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White, Yellow, and Hide Glues

White, Yellow, and Hide Glues

by Lawrence D. Brown

Originally published as Guild of American Luthiers Data Sheet #174, 1981 and Big Red Book of American Lutherie Volume One, 2000

This article originally appeared in the FoMRHI Quarterly No. 18, and appears here (revised and expanded) with the kind permission of that organization.

Ultimately, the quality of a musical instrument depends not only on the sweetness of its tone but also on its continued service and durability in a variety of climates. Deterioration of an instrument may occur from internal or external forces. External forces are those that come from hard use or from string tension. Internal forces are the result of the natural tendency of all woods to shrink, warp, and shift position in response to changes in moisture content. Poorly shaped parts that have been forced together by clamping pressure are also capable of generating internal forces by the steady pull on the joint caused by the misalignment.

The structural integrity of the instrument, its ability to stay together and retain an attractive appearance over a number of years, depends on four things: the choice of carefully sawn woods with a uniform, low moisture content; the type and design of the joints used; the experience and expertise of the builder; and the adhesive used in construction. The concern here is glue, although some discussion of closely related factors such as joint design and humidity is unavoidable.

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