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Birch oil fail

Discussion in 'Bushcraft and survival skills' started by jimbo75, Feb 10, 2019.

  1. jimbo75

    jimbo75 Settler

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    tried to distill some birch oil today on my garden chiminea. I think I either cooked it too long.
    Or let too much gas escape, by putting to many holes in the lid.
    Or it was because I used predominantly paper birch bark.
    I ended up with a trace amount of sticky residue. And all the birch bark was reduced to carbon.
    It's a shame, as it takes a while to harvest the bark when I don't get many opportunities to acquire any.
    Also, the paper birch I harvest, is quickly exhausted until the weather/natural growth produces more loose bark.
    Does anyone also make birch oil? Do you think the ventilation holes on the top of the can may have let too much gas escape?
     
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  2. Janne

    Janne M.A.B (Mad About Bushcraft)

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    One hole on the bottom, one tiny hole on the tip.
    Metal paint cans, those with a tightly fitting lids, are excellent.
    You need to clean them very well, or buy brand new, unused one.

    It is difficult to trace the problem.

    I assume you placed the fire around the perimeter of the bark container only?
    The collecting jar must be protected by wet sand or earth.
     
  3. Toddy

    Toddy Mod
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    I didn't know that the paper birch could be used for the oil....did you just gather all the wispy peelings ?
    Not surprised it took you a while to get enough if it was that stuff.

    Generally we pack it in rounds so that the cells are running downwards, and then it's just as Janne says.
    I don't think that's so important for big scale stuff, but for small canfuls it seems to give best results.

    Bound to be someone on the forum who'd send you birch bark, there's no shortage of it around in some areas. Not good enough to
    do the fancy craft stuff with but it'll leach out the oil, etc., just fine.

    I'm not offering right now 'cos I'm not very well, but if you still haven't sorted out any when I'm feeling better, I'll wrap up a bundle for you and post.
    It won't be fresh off a tree stuff, but the tubular remains of the dead trees.....we have masses of birch around here, but we're sodden wet, and the blasted
    things seed by the million all over every garden around. If I don't weed out the seedlings I wouldn't get out the door in a couple of years.
    It'd be stuff like the bark in the photos in my opening post on this thread on the tinder bundles.
    https://bushcraftuk.com/community/index.php?threads/tinder-bundles.135268/
     
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  4. Janne

    Janne M.A.B (Mad About Bushcraft)

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    Also do not get too crazy with the fire. Gentle heat. Too much and you overheat everything.

    That wispy stuff is super for fire lightning, byt as Toddy says, you need the full fat bark. Pack it in rolled up.
    Rolls open end vertically.

    Are you planning to do anti mozzie cream?

    Then you need to make own lanolin. Distill a dead sheep.
    :)
     
  5. Robson Valley

    Robson Valley Full Member

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    Betula papyrifera in it's thousands and thousands of square miles, is the multipurpose tree of the eastern "birch-building" societies.
    In paleo times, the full oil bark (suberin) was distilled by paleo people for the oily/adhesive properties.
    Spruce resin was by far the better for sealing bark panels to make canoes.

    No, you aren't going to get much yield from little bark patches. Not going to happen.
    Full bark depth, right down to and including the phellogen, the living layer, which generates the concentric suberized bark layers.
    The bigger the temperature difference, the more condensate you capture.

    Remember, too, that the First Nations felled and used the entire tree. No cherry-picking tree parts of special attraction.
    You cannot neglect the importance of the birch symbolisms in their culture, either. Killing a tree was and still is a big deal.
     
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  6. Darryl of Sussex

    Darryl of Sussex Full Member

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    Is it the same process for making Pine Tar? Pine Tar soap seems to have disappeared for some reason.
     
  7. Janne

    Janne M.A.B (Mad About Bushcraft)

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    Basically yes, but you need either the wood from the root part of the tree ( what is left after the bole is harvested) or fatwood.

    Most commercial soaps outside Scandinavia and Finland were made using coal tar I remember?
    You can get artisan made wood tar soap, one forumer makes it.

    Next time you go to Scandinavia or Finland, you can buy it im all healthshops and some pharmacies.
    Good for excema and Psoriasis, plus deters mozzies and gnats.
     
    #7 Janne, Feb 10, 2019
    Last edited: Feb 10, 2019
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  8. Robson Valley

    Robson Valley Full Member

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    Not really. Conifer (Pine & Spruce) resin is found in tubular ducts in both the wood and the bark.
    Suberin in birch is wax-filled layers of cells in the bark only.

    The oil/pitch fraction from the conifers here is "Tall oil" , a Scandinavian word for pine.
    Here; we use it as a dust settling spray on gravel roads.
    Also on bridge decks because even compact snow won't stick to it
    so it's a lot easier for the plow trucks to clear it off, even as slow as 75kph.

    The resins used are distilled from the conifer bark. In this day and time, most of the bark residue is burned as "hog fuel"
    in the power generating stations which are parts of serious big pulp and paper mills here.

    Huge amounts of steam heat is used to cook the digest in the continuous flow pulp towers.
    Steam, hot water and hydrogen peroxide are used for bleaching. Other chemicals are recycled.
    The power consumption is staggering to sustain 1,500 air dried tons/24 hours. (1,363,636 kg).
    Prince George, BC has 3 mills that each make that daily capacity.
     
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  9. Darryl of Sussex

    Darryl of Sussex Full Member

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    Apologies. Thread detour was unintended but comparable process it seems.

    I’d like to experiment with making waterproofing wax, birch oil, pine tar, birch tapping and other things that involve making from raw materials.

