Introduction: Make Your Own Glue

There are literally hundreds of recipes out there for making your own glues, many left over from the days, not so long ago, when people had no choice but to make their own. Some recipes can be for very specific uses, such as collagen glue for marquetterie (*), or a special formula designed for attaching paper labels to skeletons. Some glues are made with flour, some are milk based, others work thanks to natural or synthetic gums. I've seen one recipe which called for mistletoe, another for fresh blood, but you'll have to read to the end of this instructable to discover my favorite secret ingredient....

I have included here a small sample of these recipes -- but I'd like to reassure the folks at Gorilla glue: although really fun to make, these glues won't cut into your market share. Commercial glue still beats the homemade variety for convenience, strength and even cost -- with the possible exception of step #1, paper paste for large scale collage projects.


(*) boil deer hooves and antlers with some lime in rain water for a couple days, apply hot.

Step 1: Traditional Paper Paste

If you've got a big paper pasting project going on (large group collage project, science fair display poster, etc) it is much easier and cheaper to cook this up rather than use white glue or rubber cement.

Ingredients:
1/3 cup flour (all purpose white flour or bread making flour are best)
2 tbsp sugar
1 cup water
1/2 tsp alum powder (optional preservative -- not necessary if the glue is for immediate use)

Mix flour and sugar. Gradually add water while stirring vigorously to prevent lumps.
Cook over low heat, stirring constantly, till the paste is clear. Remove from heat and stir in the optional alum.

Spread over paper or cardboard with a paintbrush. Press and smooth paper to be glued before the paste dries.

Store in a covered glass jar. This will keep for several weeks without refrigeration.

Step 2: Water Resistant Glue

This glue can be used for glass, ceramics, porcelain or metal. It worked beautifully when I made coasters by gluing cork (left over from the floor) to sample porcelain tiles, and for gluing aluminum foil to cardboard for a Halloween costume -- this glue can adhere to non porous materials, unlike the flour paste in the previous step. I also tried repairing a broken mug with it but it fell apart when I filled it with hot tea -- this glue is somewhat waterproof, but not heat resistant. You can fix a plate with it, but do not put that plate in the dishwasher or microwave. 

Ingredients:
1 pack unflavored gelatin
3 1/2 tsp water
2 tsp skim milk

In a small cup pour gelatin over cold water to soften.
Boil milk (a few seconds in the microwave will do the trick) then mix it into the wet gelatin and stir till all the lumps have dissolved.

Adhesion works best when this is applied hot. If it is too runny for the surface you are gluing, let it to cool down and gel before you paint it on. 

Store in a small covered jar for a few days. Warm over a pan of hot water before use.

Step 3: White Glue From Milk

Casein is a protein found in abundance in milk. These proteins are hydrophobic (they repel water molecules), but since they also repel each other they remain suspended in the milk. Add acid to the liquid (in this case, vinegar) and the proteins will clump together. In other words, the milk will curdle. Heating speeds up this reaction. Once curdled the clumps of casein are easy to filter out. You can use the curds to make a "natural" plastic, or, by adding a base and a little water, you can make the casein molecules separate again and remain suspended in your very own white glue. Not particularly cost effective (milk is expensive) or practical (it's got a shelf life of about 2 weeks) but it's a fun experiment, and you can whip it up in an emergency.... 

Ingredients:
1 cup skim milk (other kinds will work, but skim has a higher proportion of casein)
2 tbsp distilled (white) vinegar
1/2 tsp baking soda
1 1/2 tbsp water

In a saucepan, stir milk and 2 tsp vinegar together over medium low heat. Do not allow to boil. When the milk has curdled remove from heat and pour through a filter. This can be cheese cloth, a coffee filter, or even a paper towel. Scrape the curds into a small bowl or jar. In a separate container, dissolve the baking soda in water, then slowly mix into the curds till you get the consistency you like. Use immediately or store in a small, tightly sealed container in the refrigerator for up to two weeks.

Step 4: Delicious Vegan Mucilage

Mucilage is the type of glue which you paint on paper, let dry, then lick before glueing. This is reportedly the recipe used by the US government for their stamps before the First World War. It is 100% kosher and vegan. Like the milk glue in the last step, this recipe is more for entertainment than real practical use: it is not a very strong or durable adhesive, but it does taste quite delicious, so it is be fun to make with (or for) sticker obsessed kids. You could try adding a drop of peppermint oil, or vanilla extract for flavoring.

Ingredients:
1 1/2 tsp gum arabic
2 tbsp sugar
1 1/2 tsp starch (corn or potato)
1/4 cup water

Mix together the gum, sugar, and starch, then stir into water till all the powder is dissolved. Add enough water to get a consistency between syrup and honey.

