Wednesday, January 29, 2014

Pine Resin...a natural glue and aid to firemaking

Pine resin or "pitch" is very useful to outdoors men and women. It is formed when a tree sustains an injury. It leaks from the tree and acts to seal the damage to prevent bugs from entering the tree and killing it...kind of like blood drying and forming a scab on a cut finger to prevent an infection. The resin hardens and forms a very tough, moisture-impervious, yellowy-waxy substance with a strong Turpentine odor about it:

Pine resin running down tree trunk.

Sometimes I've also seen Pine resin turn black and smell foul. If you've ever played around a pine tree as a child and gotten black, sticky, smelly resin on your hands, and you'll probably remember how hard it was to wash off...this is what makes it useful.The pine resin can be collected and heated to turn it into a useful glue, or for fire making, and for a waterproofing material.

A tin of resin chunks collected at a local park.
Once cooled, Pine resin is pretty waterproof, so it can be used to make objects water-resistant, like repairing a hole in a hiking boot. It can be used to seal seams and I've even seen TV survival instructors repair holes in boats with it. You have to heat the resin into a liquid form to use it, but be careful it doesn't ignite, because it will burn and burn hot too. Maybe burn a fire down to coals and use a metal cup or container to render the resin liquid, then apply with a stick.
Resin melted and formed inside the tin for future usage.
Aboriginal peoples used to apply pitch to the binding on their spears and arrow shafts to make it tougher for the binding to come undone and separate from the point. They'd also use the glue to help seal binding on fishhooks, and to place fletching [vane feathers] on arrow shafts.

Like I said before, Pine resin burns very hot, so it is useful for making a campfire. Kind of like nature's version of a magnesium bar, because it will burn in damp conditions [waterproof, remember?].

Another thing that is very helpful and good to find is "Fatwood". This is a resin-impregnated wood that forms in the lower trunk of dead trees...the resin sinks to the low point and accumulates in the wood, making it waterproof and very flammable. I found some in a local park where a tree had died and later cut down. The remaining stump had Fatwood in it. Again, you can tell it by it's amber color and strong smell of Turpentine. A few pieces will burn long and help get a fire going. I've also used a saw blade to rasp a pile of shavings from Fatwood and ignited the pile with sparks from a ferrocerium rod [something you should never be without when hiking].

Fatwood scrapings made with wallet survival tool.
Knife edge scrapes sparks from ferro rod to ignite Fatwood.
I have never tried it, but supposedly Pine resin can be used to treat a wound and seal it, just like today, some people carry SUPER GLUE in their First Aid kits. I suppose you could heat some, allow it to cool, and apply to the wound while it's still warm and semi-fluid. It would certainly seal out dirt and possible infection.

"Pine resin "Survival Candle".
You can also use Pine resin to make a field-expedient "Survival candle"...use a metal cup, or an old discarded metal can, or a rock with a depression to gather resin, then light it and make a  Survival Candle to warm a small shelter and provide light to see by. Keep feeding pieces into the fire or it will go out. Use a piece of Jute cordage [always carry Jute in you day's very useful, and moisten it with the resin and light as a wick to conserve the  resin.

My advice would be that you scrounge a tin and use it to collect Pine resin when you are hiking and always carry in your Fire bag. It's smelly, and sticky, so put the tin inside a Zip-Loc bag so it doesn't make your day pack malodorous.


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