1911 Encyclopædia Britannica/Glue

GLUE (from the O. Fr. glu, bird-lime, from the Late Lat. glutem, glus, glue), a valuable agglutinant, consisting of impure gelatin and widely used as an adhesive medium for wood, leather, paper and similar substances. Glues and gelatins merge into one another by imperceptible degrees. The difference is conditioned by the degree of purity: the more impure form is termed glue and is only used as an adhesive, the purer forms, termed gelatin, have other applications, especially in culinary operations and confectionery. Referring to the article Gelatin for a general account of this substance, it is only necessary to state here that gelatigenous or glue-forming tissues occur in the bones, skins and intestines of all animals, and that by extraction with hot water these agglutinating materials are removed, and the solution on evaporating and cooling yields a jelly-like substance—gelatin or glue.

Glues may be most conveniently classified according to their sources: bone glue, skin glue and fish glue; these may be regarded severally as impure forms of bone gelatin, skin gelatin and isinglass.

Bone Glue.—For the manufacture of glue the bones are supplied fresh or after having been used for making soups; Indian and South American bones are unsuitable, since, by reason of their previous treatment with steam, both their fatty and glue-forming constituents have been already removed (to a great extent). On the average, fresh bones contain about 50% of mineral matter, mainly calcium and magnesium phosphates, about 12% each of moisture and fat, the remainder being other organic matter. The mineral matter reappears in commerce chiefly as artificial manure; the fat is employed in the candle, soap and glycerin industries, while the other organic matter supplies glue.

The separation of the fat, or “de-greasing of the bones” is effected (1) by boiling the bones with water in open vessels; (2) by treatment with steam under pressure; or (3) by means of solvents. The last process is superseding the first two, which give a poor return of fat—a valuable consideration—and also involve the loss of a certain amount of glue. Many solvents have been proposed; the greatest commercial success appears to attend Scottish shale oil and natural petroleum (Russian or American) boiling at about 100° C. The vessels in which the extraction is carried out consist of upright cylindrical boilers, provided with manholes for charging, a false bottom on which the bones rest, and with two steam coils—one for heating only, the other for leading in “live” steam. There is a pipe from the top of the vessel leading to a condensing plant. The vessels are arranged in batteries. In the actual operation the boiler is charged with bones, solvent is run in, and the mixture gradually heated by means of the dry coil; the spirit distils over, carrying with it the water present in the bones; and after a time the extracted fat is run off from discharge cocks in the bottom of the extractor.[1] A fresh charge of solvent is introduced, and the cycle repeated; this is repeated a third and fourth time, after which the bones contain only about 0.2% of fat, and a little of the solvent, which is removed by blowing in live steam under 70 to 80 ℔ pressure. The de-greased bones are now cleansed from all dirt and flesh by rotation in a horizontal cylindrical drum covered with stout wire gauze. The attrition accompanying this motion suffices to remove the loosely adherent matter, which falls through the meshes of the gauze; this meal contains a certain amount of glue-forming matter, and is generally passed through a finer mesh, the residuum being worked up in the glue-house, and the flour which passes through being sold as a bone-meal, or used as a manure.

The bones, which now contain 5 to 6% of glue-forming nitrogen and about 60% of calcium phosphate, are next treated for glue. The most economical process consists in steaming the bones under pressure (15 ℔ to start with, afterwards 5 ℔) in upright cylindrical boilers fitted with false bottoms. The glue-liquors collect beneath the false bottoms, and when of a strength equal to about 20% dry glue they are run off to the clarifiers. The first runnings contain about 65 to 70% of the total glue; a second steaming extracts another 25 to 30%. For clarifying the solutions, ordinary alum is used, one part being used for 200 parts of dry glue. The alum is added to the hot liquors, and the temperature raised to 100°; it is then allowed to settle, and the surface scum removed by filtering through coarse calico or fine wire filters.

