Medieval Glue

In an age when the only chemicals occurred naturally, the environment supplied everything. Lean against the slightly injured bark of a conifer and you will discover the stickiness of sap, particularly of pine resin. Grind starchy plant material and add water, and you will discover the glutinous stickiness of starches. On and on the list of natural adhesives could go.

Collagen-based glues:
Land animals: hides and skins, tendons, cartilage, bones, teeth, antlers, and hooves (by-products of butchery and tanning)
Fish: skin, bones, heads, swim-bladders (isinglass, ichtyocolle)

Animal glues such as hide glue are essentially unrefined gelatin, which can also be used as a binding agent in India ink (soot + glue). Gelatin was first used as an external surface sizing for paper in 1337 and continued as a dominant sizing agent of all European papers through the mid-19th century.

Hide Glue - playlist .

Casein-based glues (pdf):
Cheese glue, casein as binder in lime-ash flooring (video), (video in new window).

Albumin-based glue:
Egg yolk (tempura), serum albumin from blood

Starch pastes:
Wheatpaste (gluten proteins)

Gum Arabic is collected from acacia trees, particularly Senegalia senegal.
Senegalia senegal
source of Gum Arabic

Resin (pitch) is an oleo-resin obtained by tapping the resinous sap of pines and other conifers, or by dry distillation (heating) of the wood and roots of pine. Rosin results from the solidification of fresh liquid resin by heating to vaporize the volatile liquid terpene components.

Other natural gums are derived from colloids in marine plants, though this source might not have been known in the Middle Ages: algin (brown seaweeds, particularly species of Ascophyllum, Durvillaea, Ecklonia, Laminaria, Lessonia, and Macrocystis)

Making pine resin to attach arrowhead to shaft.

Making Pine Pitch Glue and Cutler’s Resin.
new window: Making Pine Pitch Glue and Cutler’s Resin.

Ray Mears Uses Pine Pitch Glue to attach arrowhead.
new windowRay Mears Uses Pine Pitch Glue to attach arrowhead.

Playlist: Resins, Tars, Natural Glues - Pine, Spruce, Birch .

Chewing starchy plants to make glue: Ray Mears attaching fletching, Hadza.
Open in new window: Ray Mears attaching fletching, Hadza.

Explanation of Adhesive (between substances) and Cohesive (within substance) Forces .
A History of Fish Glue as an Artist's Material.
How Glue is Made.
Medieval Glues Up to 1600 CE (pdf). (includes table of properties).

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