Wednesday, March 16, 2016

How to Make Pine Pitch






Shameless self-promotion! We are now selling pitch sticks on Etsy. Check it out here: https://www.etsy.com/shop/StoneAxeHerbals?ref=hdr_shop_menu

Although very, very sticky at times, pine pitch is fairly easy and super fun to make. Known by some as nature's plastic, this versatile substance has been used for thousand of years for almost any task you can imagine. It will stick to anything you want and is very pliable when warm, it is rock solid when hardened, waterproof, and extremely flammable. Traditionally, it was used to attach arrows to their shafts, attach knife blades to handles, patch canoes, make soles for shoes, to waterproof bark containers, and much, much more. 

Even the famous Otzi the Iceman, who died 5,300 years ago, was found carry tools glued together with pitch. 
To read more about it at PBS.org click HERE. 




Today, it can still be used for anything you like. It is the ultimate crazy glue, much better than anything you can buy in the store. I'm telling you, this stuff will stick to (and stay on) anything, and I mean anything, including your hands and clothing so be careful! In modern times, many people use it as an emergency fire starter as it does not matter if it gets wet. With a wick (a piece of cloth or lichen), you can even use pitch as a long lasting lamp. 

I even used pine pitch to patch a hole in my gourd water bottle. Check it out in my post, How to Make a Gourd Water Bottle by clicking HERE.

Below is an amazing video of a comparison between regular matches and pine pitch coated matches, by ReWildUniversity.






To make pine pitch you will need:
- pine resin (or fir or spruce)
- charcoal 

optional:
- snowshoe hare feces 
OR
- dry grass 



Pine, fir, or spruce resin can be harvested anywhere these trees are found. To do so, simply go for a walk in the woods and keep an eye out for the gooey stuff coming out of the trees. Once you have found some, scrape it off with a stick or spoon and put it in a tin, shell, or piece of birch bark. You can use your fingers but it is not advised as you will quickly get very frustrated with your hands sticking to everything for the rest of the day. It's seriously painful to pry your fingers apart after getting resin on your hands.


Spruce and fir resin on birch bark and my fancy moose maple scraping tool.

 


Resin is made by the tree to seal wounds and protect them from insect or pathogen infestation so look for trees that have been wounded in some way. A good place to look is in an area where logging has occurred recently, as you can sometimes find gobs of the stuff oozing from freshly cut pines, especially in the springtime during warm weather. 

Can't find any resin? Taking wayyy too long to collect just a little bit? You can buy pine resin here:

                                                                  


Now that you've collected your resin you will need to find some charcoal from any ordinary fire (not charcoal for grilling that you buy at the store but the black chunks left in the ashes after a fire). Crush it up finely until you have at least 1/2 as much charcoal powder as you do pine resin. The best way to do this is with a mortar and pestle but a couple of rocks will do too. 

Optional: Crush up your dry snowshoe hare turds into dust and mix with the charcoal powder. The only way to get these is just to go out in the woods and look. The best time is in the winter when you can see tracks and the turds on the white snow. Go somewhere that you know the hares hangout, very dense conifer stands are the best.   I guess you could also use domestic rabbit feces if it was very dry as well, but I've never tried it. 

Snowshoe hare feces 

The snowshoe hare turds act as a binding agent, but you can make pitch without it. Many people do not include it and their pitch works fine. 

If you don't have any snowshoe hare feces, you can use very dry grass but you will have to grind it into tiny fibers. To do this, put a handful of dry grass in a mortar and pestle and grind it for five minutes. Most of the grass will still be in long pieces, discard these and only keep the very small bits. 

Now it's time to mix it all together. This is the ratio:
1 part pine resin
1/2 to 1 part charcoal dust
ground snowshoe hare feces or grass as desired (1/8 part recommended)




In a tin can or a large shell, melt the pine resin until it is stirred easily. Add your dry ingredients. Mix well. Dip a stick in and let it harden to test hardness. Play around with ratios of ingredients until you get it how you like it. If you have very fresh, newly collected resin, you will have to add much more than if you have older resin because the water content of the resin changes over time. If it is very old and hard, you may not need to use much charcoal at all. I have some that is in large chunks that are several years old, and I only use about 10% charcoal when I use it. Althought it can be frustrating to get it just right, the art of pine pitch making can be very rewarding. 

The method that I like to use is to keep a bowl of cold water nearby so that I can dip the stick in the pitch, then in the water to harden. Take it out and let all the water dry (you dont want to get water in your pitch). Dip again and then back in the water. Repeat until you have the desired amount of pitch on your stick. 

Again, this is a difficult process to get just right. You can purchase pitch sticks from my Etsy shop here: https://www.etsy.com/shop/StoneAxeHerbals?ref=hdr_shop_menu



Disclaimer: This blog is just my own opinion, nothing more. While I try my hardest, everything may not be completely accurate or complete. Sorry, I'm only human, so do not hold me accountable for anything you do to harm yourself or the world around you. I do make money from this blog (seriously not very much at all guys). If you click on any of the links in my blog I may make money from it. I'm not sponsored by any of these people I just honestly love these products and want to give you the resources to find them. I am not a medical practitioner; consult a health professional before using any herbal remedies. I am not claiming to diagnose, treat, prevent, or cure any ailment. 





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