quite right first time. It cleans up beautifully with a damp cloth.

Flour glue is also very good for attaching valves and leaves no visible reside. If valves are later removed, the fur sticks and can easily be scraped off leaving a good surface.

 

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