Monday, 8 March 2010

A Bit of Bushcraft : Birch Barck Pitch & Glue

 The birch tree has so many different uses and much folklore attached to it I could write a whole article on it and I had recently considered doing a lesson on the birch tree and its uses along with an activity. That activity was going to be making birch pitch. Considered a very nourturing and giving tree by the celts it is interesting that even long after its death it can still provide us with usefull matrials. Here we use the dead birch bark, which rots slower than the bark, to  make a pitch.

First of all the materials you will need are ; Some dead birch bark (be carefull when harvesting as many types of wildlife make homes out of it), a big round biscuit or chocolate tin with a hole punched in the middle of the bottom (must be emptied first haha!), a soup tin or something similar, and something to start the fire.

Then Roll up the birch bark as tightly as possible keeping it the same way up as it grew on the tree (this makes it easier for the oils to be released) and place it in the biscuit tin, try and pack it as tightly as possible.
Then dig a hole and place the soup tin (collection tin) in the hole and place the biscuit tin on top making sure the hole goes over the collection tin and that both tins are flush. Pile sand around it to hold it steady.
Then we build a nice hot fire over the tin, keep the fire going for a couple of hours as it takes a lot of heat for the oils to be released from the bark, evaporate and condense in the bottom of the tin (the idea is they go through the whole in their liquid form and into collection tin.
Let the fire die down, cool then check inside the collection tin, mine was just about a quarter full. This can then be used as pitch.

To make into glue let it simmer by the fire for about an hour or so,not too close and keeping an eye on it so it doesnt catch fire then allow to cool.
This can then be moulded onto sticks for storage as glue.