Tuesday, January 22, 2013

Let's Stick Together

Hi all!
It's been a busy beginning of the semester for all of us.  Here's to good luck and perseverance on each of your own adventures.

Here's what we're after
I use pine pitch glue a lot during the course of the week, whether it be hafting a knife, fixing a crack in a water canteen while hiking or attaching stone points to arrows.  But you know what? We've never really gone over how to make the stuff.  It's super easy and a simple batch will last you for dozens of jobs.  This task is yet another economy of scale type of undertaking, where it's really only an advantageous use of your time and resources if you make a decent sized batch, say 8-10 gluesticks.  A single gluestick has lasted me through hafting two knives and five arrow points, the stuff is fantastic.

Look for something like this
Alright, here's the skinny:  I last used resin that I found in nodules on the bark of a Shortleaf Pine, it's one of the Southern US "yellow pines" that grow in thick stands throughout East TX.  In the past I have used Pinion, Juniper, Ponderosa, etc...it would be a safe bet to use any sap you find in clumps on the outside of a tree.  Let me know what tree you used if you give this a go!

Lump charcoal from the store
First, use wood charcoal that has been completely carbonized.  You can find this in a fire pit that has been covered up while still hot.  If setting things on fire in the backyard is a problematic option you can find it in a bag of lump charcoal from the boring store. Crush a heaping palm-sized amount into a fine powder with a stone grinding set up of one fashion or another, doesn't matter.  For those currently thinking coffee grinder...not the best way to keep the significant other happy.  I'm imagining a big ol' soot-drenched smile after a cup of coffee on the way to work and a talking to later that evening.  

Second, crush about 1.5 times as much pine resin as your charcoal.  Some resin will be brittle enough to crunch into smaller bits, other stuff will remain tacky.  This step just makes it all melt faster.

Two nodules ready to go
 Third, Use some sort of binding material, powdered dry grass, powdered cedar bark, pulverized rabbit poop, whatever you get your hands on.  You don't need much, about a third of the volume of charcoal.  This is an important ingredient and serves as a binding agent within the  Matrix

Put this mixture over heat and wait for the resin to start melting down.  Mix the charcoal in well with a stick to get it to a toothpaste consistency.  An alternative way of doing this is to melt the pine resin and add charcoal in bit by bit until you have the desired consistency.

Heat and serve!
Let the concoction cool briefly and keep stirring with your stick to gauge the whole mess you've just created.  As the brew cools it will attach to your stick better; you'll have to work fast at this point and may need to reheat the vessel if it gets too cool.  Scoop up a glob and twirl the stick so it wraps around, wait a second and gently roll on a smooth stone to shape and cool the resin.  I do this a few time per gluestick to get larger amounts on one stick.  Again, you may have to reheat the mixture, but just warm enough to get the glue viscous again, not bubbling.
Roll the mix to cool and shape it

Oh, and a final word.  The stuff likes to burst into flames if it gets too hot.  This happens now and then and is sort of awesome.  If a flaming ball of superheated pine napalm isn't on your goal list I'd suggest heating the stuff in a ceramic bowl over coals, not open flames.  I'm mostly just saying this in hopes that some of you give natures napalm a go.  I have my ideas of who I'll be hearing from soon.

These gluesticks will stay good for years, simply reheat a portion and apply it to your task at hand.  You'll want to wait about ten seconds and then you can shape it with your fingers as it cools down.

Good luck and have fun!

Coming up next I test how different points from the Southwest actually look and work as projectiles.    

Here are a few Pueblo Side Notch points for the next test