Gum arabic can be found in specialize baking supply stores.

Step 5: Natural Glue for Cementing Porcelain, Glass, Etc.

Although this is my all time favorite glue recipe I have not actually ever tried it -- you will find out why soon enough. I discovered it in a book called Henley's Twentieth Century Formulas, Recipes and Processes, an amazing collection of, well, chemical formulas, recipes and techniques to make just about anything. We're talking about an encyclopedic collection of recipes here, about 10,000 of them, representing the cutting edge of technology and science -- in 1914. Since I could never hope to write with such charm, here is, verbatim, Henley's recipe for a durable "natural" glue:

Natural Glue for Cementing Porcelain, Crystal Glass, etc.
The large shell snails which are found in vineyards have at the extremity of their body a small, whitish bladder filled with a substance of greasy and gelatinous aspect. If this substance extracted from the bladder is applied on the fragments of porcelain or any body whatever, which are juxtaposed by being made to touch at all parts, they acquire such adhesion that if one strives to separate them by a blow, they are more liable to break at another place than the cemented seam. It is necessary to give this glue sufficient time to dry perfectly, so as to permit it to acquire the highest degree of strength and tenacity.


More about Henley's:

This is quite an extraordinary book. It offers a glimpse into the past more vivid than any history book or even a novel can do. If you've ever wondered how to make mustache wax, search no farther. Although most of the 10,000 recipes cannot or should not be followed (for example spermaceti, the wax extracted from the head of sperm whales, is no longer a commercially available ingredient), once in a while you'll find a real pearl (which, according to Henley, should be cleaned by baking the necklace in a loaf of bread). My vegan mucilage glue was adapted from their recipes, and I made a really tasty hot lemon drink based on Henley's too.

I discovered this book while researching my own, modern day version of an all encompassing manual, Make Anything, a handbook for saving money, living green, and having fun with trash. Henley's is now in the public domain and a PDF file is available for free here, but after trying to read off the screen for a couple hours I decided I wanted a hard copy.

I was too dim-witted to do an internet search for the book and instead painstakingly formatted the files so I could print them on Lulu, an online publisher on demand. I wrote an introduction and I even made a few versions... a 798 page unabridged hardcover edition, and two slightly abridged 740 page paperbacks (one has an ISBN number and is printed on nicer paper, the other is the discount cheap paperback -- but the content is the same in both paperback editions). At the time Lulu was having an amazing sale: they were offering authors one free copy of any book published during a whole month. So I went a little nuts...

After doing all this work it finally occurred to me to search for the book online, and I discovered a few other people had had the same bright idea -- but that their profit motive was much more pronounced: they made no effort to add to the text by including an introduction, failed to mention the fact that the original text is in the public domain and can be had for free, and, of course, they are charging a lot more.

If you're interested in getting the book, I recommend that you "like" Make Anything's Facebook page: occasionally Lulu offers discount coupon codes which I post there. I apologize if this all sounds like a cheap plug, and believe me, I hesitated to write it, but I love this book too much to keep it for myself. Get a free Kindle version here. If you liked the recipes in this instructable and want more wacky glue recipes, Henley's is the place to go.

Comments

author
Treasure+Tabby made it!(author)2017-06-12

For the WhiteGlue can you use skim milk powder instead of the usual?

Useful stuff btw especally when glue is unreasonably priced when in large quantities in the store. Also kind of hard to find in large quantities here because of the Goruila glue take over.

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Treasure+Tabby made it!(author)2017-07-18

Well looks like you can use skim milk powder. But I really think homoginised milk or 3 percent works way better.

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DogeGoat made it!(author)2017-05-06

What glue is suitable as wood glue?

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DogeGoat made it!(author)2017-05-06

@gaieb, Agar also is obtained from algae

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bob_the_builder21804 made it!(author)2017-04-01

Very cool Instructable. I want to secuely label glass bottles of homemade wine, (paper to glass). I'd like the glue be water soluble so I can easily soak the emptied bottles in the sink with soap and water to remove the labels, clean them , so I can reuse the bottles for my next batch of wine. Is one of your recipes best suited for this? Thanks!

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Vicster100 made it!(author)2016-11-09

going to make it on weekend

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Amber1991 made it!(author)2016-09-18

Can you use self rising flour?

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belsey made it!(author)2016-09-24

If that's all you've got you can try using it. The extra baking soda won't increase adherence properties, but I don't think there's enough of it to be detrimental either.

