Rabbit skin glue experiment

And so my new journey with cold wax begins and I have to start at the bottom. For this experiment I found several recipes to get a good primer. Since I like to work with waste, including old cardboard boxes, the bottom layer must be good, otherwise the oil will leak through the cardboard with all the consequences that entails.

In an episode of ‘The Secret of the Master’ (a Dutch tv program), in which Rembrandt’s Night Watch was reconstructed, they had discovered too late that the canvas, which was several meters in size, had a rather absorbent base layer. They were already well on their way with the so-called dead paint, when they saw that the oil from the paint made huge stains around the painted part.

Their solution at the time was to “oil through”, in other words provide the entire canvas with a layer of oil. That doesn’t seem like the solution for my work, so I turned to other means, such as rabbit skin glue.

Rabbit skin glue is mainly used in musical instrument construction. Since the glue becomes liquid again when heated, the instrument can be disassembled for repair. There is a limit to this: the more often heated, the less the adhesive power. Rabbit skin glue is also said to be better than bone cement. The latter is less flexible and rather smelly. I keep in mind the isinglass. It doesn’t smell, and can also be bought ready to use.

After making the glue water with rabbit skin glue, I could continue with the recipe for the primer. I got a nasty gel-like substance and the chalk and pigment were not properly dissolved. The result: a very very grungy effect. After the base coat had dried, I couldn’t get the cold wax on it in good decency.

It is a nice idea though to use this further in combination with watercolor, gouache and a regular brush or spraying / air brushing.

Turns out I hadn’t done it quite right. When I first made an oil paint myself, by rubbing pigment powder with boiled linseed oil, I noticed how long it took before a nice smooth substance was created. That gave me the idea to give the rabbit skin glue a second chance.

After the first experiment, I kept the glue water in a jar and let it solidify. As I suspected, it then becomes a kind of gelatin, which is absolutely not edible!Heating up and liquefying the glue in a bain marie for a second time was child’s play, after that I patiently mixed it. I first mixed the chalk and pigments with a little water into a smooth paste and then added the glue. This looked so much better than the first time.

Also the spreading on the surface went much better. The substance was creamy, but I had to work a bit faster. When the glue drops to room temperature, it will turn back to a gelatin gel. After spreading it over an old cardboard cornflakes box, I lightly went over it with a paint roller, hoping that it would create a kind of tooth.
My hopes were answered and it looked nice and tight (except for one small spot where there was just not enough primer). The great rasp sound, when I go over the surface with my palette knife or old bank card, is fully present. And now playing can begin.

After the first layers you won’t notice anything of the surface anymore. Making many layers and removing them again is easy and when I end up on the base layer with my scraper, I don’t suddenly have a hole. I am quite satisfied with the result. Once dry, I check the back and see that the oil from the cold wax has not penetrated. Experiment successful!

Note to self:
When I make a next batch of rabbit skin glue, I will store the made rabbit skin glue in several smaller portions / jars, so that the adhesive strength is guaranteed because it does not have to be heated again and again.

And here is the result…