Have You Ever Stopped To Think How Is Glue Made? Fun Facts For Kids!

Rajnandini Roychoudhury
Feb 01, 2023 By Rajnandini Roychoudhury
Originally Published on Oct 29, 2021
Edited by Monisha Kochhar
Fact-checked by Sakshi Raturi
White glue on a wooden board.

Glue is a sticky adhesive that is used to bind two substances together to create a single item.

The glue manufacturing process has evolved with the passing of every century, from being made out of natural plant and animal parts to shifting to the use of synthetic material. With advancements in science and technology, mixing of both natural and synthetic materials is done to make different kinds of adhesives.

The use of adhesives started in ancient times where glues were made out of organic substances. The raw materials were mostly plant and animal-based.

Glue belongs to the adhesive family and is a sticky substance, different from other synthetic adhesives. Natural glues are derived from plant and animal parts after thorough processing. These are less adhesive and moisture resistant, making them less durable than chemical glues.

The history of glue making and using glue can be traced back to the times of Neanderthals, where they used glue over their cave paintings to preserve their texture for a long time. It is only in the 20th century that glue-making industries developed, and the use of chemical-based glues came into existence.

Based on the type of raw materials, there are two basic types of glue: natural and synthetic. Natural adhesives are mostly animal glues, made out of animal parts like meat, skin, hides and bone of bulky muscular animals like a horse and pig.

Fish glues are also commonly found. Glues made from rubber trees are called rubber adhesives where natural rubber is mixed with chemical solvents forming strong polymers.

Another hypo-allergenic, tree-based glue is methyl acetate glue, made by chemically treating cellulose into strong polymers. It is used to stick labels and as food emulsifiers.

Taking over from natural adhesives, the manufacturing of synthetic adhesives has intensified with the evolution of science and technology. Innovations like Elmer's glue and super glue have slackened the market of animal glues mostly since World War II.

Want to know more about the different processes of glue making? Here is a full-blown guide covering different ways of how is glue made. You can also check out the process of how is glitter made and how is ink made.

How is glue made from horses?

Yes, you read that right! Since ancient times glue was made by extracting a protein-based substance called collagen, which was obtained from animals such as horses by processing their hide, meat and bones.

Collagen was processed to convert it into gelatin, which was processed further to make glue. Horse-based glues take greater time to dry and are mostly useful for furniture makers and bookbinders, who need a slow-drying adhesive, as wood joining or arranging and binding the pages of a book takes time.

In earlier times, horse meat was a delicacy in many countries, and glue manufacturers could collect the parts they needed once the meat was packaged.

After the eating of horse meat was banned, horses that had died were taken by glue manufacturers who began with cleaning the hide and separating the muscular tissues and bones.

Thereafter, body parts such as hides and bones of horses were soaked in water and mixed with lime to extract maximum collagen. The soaked materials were put into boiling hot water for several hours to convert into a glue liquid or gelatin.

Impurities were separated by adding acid and alum. Finally, the glue liquor was reheated to harden it into a perfect glue consistency.

Although widely popular in the past, horse glue is rarely used anymore since the slaughtering of horses is now banned in many countries.

How is Elmer's glue made?

A picture of a smiling bull is seen on the package of Elmer's glue and it is absolutely cruelty-free. As opposed to the common belief that they use animal protein in their glue, it is made of synthetic materials.

In the '20s, Borden acquired the Casein Glue Company of America, which made dairy-based glue. They switched to making resin glues from American corns.

After the takeover of Borden's company by the Berwind Corporation in 2003, all white glues that are manufactured are made out of synthetic materials. Materials used to create Elmer's glue include petroleum, natural gas and other naturally occurring chemicals synthesized by man.

How is wood glue made?

Earlier wood glue was made out of animal protein from large muscular animals.

Collagen obtained from the skin, tissue, hair and bone of horses and pigs was mostly processed into glues. But synthetic glues have fast taken over the natural ones since the 20th century. Some of the main ingredients used to make a long-lasting wood glue are isomers, homologs, formaldehyde, polyvinyl acetate (PVA) and beeswax, to name a few.

How is super glue made?

Cyanoacrylate glue, also called super glue, is an adhesive made out of catalyzing two or more monomers into a polymer.

In the glue factory, initially, ethyl cyanoacetate is condensed in a kettle, mixing it with formaldehyde. After cooling, monomers are separated to bring the mixture into a liquid state. It is then reheated to enable thermal cracking and curing of the polymer, creating reactive monomers which are removed as impurities.

Did You Know...

PVA or polyvinyl acetate glue is a white, odorless, harmless, and clear-drying solvent adhesive, perfect for children's use at school. Elmer's glue is also a PVA except for a few contrasting features in its properties.

Elmer's glue is slightly less acidic than PVA and is best suited to stick cotton and paper items. While PVA, also called carpenter's or wood glue is stronger in joining wooden and plastic items.

'Green-labelled' glues or eco adhesives are sustainable glues made out of recycling waste material. The process of making sustainable glues started as a concern to save the environment and many varieties have been innovated such as repulpable, recyclable, and biodegradable glues.

The glue-making process involves the use of biodegradable waste materials like paper, hides, skin, and bones of fish into a binding acid, without the use of any chemical or synthetic material.

Because of a lower acid content, the binding property is weaker than other natural and synthetic glues. It is fast gaining popularity among large companies like McDonald's and will soon take over the glue market as people move towards living more sustainably.

Here at Kidadl, we have carefully created lots of interesting family-friendly facts for everyone to enjoy! If you liked our suggestions for how is glue made then why not take a look at are birds warm-blooded, or are black diamonds real.

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Written by Rajnandini Roychoudhury

Bachelor of Arts specializing in English, Master of Arts specializing in English

Rajnandini Roychoudhury picture

Rajnandini RoychoudhuryBachelor of Arts specializing in English, Master of Arts specializing in English

With a Master of Arts in English, Rajnandini has pursued her passion for the arts and has become an experienced content writer. She has worked with companies such as Writer's Zone and has had her writing skills recognized by publications such as The Telegraph. Rajnandini is also trilingual and enjoys various hobbies such as music, movies, travel, philanthropy, writing her blog, and reading classic British literature. 

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Fact-checked by Sakshi Raturi

Postgraduate Diploma in Management

Sakshi Raturi picture

Sakshi RaturiPostgraduate Diploma in Management

Sakshi has experience in marketing strategy, social media planning, and recruiting industry experts for capstone projects, she has displayed a commitment to enhancing their skills and knowledge. She has won multiple awards, including a Certificate of Appreciation for Creative Writing and a Certificate of Merit for Immaculate Turut, and is always seeking new opportunities to grow and develop.

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