On Isinglass

fishFish glue is the best that one can use for gluing hard woods and metals. It is made with the skin, nervous and mucilaginous parts of certain large fish [sturgeon], which are found in the Russian seas. It is in the north where fish glue is made, from where the English and the Dutch bring it to us, especially from the Port of Archangel, where it is a good business. Good fish glue has hardly any odor, and should be of a white color, clear and transparent. One must pay attention that is not contaminated, that is, mixed of heterogeneous parts.

To make fish glue melt, you take it in the following manner: You begin by cutting the hard, dry glue in little pieces, then you put it in a clay pot or a glass vessel with good brandy, noting that the latter covers the glue. Then you bottle up the vessel, which one must fill only half full, and you put it all on hot cinders just until the glue dissolves perfectly. Or, you can cut the glue as above, and you soak it in the brandy until it has softened, then you make it melt in a double boiler, as is normally done.

There are workers who, instead of brandy, put the fish glue in ordinary water to which they add a garlic clove. This is rather good, but is not the same as brandy, to which one can add a bit of garlic, which can only augment the strength of the glue.

One can do the same thing with good English glue; that is to say, put [it] in brandy and garlic. I have done it many times, and that has always been successful for me.

— A.J. Roubo

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22 Responses to On Isinglass

  1. Steve Jones says:

    I buy ready-to-use fish glue from Lee Valley and drink the brandy straight.

  2. Megan says:

    Mucilaginous brandy. Good band name.

  3. Mark Smith says:

    If they could make hide glue smell like Jack Daniels they couldn’t keep it in stock!

  4. I saw isinglass and immediately thought of a nice pint of Guinness…..mmmmm.

  5. SteveR says:

    Real cabinetmakers will fish for their own sturgeon in Russian seas, clean their own fish, grow their own garlic and make their own brandy. Anything less and you’re cheating.

  6. Jason B. says:

    I don’t know about fish glue; but I have found that if you soak a woodworker in brandy, you get more talking & less woodworking.

  7. Tom Pier says:

    Seems more than a bit wasteful to use brandy in the glue. Drink the brandy while you decide on some other glue.

  8. Melting glue with brandy? Blasphemy! Garlic too? Maybe Andre consumed too much brandy and was confused as to which recipie was for his glue and which was for his dinner.

  9. Kevin Wilkinson says:

    I like garlic.

  10. Rick says:

    Sounds fishy to me! Seriously, I use the fish glue from LV and like it a lot. Any comparisos to Old Brown Glue? Better? Different applications? Rick

  11. Jack Palmer says:

    Add a tomatoe and you have a nice pasta sauce for dinner as well.

  12. NPC says:

    What’s with the cookbook, I thought you said you would never publish a book on a topic other than woodworking?

  13. I think A.J.’s talking about a pickled finish here..

  14. JJ says:

    I like the easy to undersstand modern english, that part about it being white, clear and transparent makes little sense though

  15. nitrotron says:

    Fun Fact: Isinglass is a traditional fining agent in beer, most commonly used in British ales. The isinglass has a positive charge that attracts negative charge particles in beer. This includes tannins, yeast, bacteria. This aids in producing a clearer beer without filtering.

  16. Patrick says:

    My guess is that one night he was making dinner of fish and garlic with a brandy sauce, forgot to clean up (too much brandy that didn’t make it into the sauce) and the next morning, whiile scrubbing the crap out of his pans and cursing in French, thought to himself, “This would make a wonderful glue.”

  17. Fredrik says:

    Thanks for posting this gem, actually provides more insight than one would think. Sturgeon-bladder preparations shipped from Archangelsk, one sees the wooden ships, the markets, Roubo examining the new cake for clearness before cooking up todays first glue batch.

  18. One fish two fish, glue fish. . .

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