Lighting Fires Under Wet Conditions with Pitch


Yesterday I was out walking in the woods.  One thing I always watch for is sources of pitch or resin.  The best sources are usually pine or other types of evergreens that have been damage or died.  When a tree is damaged, it uses pitch to heal itself.  This morning I was quite lucky I came across a big old pine that had lost some branches. The branches were surprisingly dry and had a lot of expose pitch.  It had rained only the day before quite hard.

I gathered up some of the branches and took them home to experiment with.  I took a piece of pitch about the size of a robin’s egg and submerged it in a glass of water.  After a couple of hours, I decided to make a video of lighting it.  I took it out in the back yard and smash it to expose the dry inside.  I then laid a lit match on it.  It started to catch but was a bit shaky so I lit a second match.  It now started to burn well, giving off a small amount of black smoke to let you know the pitch was burning.  From this and past experiments I can tell you that the pitch will burn as long or longer than a similar sized ball of cotton and vaseline.  Now add some reasonably dry wood, the big branches I found today would work great. Good sources of dried wood are the small dead branches you will often find on the truck of larger trees.  You may find dry tree bark in shelter areas of large trees or split open rotten downed wood.  Also split open rotten down trees, you may find dried wood or pitch.

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Most of the time when I see pitch I will gather a bit. I keep 35mm film cans of it in all my packs and other handy places.

Take a look at the You Tube video I made of me lighting it.  You can see the pitch come out of the water.


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1 thought on “Lighting Fires Under Wet Conditions with Pitch”

  1. I collect ponderosa pine pitch. After melting and straining it, I store it in jars and tins.

    I have no evidence of the medical efficacy but I use it rather often as an anti-bacterial and anti-fungal mixture with Burt’s Bees salves which I use to dissolve the pitch. A mixture works great for me as a healing aid for minor scrapes and cuts. Also, it works great against a minor nastiness of some sort that I acquired between my toes last summer.

    And, of course as all of the real old timers know, ponderosa pine pitch, as nasty as it sounds, transforms into a lively chewing gum after being masticated for 15 or 30 minutes. I thought that I was being punked the first time that I was induced to try it some decades past.

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