A few months ago I purchased the Lee Valley small hot hide glue pot. I really like it. Yes its small, holds about an ounce of glue, but that is more than enough for most projects. The thing is extremely well made and will last generations. When I purchased the pot I also purchased the warming plate. It does exactly what it is supposed to do, keeps the glue at the proper working temperature. So I have been happy with this setup, but…a set of circumstances has led to my experimenting with a new, larger capacity setup.
Several days ago Roland Johnson, of Fine Woodworking, put up a blog post about using a wax warmer as a hide glue pot. I read the article, thought it was nice solution, but I was just fine with what I already had. In the post there was a link to Amazon’s listing of a wax warmer. I clicked it, thought the price was reasonable, but, again, I’m happy with what I already had.
The next day I had to place a last-minute Christmas gift order on Amazon. Since I had previously viewed the wax warmer, Amazon made a point of showing it to me again. Well their marketing ploy worked and I spent the $29 on the wax warmer. It showed up on Christmas Eve morning and I went straight to work setting it up for hot hide glue.
What I received was a temperature controlled heating unit with a lidded, removable aluminum pot. Just like the commercially available, purpose built electric glue pot (Hold Heat), the warmer uses an air jacket instead of a water jacket to heat the contents of the pot. The removable pot has a 20oz capacity when filled to the brim. That’s waaay more glue than I would ever need to heat at any give time. So I needed a smaller container to place within the removable pot.
Management had, at some point, picked up a 3-pack of small lidded glass jars. The little jar has a capacity of 30z, a screw on lid and a chalkboard on the lid as a bonus (I can date the batch). So now I had a secondary container that I could place in a water bath in the larger pot.
After a little thought I hit upon a plan. The glass jar will thread into a 2″ diameter whole. Just so happens I have a 2″ hole saw. So step one was to remove the existing knob from the aluminum pot lid that came with the wax warmer and drill a 2″ hole in the center of the lid. After a little cleanup, the jar threaded into place without any issue.
A little trial and error revealed that the best arrangement for suspending the jar into the water bath of the larger pot, was to invert the lid. This created a better seal between the lid and the larger pot. It also created a dish that should serve to help contain any mess. I then reinstalled the original plastic knob onto the aluminum lid.
One other modification I made was to add a brush wipe to the glass jar. I cut a length of copper electrical wire and removed the bare copper ground wire. I then shaped the wire to fit down into the glass jar so that it created a wiping bar across the opening of the jar. Supposedly copper has an anti microbial effect on the glue, at least there should be no adverse reactions on the glue as could be had with other metals.
The last thing I needed to do for this setup was to discover the heat setting on the warmer that generated a consistent glue temperature of ~145deg. Basically I just added water to the pot and jar. Then heated everything until a meat thermometer gave me the reading I wanted within the glass jar. Marked that setting on the dial of the wax warmer and then verified with another heating cycle.
So for about $30 I have a faster heating, larger capacity hot hide glue setup. The addition of lidded glass jar makes storing of unused glue in the refrigerator a little easier to get past management too.
Both the wax warmer and Lee Valley systems work perfectly well and are about the same cost, at least in the US. I didn’t need this new system, but here we are. Hopefully this will be of help to some of you who are wanting to make the change to, or experiment with, hot hide glue.
For those of you who are interested, my glue brush making technique also works just fine with a flat handle.
This setup really appeals to me. My baby bottle warmer ALMOST gets hot enough.
I’ve read that the bottle warmers, especially the new models, just don’t seem to produce enough heat. This thing will go well above 150degF.
I promise to offer fewer unsolicited opinions in 2017 but until then…if I were you, I’d shorten the brush to about 6″ and it would be far less likely to tip your jar over while working at the bench ( unless you generally bring the whole set up over to your bench).
I’ve been working out of a similar mason jar for a few months now and have it nested in a coffee mug 1/4 filled with water, on the Lee Valley heater. It take’s a long time to heat it up from fridge temperature, so I always run hot water from the tap into the cup, holding the mason jar so that both get near working temperature before setting it on the heater. I do the same routine when I’m using the metal container.
One thing I use is a plastic lid to set the brush on when I need to set it down for a second but don’t want to dunk it back into the glue. The plastic is great because the dried glue doesn’t stick to it. An upcoming project will be some sort of caddy to hold the heater/mason jar/coffee mug & brush while working.
Thanks for the tips. I more than likely will be shortening my brushes. I started long until I get them into use…its tough to go the other way. LOL
Funny, I read that and bought one on impulse. I think I will return mine. My mini crock pot thing works just as well for me. Most importantly I can put my whole jar in there and put the stock lid on with out modifications. I use a hide glue recipe from my luthier friend, (I’m also messing around with string instrument repair). His recipe isn’t the 1 to 1 ratio and its measured out in a larger jar. The crock pot is easier for me, and thats 20 some dollars I can put towards some better chisels!
There are hundreds of possible solutions for heating hide glue for a small shop. Glad to hear that you have one that works for you.
What temperature does the lee valley glue pot warmer hold the glue at? Do you find it’s reliable in staying the same temperature or do you have to monitor it?
Awesome job and presentation I appreciate your time testing and finding new workarounds. I’m a luthier and this has been invaluable. Thanks!