What Kind Of Glue Holds Your Guitar Together?

Posted by: Daniel R. Lehrman Posted in: Fender Guitars

Behlen Ground Hide Glue

A strange thought came to my mind the other day as I was replacing a truss rod in a super cheap Chinese made guitar. In the process of softening the glue used to put the fingerboard on the neck itself I wondered if every company used the correct glues.

To get at a truss rod, in most cases one would remove the neck itself. Necks are either bolted or screwed on, or they are actually glued to the body of the guitar. This one was a screw on neck so I took off the strings and unscrewed it.

First, there are only two types of glues used on guitars that are acceptable. Period. No epoxy, cements or super glue! The two acceptable glues are: Ground Hide Glue, which is a traditional luthiers glue and Franklin Co. “Titebond’ Glue. One of the most important qualities of a guitar makers glue is the ability to separate the glued pieces of wood without damaging the guitar.

Franklin “TiteBond” Glue, the luthier’s favorite aliphatic resin glue, for joints that are stronger than the wood. Water soluble, it cures overnight, sands easily, and resists thermoplastic “creep” better than ordinary white glues.

Behlen “Ground Hide” Glue is a traditional luthier’s glue that creates stronger wood joints than bottled liquid hide glues, and allows dis-assembly later with a hot knife. Granulated, for dissolving in water using a hot glue melting pot.

Guitars break or get broken, realistically speaking, most folks will fix an expensive guitar rather than trash it.

One quality of the glues for making or fixing guitars is that the parts can be separated with ease by a luthier. Without giving away my top secrets, lets just say the components that are going to be separated need to be heated up in order to soften the glue. Adding that you should not experiment with this type of procedure if you are not qualified. Back on subject, the big thing in heating is not getting the parts to hot and damaging the wood or finish. In most cases the max heat needed to separate the glue would be 200 degrees.

Simply put, the cheap neck did not separate until I hit 210 degrees. Scary yes, but it is a cheap neck. Never try going over 200 degrees, especially on a $5000.00 Martin!

Taking that much heat to separate the fingerboard concerned me, however it did come apart, but it made me wonder what type of glue they used when assembling the guitar. I doubt it was a bona-fide guitar glue. Maybe when cheap guitars are manufactured overseas, they use a less expensive glue to keep the product affordable. My belief is that this guitar was assembled with the wrong glue. Well it turned out that the truss rod was a piece of junk too, non replaceable.

I modified the neck slightly and put a Fender Stratocaster truss rod in it, mostly for the challenge and fun of doing it, certainly not for the value of the guitar. I did reassemble the neck with ‘Titebond’ glue. I then went through the rest of a normal set-up job and played it a bit. Thank GD. It turned out great and played better than it ever should have. I also have happy customer.

Be careful of cheap or offbeat guitars and how they are manufactured. Many shortcuts have been discovered on cheap guitars to keep costs down.

One last thought. With this knowledge being known now, personally I never leave my guitar in a hot car with the sun shining on it. It easily could get hot enough to loosen the glue. Did you know that Nascar drivers often reach heats of 140 degrees and more in the cockpit?

If you have the need to try a repair such as this, don’t use Elmers glue or the likes. Buy a manual and study it first. Then take the guitar to a good luthier or guitar maker who has the experience to do this job properly. Do use a cheap guitar for experimentation if you are so inclined. When a guitar is trusted to Guitar Players Center for repairs, rest assured nothing but world-class parts and craftsmanship are used. Enjoy this article and comment or Share It, or subscribe for free to our blog and get deliveries right to your e-box.

Don’t use this or any other type of glue on your guitar, except the ones we listed:Do Not use Elmers Glue.

26 Responses to What Kind Of Glue Holds Your Guitar Together?

  1. I know an adhesives expert, his name is Buddy, and you may want to consult with him on glues.

  2. Interesting article — never thought of the glue issue.

  3. Will the same glue mentioned above re-seal a spruce top together? I have a Martin, with a 2 piece spruce top. it came apart at the base.

  4. Bob Knouse

    Squara,
    No flaming but I’m repairing the neck on my SG. I read up on it, called and talked to professionals who make and repair guitars. There are a lot of ‘experts’ on glues and adhesives. I wanted knowledge from experienced guitar repair and construction pros. Most were really cool to talk a little shop with me. I went with the recommendation of several well known instrument Luthiers. Hide glue is what all the best Luthiers use. Actually all good wood instrument builders use it. It’ll last hundreds of years. The Egyptians used it. What do you think makes real Amish furniture so strong? Why antique furniture holds together so long. Although it’s ‘not recommended for human comsumption’, you can literally eat it. It’s natural and non-toxic. Holds way better than Elmers. With additives you can even make it waterproof.
    Funny though, I called around and found quite a few local repair guys here in York PA use carpenters glue or other cheap glues or epoxy’s. Not a bad adhesives, but I wouldn’t gig without a spare guitar if it’s used to repair mine. If I ever want my guitars repaired by someone else I know the right question to ask: “What kind of glue do you use”?