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JustKnew2004_ made it!(author)2016-09-24

WHAT DOES THE SUGAR DO?

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belsey made it!(author)2016-09-24

(Shhhh... not so loud....)

The sugar increases the adherence properties... Haven't you noticed how sticky a table is after you've spilled some soda on it and it's dried out?

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SherryMingesWilliams made it!(author)2016-03-24

I appologize in my comment i meant to type "vitamin e".

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belsey made it!(author)2016-03-24

Also annoying how when you reply to yourself, your comment shows up twice...

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jodie.white.144 made it!(author)2016-08-03

I would have given you a thumb-up ,but I don't think they offer that option.

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SherryMingesWilliams made it!(author)2016-03-24

Can you substitute something else for the alum, like salt, or naybe use honey or b itamin e oil as a preservative?

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belsey made it!(author)2016-03-24

You'd have to add a lot of salt for it to work as a preservative, so it would probably interfere with the adhesive properties. I don't think vitamin E would help: it helps oils from going rancid, I don't think it has much effect on purely water based solutions. Maybe you could use a preservative for cosmetics, like Germall Plus. I'm sure there are other alternatives out there, I just haven't tried them. You might try experimenting with a ton of sugar... (think jam: sugar is what preserves the fruit). And sugar is sticky.

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belsey made it!(author)2016-03-24

That link didn't work... but you can google it and find it easily enough.

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belsey made it!(author)2016-03-24

That link didn't work... but you can google it and find it easily enough.

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SherryMingesWilliams made it!(author)2016-03-24

I appologize in my comment i meant to type "vitamin e".

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belsey made it!(author)2016-03-24

Yes, isn't it annoying how you can't edit your comments after you post them?

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SheaD4 made it!(author)2015-08-25

We are working on making our own all natural shoes with earthing and a like-barefoot design in mind. Leather moccasins with rawhide soles we think will work great for moat days, and everything is sewn in that design, but they are not water resistant.

We are considering felted wool boots, possibly with a cork sole, for wet days. Does anyone know or have advice on if this water resistant glue may hold up for shoes, or if it would stick felted wool to cork well? I expect it to wear out and need fixing, but hopefully be able to get at least a couple months of regular use before needing to fix them.

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jtobako made it!(author)2015-10-25

Natural material needs constant care. Decent water resistance can be gotten with oil, soft wax or grease applied to (soaked into) leather. Seams have to be tight and the leather needs re-application.

author
belsey made it!(author)2015-08-26

I would hesitate to use this for shoes... not only does the glue for shoes need to be super strong and durable, it has to be waterproof AND flexible... that's a pretty tall order. Of course I do encourage you to experiment (and share your results too!) but I wouldn't sell anything made with this without extensive testing first.

author
constructived made it!(author)2015-10-23

Hello , how can I make water proof glue with 15% solid content and 85% water . please help.

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MichelleW17 made it!(author)2015-08-11

Worked well. I see myself making this glue many times in the future.

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KeishahB made it!(author)2015-06-26

does it work on cardboard

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JenniferL8 made it!(author)2015-01-12

Can this be made with white flour?

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belsey made it!(author)2015-01-26

Yes! All purpose white flour, or, if you happen to have it, bread making flour is even better.

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gaieb made it!(author)2015-06-04

this was used and still is for wall paper paste.

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lime3D made it!(author)2015-02-11

I just made your milk glue recipe. The 1-1/2 Tbsp of water was literally a drop in a bucket. I had to add a LOT of water, just to get it to the consistency of pancake batter. I'm afraid if I add enough to make it as thin as commercially available white glue, it will make it too thin to work. I just tested it on two sheets of paper. I'll report back tomorrow.

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lime3D made it!(author)2015-02-12

The paper test seemed to work well. Just a little 'wavy' since the paper got soaked pretty good. Moving on to two pieces of wood (which is why I wanted to make this). Stay tuned.

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lime3D made it!(author)2015-02-14

I am pleasantly surprised by how well it glued two pieces of wood together. The bond seems pretty strong, although I did not try to test it to failure.

And again, the mixture can out more like paste than white glue. I have the batch in a zip-lock bag, and it tends to firm up into a stiff gel. After a few minutes of kneading it while in the bag, it becomes more pliable.

To apply it, I just dipped my finger in the bag o' glue, and smeared some on the work piece.

My reason for trying this recipe was to create a 100% natural wood glue for biodegradable caskets, coffins and urns, and I pretty happy with it. I think I'll leave it in gel form, and not try to thin it out any more.

