Guitars, Ukuleles and Old Brown Glue

A man's wealth is measured by the size of his wood pile.

Old New Mexican proverb

I ordered some Old Brown Glue a while back and I can't say enough good things about it! Case in point, the tenor ukulele neck heel block that you see to the left of the glue bottle I glued together this afternoon. All I did was apply glue to individual blocks, rubbed the joint together about a minute and then I clamped them together. The blocks stayed aligned and I didn't have to use extra clamps and clamping jigs that you see used in some books on guitar making. I have used fish glue, purchased from Lee Valley, in the past with wonderful results, this Old Brown Glue dries as hard as the fish glue, which is a real plus when gluing on bracing. I probably won't use it to glue on bindings or for rosettes, but I will for everything else.

Works in progress--
(When I should really be refinishing 4 guitars that I made a couple of years ago!)

Guitar top on the left: Sitka spruce, laurel back and sides, bracing after Torres with a slanted lower harmonic bar on a Friedrich plantilla.

Ukuleles on the right: soprano uke with a redwood top, laurel back and sides, it's neck is just in front of the top; tenor uke behind it, Douglas fir top, with bubinga back and sides. The soprano ukulele in the front is a Montgomery Wards Airline, I believe it was made for them by Harmony.

California laurel guitar back on the right behind the ukes, the plantilla is based upon Torres FE 12 and FE 17 with a 640mm string length. FE17 was owned and played by Francisco Tarrega for 14 years. The body is smaller than classicals played today by the big name players, I chose this smaller body to see how it would sound and compare to a full size "Six-Fifty" (Six-Fifty sounds like it should be a cartridge for an old Sharps buffalo rifle!) that is in current use today. The top will be Sitka spruce.

I am waiting for the humidity to drop some more in my shop, we've had a lot of thunderstorms this month and the RH is still quite high. I really want to brace the top of the redwood uke and start putting it together.

For a fun read, check out Jim Beloff's The Ukulele-A Visual History. published by BackBeat Books, available at Jim's website,


  1. Wilson: I've just discovered your blog and have been spending some time browsing through it. It's quite a resource. Very nice work too. I've just started building steel string guitars, and noticed your post on Old Brown Glue. I had several email exchanges with Patrick Edwards, who makes it. He was very generous with his time and answered many questions. However, I haven't gotten around to purchasing any yet. My question to you is whether you're still using it, and I wonder if you'd share your thoughts about it? Thanks in advance, Dennis

  2. HI, Dennis!

    I don't use Old Brown Glue anymore. At the time I posted about it on my blog, I didn't have enough time to spend in the shop working, so the glue sat in the refrigerator and went bad. It is good glue, that it dries hard is good for lutherie work. You should give it a try!

    The next 2 guitars I make I will use the regular Titebond and real hide glue. Real hide glue is super easy to make, there is a great video on how to make it posted at Stew-Mac.

    I do recommend using Fish Glue that can be purchased from Lee Valley, that stuff dries as hard as a rock!

    If you have any other questions please email me at


  3. 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

  4. Thank you for your comment, Mr. Edwards!

    I cannot say enough good things about your Old Brown Glue! I think it is wonderful stuff, don't get me wrong, Mr. Edwards, I recommend your glue all the time when some one wants to use hide glue without having to make their own.

    Thank you for educating me a little more about your glue.

  5. You should contact Patrick Edwards at Old Brown Glue about that!


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