  5. Bob,
    Thanks for your input.
    Hide glues are the original glues. Luthiers have used it forever. However, I’m not so sure if even Martin guitars are glued with hide glue. Most of the luthiers I know use Titebond unless they are restoring an instrument for it’s value.
    One thing about hide glues, they start to soften up at about 140 degrees. Leave it in a hot car for a few hours and you will literally come back to a bunch of melted apart pieces. I have seen an old antique violin that was left in the car and it came apart.
    When you disassemble a glued part of a guitar you have to heat it to about 170 degrees to soften the glue and gently peel the pieces apart.
    I use Titebond unless it already came with hide glue or it is requested.

    Danny

  6. What you have correctly shown is now called Titebond I, there is now also a Titebond II. Those who know say for instruments stick with Titebond I, so to speak, though of course, hide glue is still da bomb.

  7. ..interesting article.Thanks.
    How about resonance of the glue?

    Robert

  8. Is there a way to tell Titebond from regular white/yellow carpenters glue by smell alone?

  9. marlom ragasajo

    i have a fender strat deluxe 2001. i woul like to change the truss rod because its not working anymore.the fretboard was abused by the previous owner and like to customize it with ebony material.

    anybody know of what type of adhesive/glue that this kind of guitar being use?
    is ebony ccompatible with this type of guitar?

  10. Surely you meant Titebond Liquid Hide Glue and not the more common Titebond woodworking glue? The liquid hide glue has the same properties as classic hide glue, and joints can be separated with heat and reassembled. True hide glue, either liquid or granule, is available from a view manufacturers, but there are dozens of manufacturers making PVA glue similar to the Titebond woodworking glue you picture.

  11. lsw wrote:

    >>Surely you meant Titebond Liquid Hide Glue and not the
    >>more common Titebond woodworking glue?

    No, he meant the standard ‘red label’ Titebond which most instrument builders (who don’t use hot hide glue) use these days, it is an AR (aliphatic resin) glue and can also be released with heat and steam. The Titebond Liquid Hide Glue (or any liquid hide glue) is not recommended for instrument building because it contains urea to keep it liquid at room temperature – this kind of glue can creep on parts that are loaded even without heat or moisture, it is not the same as hot hide glue.

    If you are really keen to learn about glue, check out this link, extensive testing:

    Regards,
    Benn

  12. Will Redfearn

    hi there :) nice article.. some pretty cool stuff :D
    so i know you mentioned the 2 different types of glue that you would recommend, however it seems that you only think these are suitable for glueing on a fretboard, right? i was wondering what glue is used in the actualy body in a guitar?
    because, i read that to stop a guitar warping so much, they are usually manufactured in 2 pieces, which are glued toegether.
    i am about to embark on a mission to build my own guitar, and, being the low life cheap skate i am, thought it would be a better idea to order 2 unglued pieces of wood for cheaper, rather than pay for the same amount of wood but glued and more expensive..
    you seem to understand what you’re talking about, so.. do you think it’s a good idea to try and glue 2 pieces together myself? (i am completely inexperienced, however would enjoy the challenge, if it’s not too much of a stupid idea) And secondly, if so, what type of glue is suitable to keep the pieces together, and to retain the tonal characteristics of the wood as much as possible..?? Your help is much appreciated :)
    Will

    • Use tightbond. I don’t think any major manufacturers use anything but tightbond. Some of the Chinese guitars use epoxy. That is to hard. tight bond can be separated for repairs.
      Let me know,
      Danny

  13. Tend to disagree on which glue should be used for guitars considering I don’t intend to ever drop/break it, hopefully! I personally use local product Selleys 308 which is a melamine fortified urea formaldehyde glue. Why do I use this? So the guitar will have better resonance, the last one I rebuilt rings out for many seconds after strumming, also replacing “plastic” bridge and nut with Bone helps. I build a guitar to achieve better acoustics, not so much bang crash Pete Townsend proof :)

  14. can i find that glue in OMAN or Dubai?

  15. Troels Schmidt

    Gibson ES type guitars, Gretsches and other with laminated top, sides and backs are glued/heat pressed with phenol formaldehyde – which for that reason must be said to be a common and accepted glue for guitars.

  16. Troels Schmidt

    The main difference between hot hide glue and ALL other types of glue is, that hot hide glue does NOT penetrate the wood surface. It bonds to the wood molecules in a complicated electro chemical way right on the surface – whereas other glues penetrates the wood pores. Hot hide glue is the only glue too that bonds to itself right away – for the same reason.

    Funnily – but not surprisingly – I read (yesterday actually) an article written by a Gibson “glue expert” that stated that hot hide glue better than other glues penetrates the wood – which it doesn’t at all!!

  17. thanks for the info, a buddy gave me a (classical) guitar that had been left in an attic for years. The bridge had pulled off, several of the braces were off, the back had a crack, the front has a crack, and the side had a major split/crack. It’s a mess. lol I was thinking “fire place” but then I thought what the hell just for fun I’m going to to try to glue it all back together. (I feel like all the king’s horses and all the king’s men) lol I’m going to try the Titebond. I’ll let you know how it turns out.

    Dave

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