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.
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.
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....
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.
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.