I’ve been playing about with pine resin this week – there’s like a million uses for the stuff, but I was mainly interested in its fire lighting properties. It burns really well, and is particularly useful if you’re trying to get a fire going with damp or green wood. I managed to get so much of the stuff that I thought I’d have a go at a few other traditional uses for it – ergo a two-part blog post. To harvest the hardened pine sap, you just need to gently pry it off with a knife. Look for natural wounds, rather than trying to make your own and tapping. (There is no shortage of sap in pine forests, especially at this time of year, and no need to go carving up trees!)
First, I thought I’d have a go at making rosin. Basically, pine resin can be split into two substances: turpentine and rosin. Turpentine (yes, this is the turps in your shed!) is usually made by distillation from resin, leaving rosin as a by-product.
So, if you trawl the internet, you’ll see several videos and websites showing a variety of methods, most of which involve setting the sap alight in a sieve of sorts, and letting the rosin fall through into a receptacle. Simple, right? I thought so… My first attempt utilised a stainless steel egg strainer, above a shallow dish of tin foil formed over the top of an enamel mug. This worked a charm, until burning drops of rosin dropped from the strainer and set the rosin in the collector on fire! I blew it out, and poured the rosin onto foil to cool and harden, and set about starting again. Take two…
Rather than trying to be a smart arse and reinvent the wheel, I just did what I’d seen in this awesome video – using just a mug and tin foil. You basically line a mug or container with foil, then make a shallow receptacle out of another piece of foil, into which you poke some drainage holes (I used a split match to do this!). It worked a treat – seriously, remind me not to think I’m my own kind of genius and just do what works in future. :-S
So, basically, the gloopy fluid that falls into your receptacle is rosin. It takes a while to cool, so if you wanted to, at this point you could add ground charcoal and mix to a paste, allow to harden, and then use as ‘pitch’ – pine resin glue. This is the type of glue that is traditionally used in things like birch bark canoes, etc. The ratio is 1/4 charcoal to 3/4 rosin.
Alternatively, give the rosin to your favourite violinist – it is used for string instruments:
“Johnny, rosin up your bow and play your fiddle hard.
‘Cause Hell’s broke loose in Georgia and the Devil deals the cards. And if you win you get this shiny fiddle made of gold,
But if you lose the devil gets your soul.”
Part 2 tomorrow – let’s just say that this involves my slow cooker!