A Pine Pitch Thread

Discussion in 'Other Skills' started by WoodsJack, Jan 12, 2013.

  1. WoodsJack

    WoodsJack Guide

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    A search didn't turn up any topical threads specific to this.

    Recently, a tree went down in a storm here. Unfortunately, it was on someone else's property and they got to harvest the wood. Fortunately, they allowed me to have at it a bit and harvest some of the pitch deposits on it:

    [​IMG]

    It's a pretty good batch. Now I'm looking for methods to strain and clarify it, to produce cleaner, smaller pieces.

    I'm finding some online descriptions of ways to do so, but wanted to check with folks here about their ways and experiences and maybe consolidate the info in an easily identified thread for this purpose.
     
  2. Jonah L. Archer

    Jonah L. Archer Guide Bushclass II

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  3. that1guy1980

    that1guy1980 Tracker

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    When I have made pine pitch before, I usually just boil it in a container over a fire or camp stove, and the scum comes to the top and I just scrape it off.
     
  4. bwise

    bwise Tracker

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    Purifying pine pitch

    Woods Jack,

    The easiest way I have found the purify pitch is to take two containers that will only be used in preparing pine pitch, and an old T-shirt with two sticks (about 2 feet long). First I tie a stick to the base of the T-shirt, you can use either tape or any cordage you want to. Next I run another stick through the armholes of the T-shirt and secure each arm with tape or use cordage so that it doesn’t fold in whenever you pour the pitch mixture through it. Next start a fire using one container to place the pitch you wish to purify in and place it on the fire. Also, I don’t know if this is true or not but I have been told you should not allow your pitch to come to a rolling boil, I only allow it to come to a boil and start the next process. The next step is easiest with two people. You should already have your secondary container ready to receive the mixture and have your T-shirt strainer nearby. As soon as your pine pitch begins the boil, take it off the fire (carefully so that you don’t get burned) and pour it through the T-shirt. You twist one way, and your helper twist the other way over the container you wish to catch the material in. The T-shirt catches all the debris and your container is left with purified pine pitch. I did not invent this method, this is the way I was taught. I hope that I have explained this well enough for you to understand it, I was born without the teaching bone.

    Edit; there are quite a few videos on YouTube that shows several methods of doing this. This man does his primitively but I enjoy his videos. gotrocksinhead
    Mods. If I'm not allowed to name someone on YouTube just delete it.

    good luck,
    bwise.
     
  5. BushMetal

    BushMetal Banned Member Banned

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    Put it in a sock or something that can take the heat of melting it

    Then once liquid just remove the sock that's filled with the junk

    works for beeswax
     
  6. WoodsJack

    WoodsJack Guide

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    Thanks for the tips, so far, everyone. Some here, along with others I've seen elsewhere have raised a coupla' questions/concerns in my mind. Granted, I haven't yet tried any of these, but before I do and in the process of choosing which way(s) to go, I'm wondering:

    1. Some folks seem to be advising mixing the pitch with other substances in the process, before making "ingots", cakes, etc. Stuff like beeswax, charcoal, critter poop, etc.

    2. Some folks caution about both the pitches high flammability and noxious fumes when heating.

    3. Some folks describe heating/boiling the pitch in water and then somehow "skimming" it off/out, rather than just pitch boiling.

    4. Some advise wrapping pitch in some type of cloth before/during immersion and then pressing that down while in the solution to squeeze filter the pitch out in the container. Others advise pouring melted pitch through filters or lifting filters from bottom of pot once heated/melted.

    5. Etc.

    Lots of these seem sensible to obvious, which is why I'm hoping for more actual personal experiences and, of course, a disasterous but hilarious account or two.

    Again, thanks all.
     
  7. Hidden Florida

    Hidden Florida Tracker

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    Now I have to redo my resin stick. Didn't think about sharpening the end.
    That article was amazing. I can report that pine resin, rabbit droppings, and charcoal work
    very well together also.
     
