Glue. Who Knew?

It’s a sticky subject that might surprise you.

The other day I walked into the garage, only to find dear husband smooshing a pair of boots in a clamp. What on earth? It turns out that he was re-gluing the soles. I’ve tried to do that once or twice myself, with no luck at all.

It turns out that I was using the wrong glue. The stuff he swears by is called Shoe Goo. The adhesives I tried in the past were not flexible enough after drying, which caused them to crack, and/or they didn’t properly adhere to the rubber. It seems as though there’s a glue for just about everything these days. The trick is finding the right one for the task at hand.

If you’re like me, you’ve never really given glue much thought. But that’s what I’m here for—to blog about stuff you don’t normally think about. So after several hours minutes of sticky research, here’s some interesting tidbits about glue.

First of all, glue is a 50 billion dollar industry. I never thought of it as an industry, period. So that’s cool. There are people out there whose entire careers revolve around the stuff. That must make for some tedious dinner party talk. “I’m in glue.”

But I shouldn’t joke about it. These people are proud of their products. Here’s a Youtube video from the Adhesive Sealant Council to prove it. And for a fun read over your corn flakes, check out the website. They even have a free lesson plan for elementary schools called The World of Glue. I kid you not.

It turns out, though, that on average, every single American uses 40 pounds of glue per year. Let that sink in for a moment. Unless you are a kindergarten teacher or a scrap booker, that 40 pounds of glue is probably passing through your life virtually unnoticed.

You come in close contact with glue every day. It’s in the bindings of books, the pipes that provide you with water, the shoes on your feet, and a scary amount of the car that you drive. It’s in the furniture you’re touching right now, the packaging of every product you open up, and the very crowns in your mouth.

And glue has been made from some interesting substances over the years. Tree sap. Animal blood. Bones, skin, and connective tissue. Beeswax. Egg whites. Fish. Plants. Milk. Scientists are even studying the sticky hairs on the feet of geckos to see what they can learn. But these days most glues are made out of synthetic materials.

It’s been around a long time, too. Neandertals mixed it with the paint that they used on the caves of Lascaux so their art would still be around for us to appreciate. Ancient Egyptians used it to make papyrus and wood furniture. The Romans used it for their mosaics. Archeologists have found that glue was used to adhere blades to spears and points to arrows.

Here’s something obvious that never crossed my mind: Tape is glue on a strip. Duct tape would be nothing without glue, and duct tape is the cure for all problems, as far as I’m concerned. And I can barely make it through a day without a post it note. So, yay for glue!

And did you know that Super Glue was invented by accident? Twice? By the same guy? Thank you, Dr. Harry Coover, for finally turning your irritating mistake into one extremely handy substance!

Glue can be a life saver, too. More and more, it’s used to bind wounds. It’s also been used on cracks in penguin eggs to allow the babies to grow sufficiently before hatching.

Years ago, a coworker showed me a really cool glue that you could put between two substances, and they could be as much as an inch apart, and as the glue dried it would slowly draw those things together until they had a close, tight seal. I wish I could remember what kind of glue that was, because it’s not only fun to watch, but it’s also pretty darned useful.

I’ve barely scratched the surface of this sticky subject. I hope it makes you see the world around you in a slightly different way, if only for a few moments. I also hope that you’ll stick with this blog (Sorry. Had to.) because I publish a new post every day.


10 Things You Didn’t Know About Adhesives


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