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    5 Off-Grid Uses for Pine Pitch

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    5 Off-Grid Uses for Pine Pitch

    Aside from being the life of the pine tree, pine sap is a handy ingredient to have around. It is an essential part of many homemade remedies and commercial products. Even more off-grid uses are found for this unique substance when the pine sap is made into pine pitch.

    Before we dive into making pine pitch and its uses, we will first need to know what it is. There is a lot of confusion and mistaken identity about pine pitch, resin, sap, or tar. Here is a little primer on the differences and similarities in these pine byproducts.

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    Pitch

    Pine pitch is often called pine tar, but they are slightly different substances. In short, pine pitch has a harder consistency as it has had most of its moisture removed. When it is being prepared, filler materials such as beeswax, coconut oil, or other emollients can be added. This step helps keep the pitch workable as it will harden back up like resin if left alone.

    Resin

    Resin is tree sap that has hardened and formed into crystals or chunks. In the same way that blood coagulates to heal wounds, sap does the same thing for trees and becomes resin. The resin helps seal the tree’s injury and keeps it safe from further damage from insects or weather.

    Resin can be easily collected from broken limbs or large healed wounds. It can also be picked up from around the tree base. Even holes from woodpeckers often have sap or resin oozing out.

    Sap

    Sap and resin are essentially the same substance, just in different forms. Often called the tree’s life-blood, the sap is the fluid that flows through and is stored in the tree’s outer layers. It is like our blood in that when the tree suffers a wound, sap moves to the injury and starts trying to heal it.

    The sap loses its softness as it is curing, with many people calling the hardened tree sap “resin.” It is possible to collect sap by tapping the tree as you would for syrup. However, this procedure isn’t recommended as it is damaging to the tree and may kill it.

    Tar

    Pine tar is similar to pine pitch, but it does have a different consistency and different uses. Pine tar is created by burning pinewood and collecting the liquid tar that seeps out along with the moisture. This process can be dangerous as high heat is needed, and the tar is very flammable. Pine tar has been compared to a liquid smoke-type material.

    How to Make Pine Pitch

    The first and easiest step in making pine pitch is gathering the sap or resin. The variety of pine trees isn’t crucial, but some purists swear that white pine trees are the best source. Whichever types of pine trees you’re harvesting it from, look for sap or crystals that are as clear or clean as possible. Bugs, bark, and debris in the resin will mean that you have to strain it more to get a pure product.

    Step by Step

    1. Melt the pine sap or resin down in a double boiler setup until it is liquid.
    2. Strain it of all debris, usually more than once.
    3. Add charcoal and other filler such as dried dung or sawdust to give the pitch something to adhere to.
    4. Add beeswax or another emollient to keep the pitch workable.

    For an in-depth look at the process, this article takes you through it step by step.

    Off-grid Uses for Pine Pitch

    Pine pitch is one of those substances that can be invaluable in off-grid situations. Its ingredients are free or cheap, and it is easy to prepare and use. Here are several ways you can use this versatile byproduct of the pine tree.

    Glue and Waterproofing

    Glue is something that every survivalist should have available and know how to make when in a pinch. Pine pitch is a versatile, natural glue that can be used for almost any project.

    From fletching arrows or repairing a ripped seam to waterproofing a tarp, it will handle them all. Coating your boots, your tent, or your boat with it can protect them from leaks and moisture while also creating a tight seal.

    Firestarter

    Its flammable nature makes pine pitch a perfect firestarter, even in damp conditions. Fires started with pine pitch will usually burn long enough and hot enough to dry out even the wettest of wood. You can make premade firestarters to carry with you by mixing some pine pitch with shavings in a metal tin.

    Wound Care

    Pine pitch is an excellent addition to the first aid kit due to these properties:

    • Antibacterial
    • Antiseptic
    • Antifungal
    • Antiinflammatory
    • Astringent

    Salve, Tincture, or Ointment

    It is a common ingredient in many beneficial salves, tinctures, or ointments. A simple recipe is to melt three tablespoons of pine pitch with a tablespoon of fat and a teaspoon of beeswax. This creates a soothing balm for skin conditions such as eczema or sunburn.

    Liquid Bandage

    After a wound has been appropriately cleaned, pine pitch is often used to seal the injury. It acts as a super glue or liquid bandage and holds the edges of a cut together while healing. The pitch may also be used to help stem bleeding and to keep bacteria out of the wound. 

    Light Source

    Wrapping an old rag coated in pine pitch around a piece of wood creates an instant torch to give you plenty of light. Or, anything you can safely fill with resin can become a lamp. Think tin cans, hollowed-out rocks, large shells, etc.

    Use a piece of string, rolled cloth, or even moss as a wick. Don’t try to make tallow or wax candles using pitch pine, as your entire candle will go up in one big, dangerous flame. 

    Make Some Pine Pitch Today

    Now you know some of the practical uses for pine pitch. So go ahead and make up a batch to have ready when it’s needed. And just so you know, rubbing alcohol or Everclear both help remove it from your hands, your clothes, your dog, etc.

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