  8. Murat V

    Murat V Scout

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    My experience has been with the heating & filtering method. Here are some pics from '08 when I harvested trays of raw pine / spruce gum for pitching my birchbark canoe. Would've been easier and faster with a second pair of hands but I was working solo. Setup was simple enough. Used a pot bought for $1.99 at a thrift store to melt the gum. You have to consider the melting pot a write-off...no way to get it clean ever again. Went to my local park and set up simple alcohol stove rig (open tuna can with methylated spirits) between some stone bricks. Also got a disposable roasting pan from the dollar store meant for the purified resin.

    [​IMG]

    No way I could do the whole load in one shot, so melted the supply in batches. Doesn't really give off "noxious" fumes but extremely pleasant to my nostrils. Very flammable though so you need a lid for your pot to quickly snuff out any flames. Prepped some cotton cheesecloth with sticks stabbed into each end to form a crude hammock. This was laid over the roasting pan and the melted gum poured in.

    [​IMG]

    Twisted the sticks and extracted the gum best I could.

    [​IMG]


    Repeated about 4 times to get the purified resin.

    [​IMG]


    Let it cool then brought it back home and put in the freezer. Busted up the chunks and put them into ziploc for storage.

    [​IMG]

    Freezing the resin prevented any stickiness on the hands when handling the stuff. From here you can add whatever else is needed for your pitch mixture - powdered charcoal, grasses, animal droppings, lard, whatever.

    The cleanest method I've ever seen was recently shown in this post from a 1946 film showing the making of an Algonquin birchbark canoe. They stuffed the resin in a burlap sack, pressed it under boiling water, skimmed the melted gum, dumped it into cold water and then worked it cleanly into a twisted package. That footage starts around the 6:55 mark.

    Let us know about your pitch technique too
     
  9. juskojj

    juskojj Scout

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    great post, i just found a decent amount of pitch, nothing like above but i like the process of heat, strain and repeat. may give that try
     
  10. TroopNJ

    TroopNJ Tracker

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    I will offer my experiences with pitch. Heat the pitch slowly and only bring it to as much of a boil as needed to get the job done. Try as hard as possible to not let the pitch catch fire. The ideal glue is both strong and flexible. Every time you heat and cool the pitch it gets a little more brittle (again these are just my experiences). Catching the pitch on fire will only make the brittleness worse.
    Once the pitch is fluid, I poured it through a cheap metal splatter guard. I do this because it has a finer mesh than a strainer, can withstand the heat of the pitch, and when I'm done I can burn off the crud from the strainer, hit it with a wire brush and do another batch.
    Once I have the refined pitch, I agree with another poster to freeze it and then break off what you need for that project.
    Personally I prefer about a 50:50 ratio of powdered hardwood charcoal to pitch. However, every type of pitch and every type of application will want a different ratio of additive. Experimenting to find your own "secret recipe" is half the fun. Come to think of it, that's probably why people were called masters of their craft. They were willing to put in the time and energy to learn all the nuances of the skill...
    Hope this helps!
     
  11. onewiththewild

    onewiththewild Scout Bushclass I

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    well, its all be pretty well put, the only thing i do differently is i use a sink strainer over a clean soup can, i put the can by the fire and heat it up good, then i put the sink strainer over it and put the globs in, they melt thru leaving the junk behind, and when your done you just burn off the residue. i like to add dry deer droppings and black charcoal ground up into dust to my pitch too.
     
  12. Papa Tac

    Papa Tac Scout

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    I used the 2 can method, holes in the inner one to make these.

    004.jpg

    I didn't have any scat to add, so I used fine wood chips and ash from the wood stove.
    Not pretty, but ok for the first try.
    Haven't used it yet, though

    Used the leftovers for jute fire starters

    006.jpg
     

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  13. arleigh

    arleigh Scout

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    Please forgive the ignorance ,and for those whole don't know the value of pitch,
    What are you using it for ?
    1.Glue
    2 ??
     
  14. Winterhorse

    Winterhorse Supporter Supporter

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    2. Fire starter. Burns hot and long.
     
  15. badgerthehobo

    badgerthehobo Scout

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    Why do you have to use poop in it?
     
