GLUES crazy talk I tell ya'
You might think that some of the basics of lutherie are pretty
much standardized - like what glue to use to fasten two pieces of
wood together. Not so. There are many hundreds, if not thousands
of basses out there that have been maimed [many irreparably] through
the criminal use of carpenter glue, epoxy, and last but not least
- crazy glue. You heard righ - crazy glue! It might be referred
to as a "cyanoacrylate adhesive," but it's crazy glue just the same.
You also might think that I am referring to instruments fixed by
janitors in schools, bass owners who tinker, or luthier "hobbyists".
No. I am specifically targeting so called "professionals" who are
not being watched and who use these adhesives for quick, easy, and
DIRTY repairs in the interest of fast profit. I aim to end these
practices. There is a use for these adhesives - but there is much
opportunity for abuse. This text will detail the pros and cons of
adhesives in lutherie. By the way, crazy glue is a brand name and
I don't mean to malign that company - I am sure that glue can be
very useful. Many woodworking companies sell a commercial brand
of cyanoacrylate glue that is used by some luthiers. I'll just refer
to it as either CA glue or maybe just "stupid glue".
I know that things are just things. But yet, there are things that I
love. Not the kind of love that you have for your family or country
- but it's a kind of love nonetheless. Wood is one of my loves -
I derive much pleasure working with it. I've also had a long love
affair with hide glue [I know that sounds like - getta life, but
what can I say?]. This glue is a fabulous tool, capable of miracles.
There is wood furniture found in Egyptian tombs that have joints
as strong as the day they were set. Hide glue. I have seen many
fine early instruments with invisible center seams - perfection
lasting for centuries. Also hide glue. All the fine work I have
seen has employed hide glue. It does its job because it knows how
to get molecular. Much has been written on how hide glue works.
One of the most common misconceptions about hide glues is that they
must thoroughly penetrate and impregnate the wood adjacent to the
glue line in order to produce tendrils or hooks of glue that will
mechanically attach the glue to the pores of the wood. This has
been shown to be untrue in the case of hide glue. Electro-chemical
attraction between the molecules of the glue and wood is actually
the basis for strong glue bonds. This is known as specific adhesion
and result in bonds stronger than the wood itself. The downside
to this glue is that it yields poor results when the joinery is
inadequate. Not a problem if you are willing to put in the time
to practice good or better joinery. Now while a good luthier endeavors
to glue well, it is also apparent that many joints may fail over
the course of time. I'm not talking about the kind of time where
you get paid-the bass goes out and five years later it opens. I
mean fifty-seventy-five-a hundred or more years. One of the beauties
of hide glue is that if a joint fails the glue can be easily cleaned
out with warm water and you can start afresh. This is where the
other glues fail. They contaminate an instrument and act as a cancer
over time. Not a problem if you just want the paycheck and don't
care what happens ten years down the road. Here's why they are a
cancer. First of all, sometimes I'll refer the "body proper". By
this I mean - in order of importance - the top plate, the back,
the ribs, and the scroll. Other parts - the neck, fingerboard, interior
blocks, bassbar are more or less extraneous. The loss of any of
these parts does not really affect the intrinsic worth of the instrument.
So while if you were to glue on a fingerboard with epoxy, while
certainly not recommended, it would not affect the "body proper".
It is when wrong adhesives are introduced to the top-ribs-back-scroll
that the real damage is set in motion. I'll explain.
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