A sticky history

2 minutes, 48 seconds Read

All of us will have used glue at some point and we use it for everything from making goods to building skyscrapers! But where did it come from? Who was the first person to realise that we needed a solution so we could stick things together? You might think it’s a fairly recent invention but in actual fact there are cave paintings from 5000 years old that show evidence of the first use of glue. To help the paint remain on the cave walls, the paint had to have been mixed with glue which also enabled it to remain protected from moisture damage too.

People soon realised that there were sticky substances in animal leftovers that could be used as an adhesive. Collagen is found in horns, bones, hooves and some tissues from animals and this is the sticky stuff. They also used brain and blood – pretty sure it wouldn’t have smelled great though! Fish was also used to make glue as the skin and bones formed a clear adhesive when dried out. Plants also provided some substances that could be used to stick things.

Early humans were quite innovative in their experiments mixing boiled and processed animal and plant matter to make an effective glue. They used this glue on things like pottery, weapons and utensils. As we got to the Roman times, people were really getting on board with the gluing thing and they start to use it for sticking glass together to make huge tile and glass mosaics, walls and ceilings. Glue could also be used to make all manner of wooden tools as well. The fact that we still have some artifacts from this period shows us just how good their glue was. For a slightly more recent super-glue, take a look at metal bonding adhesive and visit http://www.ct1ltd.com/.

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Artists and writers began using rabbit skins to cover canvases before painting and to seal books together. Even putting gel on your hair might not be a modern invention as mummified remains have been found with animal fat and beeswax in them, from thousands of years ago. Animal glues are still popular today due to their natural properties and are often used by furniture makers and restorers, especially on old paintings and frames.

Gelatin is another animal product that can be used as a glue. It is derived from cows and pigs and so is blood glue from dried beef blood which is great for it’s waterproof qualities. Some manufacturers of plywood use this blood glue to bond wood veneers together. Thankfully, there are glues that people used made from animal derivatives and not directly the animal itself. People used to make glue from milk, egg whites and cheese! The Romans used beeswax to fill in the gaps between planks on their boats.

Scientists have been discovering all kinds of unique ways that animals use glue, such as barnacles that stick to the bottom of boats. The best, most recent discovery is thanks to the gecko who can run up walls and cling onto the ceiling with no slips or falls. They have millions of sticky hairs on their toes with every square millimetre have something incredible like 14,000 hairs! The hairs can attach and detach on any surface, even underwater. This has inspired scientists to work on a new adhesive called ‘Geckskin’.

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