  16. jkswaff

    jkswaff Scout

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    I got some really nice and clean - and boy is it the stickiest stuff ever. I collected the dried sap from trees in the Houston area - mostly slash pine (I think) with some from some long leaf pine I came across. I collected quite a pile, but it must have been at least 50% bark and general "roughage". The first thing I did was dissolve it in denatured alcohol (If it was good enough to get the stick off my hands I thought it would be just the thing). I half filled some canning jars with the pitch and added the alcohol to cover it by maybe half an inch. Then shake, allow it to sit, shake etc for a few days until I could only see the bark floating around. I then filtered this through a coffee filter, although I imagine old T-shirts etc would do just as well. At this point I then resorted to high tech. I work in a lab and had access to really fine, single use vacuum filtration units. So one quiet afternoon I set it up in a corner and spent an hour of so filtering it all through a 0.2 um filter. And "Yes" the result was very clear. After that it was just a case of leaving the top off the jar to allow the alcohol to evaporate and thicken up. Currently I have some like thick syrup, and some a bit thinner. I used the thinner version to paint onto some birch bark squares I used to make a knife handle - as I say its super sticky and the alcohol soon evaporates just leaving the pitch.
     
  17. TroopNJ

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    You don't HAVE to use poop in it, but it's more fun to tell people you do.
    Seriously though, I one needs to look at where this skill came from to see the reason. If you are in a primitive living situation, and are therefore using pitch instead of say super glue, you might need different mixtures for different applications. Hafting an arrow point versus waterproofing a cup for instance. The arrow point needs a more flexible glue than the cup might. Herbivore poop has a nice assortment of ground up plant matter that makes a very flexible epoxy. Deer and rabbit droppings are easy to find, free, and often already dried and ready for use. When sealing up a drinking cup (not hot liquids please!) a shiny, hard, less porous pitch mix might be in order.
    Plus I'm not a fan of drinking from the "poo" sealed vessel.

    All this being said, these are just my experiences. If your dirt time has taught you differently I would love to hear about it. I am no expert and I'm always trying to learn.
     
  18. badgerthehobo

    badgerthehobo Scout

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    That makes sense, thanks for the info. I haven't made pitch yet, I was just curious. I'm also curious who was the first guy to look at a handful of sap, a pile of turd, and go "heeeey....I gots me an idear!" :D
     
  19. onewiththewild

    onewiththewild Scout Bushclass I

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    from my experience with using pitch resin (mixed with charcoal dust and droppings,and i go thru alot! check my posts,lol) it works best as a primitive cement. i use it too set things in solid, like an axe head or knife blade in a wooden handle. Birch tar (a totally different kinda pitch thats made differently) is better suited for things like arrow making and to cover sinew bindings, its also the stuff you would want to use if you were making that cup. if your only using pine sap as a firestarter you dont really need to go thru all the steps of cleaning it out, it'll burn just as good,if not better, with all the crap still stuck in it. so,the sap is the binder, the charcoal dust the stability, and the droppings the flexability. without the C.dust it will be too sticky to handle and would run when it warmed up, without the droppings it would be too brittle when cool.
     
  20. Nakadnu

    Nakadnu OBSERVER Supporter Bushcraft Friend

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    My experience with pine pitch is pretty limited. I once melted a tablespoon size piece of pitch on a rock preheated in the fire. Once it was liquid I used a piece of cotton sock to soak it up. In the 1/2 second it took to soak up the pitch the sock became glued to the rock. I had to rip the sock apart to get it lose. I frayed up the clean part of the sock and lit it with a ferro. This burned for a long time.

    On the poop thing. Herbivore droppings, once dry, are basically ground up and compressed plant material. Once they are fully dry you can usually break them down to powder which makes a good tinder. You can also use whole dry pieces as a coal extender or if you have "cow chips" they can be used in place of firewood. That was one of the main sources of fuel on the prairie back in the old days. Of course it would have been buffalo chips instead of cow chips.
    Just because they are dry does not mean I don't wash my hands before eating after handling them!
     

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