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belsey made it!(author)2015-02-14

Wow! For that use, frankly, I'd be careful (and I definitely would not thin it out any more)... you wouldn't want it to fail at the wrong moment... But as long as you have very good woodworking skills, and you clamp the pieces really well when gluing, and you add pegs or those little wooden wafers to reinforce and hold the joints then it should be good. If the glue is just sealing and steadying a joint which would otherwise hold together mechanically then there's be no reason to worry. You should check out Henley's book though, the recipes here are just the tip of the iceberg, there are LOTS of other glue recipes, some of which might be better for woodworking.

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lime3D made it!(author)2015-02-15

Glue is definitely just the suspenders for a 'belt and suspenders' design. I am actually writing a book on do-it-yourself caskets and coffins. For traditional (modern) caskets, the design calls for modern glue with fancy metal ornaments, hinges, catches, etc. I am also including a design for the new trend in 'green' burials. According to the Green Burial Council, all adhesives must be 100% natural. Because the guidelines for green burials are very similar to Jewish burials, the coffin design is the same for both. The HUGH difference is in the glue. Green says 100% natural, Jewish says no metal (nails and screws) and animal products, so now its time to experiment with wheat paste recipes.

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gaieb made it!(author)2015-06-04

You can probably use agar in place of gelatin, from sea weed. Veggie gelaton

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gaieb made it!(author)2015-06-04

Had the book ofr years, great for making things.

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JodieW1 made it!(author)2015-02-24

I've tried this and it works really really well

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lime3D made it!(author)2015-02-15

I just finished making the wheat paste (flour and water) version. After mixing, the batch is VERY runny, but while cooking, it quickly thickened to the consistency of cake frosting. It never turned clear, but it is slightly translucent. It is cooling in a jar right now, I'll try a couple gluing experiments after its cool.

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belsey made it!(author)2015-02-15

Intuitively I doubt this will be any good at gluing wood, but I'm looking forward to hearing about the results... Thanks for testing and sharing!

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lime3D made it!(author)2015-02-16

Okay, glued to blocks of wood together, and let it sit overnight. It is amazingly strong. My guess is because one of the pieces of wood is about 3 square inches on the side I glued, and I glued the entire surface.

So the tests confirmed that both the milk glue and flour glue will work well for a backup to mechanical joining techniques.

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RobertD13 made it!(author)2015-01-20

I used to have a book from the same era called "Fortunes in Formulas" I have no idea where it went but, it was as the title said. It had similar things in it as this book. what a great find.

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yurigoul made it!(author)2014-12-18

There is a copy of the book you mentioned on archive.org - scans of the original edition from the start of the 20th century in all kinds of ebook formats and as a pdf.

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belsey made it!(author)2014-12-18

Yes, in fact in my description above I give a link. Text from step 5 copied here: "Henley's is now in the public domain and a PDF file is available for free here, but after trying to read off the screen for a couple hours I decided I wanted a hard copy."

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yurigoul made it!(author)2014-12-18

Autsch, my bad

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belsey made it!(author)2014-12-18

No worries!

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SNEHALCHEVLI made it!(author)2014-12-12

In india we make it on Uttarayan (Kite flying Festival) to stick kites we call it lahe I make it myself in small vesal almost 1 cup for me & my friends in my childhood thanks to remember me to those Golden age.

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kaley.roush made it!(author)2014-12-08

do u have to use the alum powder and can u use regular flower

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belsey made it!(author)2014-12-08

The alum powder is optional, you can just leave it out if you don't have any.

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kaley.roush made it!(author)2014-12-08

do u have to use the alum powder and can u use regular flower

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NotAPot2PN made it!(author)2014-03-25

Belsey, this was amusing and helpful. And I love old books of formulae, too - leather conditioners, waterproofing for canvas, solutions to clean up fossil and mineral specimans, inks for pens made of feather shafts or bamboo, plaster for sculpting, determining the number of gallons of water required to fill the fish pond one has just dug and so on, so thank you for the Henley book. Now, if only you could give me a magic recipe for instant. delicious, Swiss RACLETTE,(w/potatoes & cornichon), I could die a happy old woman. Chubbier than pre-raclette, but happier by far.

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belsey made it!(author)2014-11-07

Just saw this now... and I can definitely help you with the raclette... because all you need is a big hunk of cheese and an open fire with a few rocks to prop up the cheese. Although I must say the little electric heater I have, though less "authentic" is much more convenient... Thanks for reminding me of this! Now I know what I'm having for dinner tonight...

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Bio: I am a paper engineer, writer, maker and chemist wannabe. In addition to pop-up cards I design and build furniture, lights, costumes or whatever I ... More »
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