The clear liquors are now concentrated to a strength of about 32% dry glue in winter and 35% in summer. This is invariably effected in vacuum pans—open boiling yields a dark-coloured and inferior product. Many types of vacuum plant are in use; the Yaryan form, invented by H. T. Yaryan, is perhaps the best, and the double effect system is the most efficient. After concentration the liquors are bleached by blowing in sulphur dioxide, manufactured by burning sulphur; by this means the colour can be lightened to any desired degree. The liquors are now run into galvanized sheet-iron troughs, 2 ft. long, 6 in. wide and 5 in. deep, where they congeal to a firm jelly, which is subsequently removed by cutting round the edges, or by warming with hot water, and turning the cake out. The cake is sliced to sheets of convenient thickness, generally by means of a wire knife, i.e. a piece of wire placed in a frame. Mechanical slicers acting on this principle are in use. Instead of allowing the solution to congeal in troughs, it may be “cast” on sheets of glass, the bottoms of which are cooled by running water. After congealing, the tremulous jelly is dried; this is an operation of great nicety: the desiccation must be slow and is generally effected by circulating a rapid current of air about the cakes supported on nets set in frames; it occupies from four to five days, and the cake contains on the average from 10 to 13% of water.

Skin Glue.—In the preparation of skin glue the materials used are the parings and cuttings of hides from tan-yards, the ears of oxen and sheep, the skins of rabbits, hares, cats, dogs and other animals, the parings of tawed leather, parchment and old gloves, and many other miscellaneous scraps of animal matter. Much experience is needed in order to prepare a good glue from such heterogeneous materials; one blending may be a success and another a failure. The raw material has been divided into three great divisions: (1) sheep pieces and fleshings (ears, &c.); (2) ox fleshings and trimmings; (3) ox hides and pieces; the best glue is obtained from a mixture of the hide, ear and face clippings of the ox and calf. The raw material or “stock” is first steeped for from two to ten weeks, according to its nature, in wooden vats or pits with lime water, and afterwards carefully dried and stored. The object of the lime steeping is to remove any blood and flesh which may be attached to the skin, and to form a lime soap with the fatty matter present. The “scrows” or glue pieces, which may be kept a long time without undergoing change, are washed with a dilute hydrochloric acid to remove all lime, and then very thoroughly with water; they are now allowed to drain and dry. The skins are then placed in hemp nets and introduced into an open boiler which has a false bottom, and a tap by which liquid may be run off. As the boiling proceeds test quantities of liquid are from time to time examined, and when a sample is found on cooling to form a stiff jelly, which happens when it contains about 32% dry glue, it is ready to draw off. The solution is then run to a clarifier, in which a temperature sufficient to keep it fluid is maintained, and in this way any impurity is permitted to subside. The glue solution is then run into wooden troughs or coolers in which it sets to a firm jelly. The cakes are removed as in the case of bone glue (see above), and, having been placed on nets, are, in the Scottish practice, dried by exposure to open air. This primitive method has many disadvantages: on a hot day the cake may become unshapely, or melt and slip through the net, or dry so rapidly as to crack; a frost may produce fissures, while a fog or mist may precipitate moisture on the surface and occasion a mouldy appearance. The surface of the cake, which is generally dull after drying, is polished by washing with water. The practice of boiling, clarification, cooling and drying, which has been already described in the case of bone glue, has been also applied to the separation of skin glue.

Fish Glue.—Whereas isinglass, a very pure gelatin, is yielded by the sounds of a limited number of fish, it is found that all fish offals yield a glue possessing considerable adhesive properties. The manufacture consists in thoroughly washing the offal with water, and then discharging it into extractors with live steam. After digestion, the liquid is run off, allowed to stand, the upper oily layer removed, and the lower gluey solution clarified with alum. The liquid is then filtered, concentrated in open vats, and bleached with sulphur dioxide.[2] Fish glue is a light-brown viscous liquid which has a distinctly disagreeable odour and an acrid taste; these disadvantages to its use are avoided if it be boiled with a little water and 1% of sodium phosphate, and 0.025% of saccharine added.

