Thursday, 29 September 2016

How to Make Pine Pitch Glue

There are several different types of natural glue that can be made and pine pitch glue is arguably the easiest due to the ready availability of ingredients, and the simplicity of manufacture. 

There are three components going in: The Pine resin  (clear, runny, solid all mixed up), charcoal acts as a temper (and stops the finished product being contact sticky) and beeswax prevents it being too brittle.

This is a 330ml drinks can with the sloping top cut off carefully with scissors, and several holes have been punched in the bottom but more on that later.

The charcoal needs grinding up and the finer the better for the finished product. Ground up grass and  dried herbivore poop can also be used but charcoal's OK for me thanks!

The beeswax in this picture is shaved from a larger block. Not much is needed.

The reason for the drinks can with holes in is that because the pine resin isn't of a regular standard or purity (pure stuff is called rosin) it needs a melting in a rudimentary filtering system, and a holey can is about as rudimentary as it gets. I've seen muslin suggested but I reckon you'll lose a lot as it gets stuck in the material. I'd guess if this was an uncut can the pine might have filled say 60% of it. It is inside the tin from the first picture.


It will start smoking almost a split second after hitting the heat and the length of Elder in the top is to help to encourage the lumps to liquefy. Keep the heat low as it can spontaneously erupt into flame without so much as by your word. The shot on the left is with the heat off temporarily to show the initial clear resin issuing out of the drink can holes.

Even at this early stage the untreated pine on the end of the elder stirring stick is taking on very glue like qualities. 


Once you've got all you think you can out of the drinks can (you don't get that much out considering the amount that is melted) it's time to add the charcoal and beeswax. Theories on the amount vary but I'm not  at the stage of being overtly scientific so at a guess I'd say 15-20% of the total is charcoal with  about a rough teaspoon of beeswax. Once it is all melted and combined, again over a low heat stir a pencil sized stick around around in the liquid and twist t around. The pitch will slowly go off and set. You can squeeze it into shape with your fingers when it goes a matt colour but a word of warning, try too soon and it will be hot.

And this is my pine pitch glue 'lollipop' just before it had finished setting. Will certain types and colour of charcoal make a difference? Maybe, Are there good and bad beeswaxes to use? Possibly, are there better types of coniferous to consider using? Quite possibly. I'm not claiming to make the perfect pitch but it does for my hobbyist bushcrafting needs and that'll do for me. Have an experiment. To use it apply a gentle heat to the end and drip it into place.

I recently used some on a 1-2-1 day with Will Lord making an atlatl that had the crested flint tip held in place with pine pitch glue and nettle fibre. You can  buy glue sticks from Will but it's rather satisfying pulling it together yourself.

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