Today’s short post on using a glue pot will help you complete your leatherworking projects a little faster. This is the kind of tip you’d never hear if you are self-taught and work alone. Many leatherworkers are a hot mess when it comes to using glue, and one of my biggest pet peeves in our studio is glue on the table …and your work, the rulers, your fingers, the tub, the chair, etc., etc. The culprit is the glue pot; if I can fix your usage of the glue pot, you will work much cleaner.
Leatherworkers use two main types of adhesives: contact cement and rubber cement, which I discussed in this article. Both adhesives are either water-based or solvent-based. Technically, water is also a solvent; when I refer to solvent-based glues, I mean ones with a chemical solvent. Some contain toluene (kills brain cells), and others are toluene-free (kills fewer brain cells). I am not trying to scare you here; toluene and other thinners are in many paints, glues, and other chemicals. A few hours a month isn’t going to kill you, but I do recommend proper ventilation and minimizing open time.
Leather Glue Pots for Medium Mixed Use
The trick to a glue pot is knowing which kind of glue you use, solvent or water-based, and selecting the right glue pot to match your usage. If you use solvent-based glue and a lot of it, the large glue pots are a good choice.
Inside is a glue brush, and the glue in the large square reservoir flows onto the brush when the pot is positioned down. When positioned upright, the glue recedes to the reservoir and drips off the brush. The off-gas of the solvent might further dissolve some glue off of the brush, but I think it’s just gravity pulling glue off. Setting the pot upright ensures you don’t get excess glue when you use the brush again. You tip it down, get what you need, and put it back up. This setup is ideal for frequent daily work and for gluing small pieces where you don’t need gobs of glue every time. There is even a little ledge for you to wipe excess glue to get the exact amount you need.
Many of our readers use their glue occasionally, a couple of hours a day at the most. In these cases, I would leave the pot upright for long-term storage but remove the brush. One day won’t dry out the brush, but in a few days, you’ll need a lot of thinner to get it workable again. If I am not using my brush again, I’ll store it in a glass jar with a little thinner in the bottom. This keeps it pliable for the next time that I need my solvent glue setup.
Water-Based Adhesives Inside Glue Pots
You can use the solvent-based glue pots that I described above with a slight modification. With water-based glues, the brush needs to stay wet. Once the brush dries, it will stay solid unless you use a thinner. As parts of the brush dry, the water-based glue beads on the brush creating lumps that can get on your work.
Keep your glue pot down with the brush in the glue. It shortens the life of the brush, but it’s better than drying it out. You should also wash out the brushes daily and store them separately, as I suggested for the solvent-based glue.
Leather Glue Pots for Heavy-Duty Use
If you’re doing lots of gluing at once, the version of the glue pot with the brush permanently down in the glue can be a better choice because you’re always using a lot of glue. These pots are essentially the same as the large glue cans with the brush attached to the cap. Reducing the default amount on the brush is not a consideration. You want lots of glue immediately, and this kind of setup is great for production. If you are doing hundreds of pieces, you want lots of glue often, and when you put the brush back, it fills up with glue immediately. If you watch production videos on YouTube for fun, as I do, you’ll notice they all use this brush-down pot because they are gluing up hundreds of shoes, belts, or bags at a time.
Many hobbyists use their glue pots once a week or just a few times a month. In these cases, I recommend not using the above two types of glue pots for solvent-based adhesives. When I first did leatherworking, I dried out two pots because I took a few months between projects. The glue solidifies in the reservoir, and you must shell out for another glue pot and the dried glue in the container. If you buy glue in big containers, you’re better off pouring out a fraction and using that for your project.
Glue Pot Recommendation For Occasional and Mixed Use
I use a round, wide-mouthed container and a spatula for regular water-based glue use. I can pour out the amount I need; if it dries out because I left it too long, no biggie. It was a small amount to begin with. This setup prevents contaminating your glue with dried bits, leather, and color bleeding.
I also like my water-based glue to solidify a little bit more than when it’s new in the bottle. The glue in the tub is perfect the day after I pour it. It’s like how day-old rice is better for fried rice than fresh rice.
Our container has a wide opening, so you can use a spatula, brush, or nearly any applicator. We’ll show you how to expertly use this combination in an upcoming online course. I keep two in rotation, so they’re easier to clean. I pour my project amount into one container and use it until it’s empty. There’s usually a build-up of dried glue on the edge where you scrape excess, on the sides and between the threads for the lid. I leave this nearly empty container open until it dries out overnight. The next day, I can simply peel off the dried glue and have a fresh new container to use. I’ll use the second container when the first one is drying out, so I’m never without a glue pot. Most of my glue is still in the original container, uncontaminated, and seldom exposed to air. This lengthens the shelf life of my glue and reduces waste. I similarly have two spatulas that I maintain in the same cleaning rotation.
I still use brushes for solvent-based glue. The solvent glue is a pain to remove from a spatula. I mainly use water-based glue, so these glue brushes see infrequent use, as does the matching glue pot. These larger pots are still great for heavy use with water or solvent-based glues. Before I discovered using round containers, I used the other versions in our courses because so many people glued so often.
Clean Your Pots!
Whichever glue container you use, clean them regularly. As the glue dries out, solid beads appear at the edges of the container at the surface. And where you have been wiping the excess, it usually becomes a horrible mess. These bits get into your work, and you’ll get lumps in what should be a smooth, flat surface. Cleaning your pot takes no time at all, especially if you use them in rotation, as I described above. You’ll get cleaner, less stick, lump-free work.