Glue is usually not a priority for me, which is why when my partner, Richard, presented me with a beautiful cutting board he had made – from hard eastern maple, crossed with purple veins of African padauk – I thought trees should just grow in extremely complex ways that I had never noticed. It wasn’t until I heard him and his fellow woodworkers talk about “gluing” that I realized that a ferocious adhesive was involved in mixing the woods, and the wonders of this substance are greatly diminished when we let’s call it the best-used name for Elmer’s.
Wood glue has – again with little fanfare – gone alien. There are names attached to radicalism in adhesives: Mildred Bonney and Langdon T. Williams, the couple who founded the Franklin International adhesives company in 1935 in Columbus, Ohio, who released their flagship product, Titebond, in 1955 Titebond is a polyvinyl acetate (PVA) glue. It swells the fibers of the pieces of wood, so that they intertwine; as the glue dries the fibers shrink to their normal size, but they are now so tangled that the bond is virtually unbreakable.
While some luthiers still use animal glue when building stringed instruments – yes, the kind made from animal skins – most carpenters have switched to PVA, and especially Titebond, and especially (for projects that need it) at Titebond III, which inspires awe-inspiring airs. all over the internet for woodworking because it advertises itself as fully waterproof, although some experts have doubts. It also has a wide “open time” meaning it stays gooey and won’t dry out even if you procrastinate on how to fix your wood for a full 10 minutes. Titebond II only gives you five.
But the real breakthrough with all Titebonds is, of course, the connection. How much cleavage, compression, bending, impact, tension or shear is required to break the plane of a Titebond bond? This is measured in pounds per square inch, and Titebond III takes up to 4000 pounds to break. Two creepy tons. Hardwood will break before this glue.
Glue to the eyelashes. And while the old-fashioned false eyelashes require glue, it’s much weaker than Titebond – and that’s enough to think about sealed lids. The novelty of eyelashes is a synthetic analogue of prostaglandin called bimatoprost. (A synthetic analogue of prostaglandin is also the active ingredient in misoprostol, one of the pills approved for self-administered abortions.) Where chemical engineers can explain how ultrasound machines and PVA glue work, bimatoprost is a happy accident, and something of a mystery. Essentially, ophthalmic researchers were working to reduce the pressure in the eyes of patients with glaucoma, and they found that bimatoprost relaxes the ciliary – the anxious muscle in the eye that chronically contracts when we read on our smartphones. – what caused the aqueous liquid to come out inside the eye. They were surprised to find that this plasma-like fluid movement also served as Miracle-Gro for the eyelashes.
As the invention of a technology capable of growing human hair seems to be humanity’s highest aspiration, it was a thrill. “Hypotrichosis,” or what the National Institutes of Health calls “insufficient eyelashes,” is the disorder that bimatoprost treats, which can be seen in people with alopecia, but of course the compound has more futile applications. Excitingly, bimatoprost might even trigger hypertrichosis – excessive eyelash growth, the generation of profuse, lush bangs on the eye that obviates the need for the thickening paint of mascara. “These hairs,” the NIH study purrs, “looked more robust, were longer, thicker, and more strongly pigmented, and appeared at a sharper angle to the skin than in the control eye.” The only problem? Hypertrichosis caused by bimatoprost is sometimes accompanied by an “irregular pattern of eyelash curl.” OH HELL NO.