Properties of Glue.—A good quality of glue should be free from all specks and grit, have a uniform, light brownish-yellow, transparent appearance, and should break with a glassy fracture. Steeped for some time in cold water it softens and swells up without dissolving, and when again dried it ought to resume its original properties. Under the influence of heat it entirely dissolves in water, forming a thin syrupy fluid with a not disagreeable smell. The adhesiveness of different qualities of glue varies considerably; the best adhesive is formed by steeping the glue, broken in small pieces, in water until they are quite soft, and then placing them with just sufficient water to effect solution in the glue-pot. The hotter the glue, the better the joint; remelted glue is not so strong as the freshly prepared; and newly manufactured glue is inferior to that which has been long in stock. It is therefore seen that many factors enter into the determination of the cohesive power of glue; a well-prepared joint may, under favourable conditions, withstand a pull of about 700 ℔ per sq. in. The following table, after Kilmarsch, shows the holding power of glued joints with various kinds of woods.

Wood. ℔ per sq. in.
With grain. Across grain.
Beech 852 434.5
Maple 484 346  
Oak 704 302  
Fir 605 132  

Special Kinds of Glues, Cements, &c.—By virtue of the fact that the word “glue” is frequently used to denote many adhesives, which may or may not contain gelatin, there will now be given an account of some special preparations. These may be conveniently divided into: (1) liquid glues, mixtures containing gelatin which do not jelly at ordinary temperatures but still possess adhesive properties; (2) water-proof glues, including mixtures containing gelatin, and also the “marine glues,” which contain no glue; (3) glues or cements for special purposes, e.g. for cementing glass, pottery, leather, &c., for cementing dissimilar materials, such as paper or leather to iron.

Liquid Glues.—The demand for liquid glues is mainly due to the disadvantages—the necessity of dissolving and using while hot—of ordinary glue. They are generally prepared by adding to a warm glue solution some reagent which destroys the property of gelatinizing. The reagents in common use are acetic acid; magnesium chloride, used for a glue employed by printers; hydrochloric acid and zinc sulphate; nitric acid and lead sulphate; and phosphoric acid and ammonium carbonate.

Water-proof Glues.—Numerous recipes for water-proof glues have been published; glue, having been swollen by soaking in water, dissolved in four-fifths its weight of linseed oil, furnishes a good water-proof adhesive; linseed oil varnish and litharge, added to a glue solution, is also used; resin added to a hot glue solution in water, and afterwards diluted with turpentine, is another recipe; the best glue is said to be obtained by dissolving one part of glue in one and a half parts of water, and then adding one-fiftieth part of potassium bichromate. Alcoholic solutions of various gums, and also tannic acid, confer the same property on glue solutions. The “marine glues” are solutions of india-rubber, shellac or asphaltum, or mixtures of these substances, in benzene or naphtha. Jeffrey’s marine glue is formed by dissolving india-rubber in four parts of benzene and adding two parts of shellac; it is extensively used, being easily applied and drying rapidly and hard. Another water-proof glue which contains no gelatin is obtained by heating linseed oil with five parts of quicklime; when cold it forms a hard mass, which melts on heating like ordinary glue.

Special Glues.—There are innumerable recipes for adhesives specially applicable to certain substances and under certain conditions. For repairing glass, ivory, &c. isinglass (q.v.), which may be replaced by fine glue, yields valuable cements; bookbinders employ an elastic glue obtained from an ordinary glue solution and glycerin, the water being expelled by heating; an efficient cement for mounting photographs is obtained by dissolving glue in ten parts of alcohol and adding one part of glycerin; portable or mouth glue—so named because it melts in the mouth—is prepared by dissolving one part of sugar in a solution of four parts of glue. An india-rubber substitute is obtained by adding sodium tungstate and hydrochloric acid to a strong glue solution; this preparation may be rolled out when heated to 60°.

For further details see Thomas Lambert, Glue, Gelatine and their Allied Products (London, 1905); R. L. Fernbach, Glues and Gelatine (1907); H. C. Standage, Agglutinants of all Kinds for all Purposes (1907).

  1. This fat contains a small quantity of solvent, which is removed by heating with steam, when the solvent distils off. Hot water is then run in to melt the fat, which rises to the surface of the water and is floated off. Another boiling with water, and again floating off, frees the fat from dirt and mineral matter, and the product is ready for casking.
  2. The residue in the extractors is usually dried in steam-heated vessels, and mixed with potassium and magnesium salts; the product is then put on the market as fish-potash guano.