Monday, July 26, 2010

6. Preparing Glue

Nikawa (glue) is made from hide glue. We used cow-hide sticks from Japan. Different animal hides get different results. Cow hide seems to work the best. (We had some discussion about fish glue which is more readily available in North America. It will work, it isn't as strong as the cow-hide so you may need to use a stronger mixture.)
  1. Crack sticks (be careful, they are quite brittle, wrap them in a towel before you break them to be safe).

  2. We used 3 sticks to about 1/2 bowl of water. Glue will last about a week if you refrigerate it. It will go bad though, you will know this by the distinct odor.

  3. Soak overnight (you can speed this up by putting them on a low careful to not overheat or boil as it breaks the glue apart).

  4. We used metal bowls in class but its best to use some kind of pyrex or even a slow cooker.

  5. When the glue has softened from soaking, heat it gently making sure it doesn't boil. If you have a slow cooker you can use that. I got one from the goodwill store and that has worked fine. The reason they are good is that they don't get that hot. But you can also do it on the stove burner or electric griddle....just watch it carefully and do it on low heat.

  6. The glue will liquify.

  7. Filter the glue before you use it. We used coffee filters in class.

  8. Its actually good to paint with the glue a little warm....that is why something like a griddle is nice because you can periodically return it back to the griddle to warm up. Or if using a slow cooker, leave it on the lowest setting while your working and it will keep it gently warm. If you don't have these then you might want to return it to the stove burner periodically to warm it up....especially when you are in the process of mixing it with pigment.

  9. If you refrigerate it it will become gelatin again, just reheat it. You can reheat as much as you want without hurting the glue...just make sure not to boil.


  1. Thank you for your blog. I am new to Nihonga and appreciate your instructions. As far as preparing nikawa binder goes, what do you do in the case of small pellets rather than the long sticks? Do the pellets also need to be soaked overnight?


    1. I've used both the pellets and the sticks. You need to soak them for as long as it takes to have them soften to a gel. The pellets take much less time for this than the sticks. I've had them soften up in an hour or two. Even if you use the sticks, it goes faster if you break them up. I wrap them in a towel and take a hammer to them to break them up in smaller pieces.