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Old Brown Glue-Now That's the Stuff!

Today, W. Patrick Edwards, the maker of Old Brown Glue, left a comment on an earlier post, Guitars, Ukuleles and Old Brown Glue that gave me a bit of an education on Old Brown Glue.

If you look real hard you can see the bottle of Old Brown Glue sitting in the background on my bench.

This is what he said:

I just discovered this post. I make Old Brown Glue and keep a sample bottle of each batch to test the shelf life. My shelf life testing is at room temperature, here in San Diego, where it is often hot. Naturally, storing in a refrigerator extends the shelf life.

We put a shelf life on each batch and keep records of each sale. We conservatively put a date of 18 months from the date of manufacture. Our testing indicates it has a longer shelf life than that.

Wilson bought batch 149. According to the printed shelf life date, it was technically out of date. However, my test bottle of 149 is still good, and it has been sitting at room temperature.

The glue is supposed to have a thick (gel) viscosity in the bottle, It needs to be heated to be used. When the glue decays over time, it becomes very liquid in the bottle at room temperature, and has a strong ammonia smell. Those are indicators that the glue is bad.

Unfortunately, I believe he tossed the glue simply since the date was passed, not because it was bad.

Since he said nice things about our glue, we are sending him a complimentary 20 ounce bottle as our thanks.

Patrick Edwards

I publicly apologize to Mr. Edwards for disposing of that bottle of glue, I know that hide glue has a smell to it, but when I opened that bottle one day to check its smell, my head snapped back a little bit. I assumed because of the smell and the date claimed that the glue had expired, I decided not to use it. Now, I know better!

I heartily recommend Old Brown Glue, I can't say enough good things about it!

It dries hard making it ideal for instrument making; you have the convenience of having it in a bottle; a longer working time than AR and PV glues; there is nothing not to like about it. The only reason why I made my own hide glue is because I wanted the experience of making and using old style hide glue.

Thank you in advance, Mr. Edwards, for the complimentary bottle of glue that you are going to send me! I look forward to using your glue again and I will always recommend your glue to anyone looking for a glue with such versatility!


I just read Dennis's comment about how hide glue gets a bad rap in luthier forums, so in light of that let me say that I had a really good experience with Franklin Hide Glue, 10-12 years ago, that guitar top is still together. I have also learned first hand that when Franklin Hide Glue expires, it expires.

If you want to see the strength of freshly made hide glue please click here to see my post on making a copy of a Santos Hernandez guitar.

I heartily recommend Old Brown Glue and Lee Valley's High Tack Fish Glue from my experience with them.


  1. I have a bottle of OBG that I haven't used yet but think if it was past the due date and my "head snapped back" when I opened it, I'd be inclined to think it was off also.

    Jim B

  2. Hang onto that bottle of OBG, Jim B!

  3. Shelf life is something to keep track of. At the final stages of building a day bed for customers I ran out of fasteners to attach ledger supports on the inside of rails. I grabbed a bottle of liquid hide glue and clamped the pieces overnight, delivered the bed the next day, got the check, and thought all was well. A call the next day informed me that the gentleman's first siesta ended with him on the floor after a loud cracking sound woke him. The glue had failed spectacularly! I then checked the expiration date; three months previous. I told the couple that when you make a new bed, you gotta screw. That kept me in their good graces.

  4. I keep intending to get a bottle of OBG. Several months ago I asked Patrick several questions via email regarding the use of his glue in instrument building, and I especially related to him the bad rap that liquid hide glues have in luthier forums. I can only say that his generous responses laid my fears to rest. I can't say I made any converts when I shared his responses around, but many have had bad experiences with the liquid glues---only none of them had used OBG as I recall. So that's my 2 cents.

  5. I remember using Franklin Hide Glue about 12 years ago, when it was fresh it was really good stuff, but once that stuff gets past its expiration date it is better in the trash can.

  6. What about testing the glue on a sample before use.

    Test regularly and note evolution.



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