Thursday, April 17, 2008

Pitch - "Survival Epoxy"

Last November when doing trail work in the lower Sierra Nevada's I happened upon a tree that was gushing out sap. The picture below shows just a portion of the sap that was running. I took the opportunity to collect as much as I could. After finishing with this tree I found a few more trees that had pretty good quantities. I suspect the dry air in the region leads to more limbs cracking then most places.

I collected the sap to make pitch which can be used for many projects. Anytime you need to adhere one object to another, pitch can be used. I hadn't had a need for it until today when I hafted an obsidian blade into a deer antler handle. That will be the topic of my next post. To make pitch you mix equal parts sap and a hardening agent. Charcoal, white ash and powdered egg or mollusk shells are examples of hardening agents. I chose to use charcoal from the remains of my pottery fire.

First I rigged up a contraption to melt down the sap. The bottom of a beverage can rests on two wood blocks sitting over a candle. I put tape on the wood so the can wouldn't slip around. The small candle provided plenty of heat to soften up the sap.

Next I added a small amount of hard sap to the can.

After a few minutes it melted into a viscous liquid. I pulled out as much debris as I could to make it more pure. The more junk in there the more crumbly the final product will be.

Meanwhile I used a nice ergonomic grinding stone I found on another trip to powder up charcoal.

Then I mixed an equal amount of charcoal powder into the liquid sap.

Finally, after using it on my obsidian knife which I'll discuss in my next post, I took the remaining pitch and molded it on a stick for later use. All that needs to be done next time is to hold the pitch stick over a flame for a second to turn it to liquid.


Mungo said...

Very nice tutorial - thanks for sharing. The pictures are great and show how easy this is done. I carry a chunk of pine resin around in my bag, but haven't yet converted it to pitch like you have. Think I'll take your direction and do this.


Mungo said...

Mungo has it right, a good post. Nice simple setup that works.

Sassmouth said...

Thanks fellas. It is indeed very easy and useful.