    I need a shed! ... and my own woodland! .... and instructions!
     
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  10. Janne

    Janne M.A.B (Mad About Bushcraft)

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    Tall is Pine in Swedish and Norwegian - yes.
    Somebody had to teach you.....

    You Brits only became a big and beautiful nation where the Sun never set, because we exported Stockholm tar to you.
    Which made your ships water tight. So you could sail for longer, and thevships lasted longer between servicing, and had a longer life span.
    As Sweden owned Norway ( most of that time) and Finland then, the tar came from those areas too of course!
     
    #10 Janne, Feb 11, 2019
    Last edited: Feb 11, 2019
  11. Robson Valley

    Robson Valley Full Member

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    The most valuable things on earth come from plants. Legal and otherwise.
    I've got balsamic vinegar, $100/liter. @ 250ml, it doesn't hurt so much!

    Darryl: what you want to learn is found in old books. One leads to another.
    Texts on economic botany. As you live in the UK, you have ready
    inter-library loan service to some of the oldest libraries in the entire Commonwealth.
    You're in the hunt for lost skills. Probably. What do the reinactors say?

    The Hudson's Bay Company demanded (and got) absolutley meticulous records of everything that went on
    in Canada which could be connected to the fur trade.
    All those company archival records are in England (birch bark canoe-building included).
     
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  12. Woody girl

    Woody girl Full Member

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    I bought a bag of kiln dried birch logs from home bargains last winter and saved all the bark with a view to making birch oil. Havnt tried it yet as I'm still seeking a metal paint can to do this with. will it work with these super dried logs do you tink or will the oil have evaporated out to some degree?
     
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  13. Robson Valley

    Robson Valley Full Member

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    Technically, the birch oil is a long chain hydrocarbon wax. "Suberin." Smell the bark. If you smell almost nothing,
    that means that nothing is evaporating for you to smell. It leaves no stain on any surface.
    Wood condition isn't important. Peel the bark, let it curl. Just think of this as trying to boil off
    a candle from a stale birthday cake, capture the fumes and condense the candle wax.

    I buy fresh, new paint cans of any size from a paint store. Dirt cheap. You need a 4l and a 1l.
    Fairly silly to use an old can of paint residue, isn't it?
     
  14. Toddy

    Toddy Mod
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    Woody girl, find an old syrup or treacle tin :) or if you can find one in the charity shop going for a quid, one of those old bisuit tins that had the charcoal insert to keep the biscuits crisp.

    M
     
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  15. Darryl of Sussex

    Darryl of Sussex Full Member

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    Yeah but Britain gave the World The Eurovision Song Contest from which ABBA happened!! Without Eurovision and of course the ingenuity of the great designer of fjörds, Slartibartfast, Scandinavia would still be only an idea!

    Therefore had it not been for Britain, Scandinavia would never have come into existence!

    “His favourite part of the job is creating coastlines, the most notable of which are the fjords found on the coast of Norway on planet Earth,[3] for which he won an award. While trapped on prehistoric Earth, Arthur Dent and Ford Prefect see Slartibartfast's signature deep inside a glacier in ancient Norway.

    When Earth Mk. II is being made, Slartibartfast is assigned to the continent of Africa. He is unhappy about this because he has begun "doing it with fjords again" (arguing that they give a continent a lovely baroque feel), but has been told by his superiors that they are "not equatorial enough". In relation to this, he expresses the view that he would "far rather be happy than right any day."

    In any event, the new Earth is not required and, much to Slartibartfast's disgust, its owners suggested that he take a quick skiing holiday on his glaciers before dismantling them.“

    Wikipedia - Slartibartfast

    Popcorn anyone?
     
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  16. Darryl of Sussex

    Darryl of Sussex Full Member

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    My bushcraft thing, for want of better words, stems more from an interest in historical contexts for fire, uses of plants and other materials, making tools, what is food and what I might best describe as natural sciences, than it does pitching a tarp at optimal angles to wind direction and hammock design etc. The latter, for me, is simply a means to an end so that I can spend longer outdoors than I do indoors, while learning as much as I can about these subjects.
    To this end, threads such as this are incredibly valuable to me.

    Is there a recommended book about making eg. Birch oil, pine tar, etc etc?

    Best wishes,

    Darryl
     
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  17. Robson Valley

    Robson Valley Full Member

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    I've spent the better part of my lifetime in the Pacific Northwest. The multipurpose tree here is the western red cedar.
    Even the boats here were either cottonwood log dugouts (for families) or the great 40 - 60' ocean going cedar canoes of the Haida and others.
    My library is woefully short of references to the birch building communities of eastern North America.
    What I do have says very little on the subject.

    There is a bunch of people exploring pine & spruce pitch/sap as a binder for hafted flint blades.
    They have quite an active thread over in Paleoplanet Forums.
    The simple source is to wound the tree and collect the pitch sap as it is produced.
    Prune off some living branches in early summer and wait a day or two.
    Even locally, the birch tree groves are better harvested for sap to make syrups and candy.

    I just remembered ( I'm old). Joe Takhahikew is a member of this parish and First Nation from eastern Canada. He would be the guy to ask about the old ways.
     
    #17 Robson Valley, Feb 11, 2019
    Last edited: Feb 11, 2019
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  18. Janne

    Janne M.A.B (Mad About Bushcraft)

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    If you have the chance, wood and space, you can make your own charcoal for your outside BBQ.
    As a side product ( or main product, depending) you get tar.
    A paint or bisquit tar is not enough, an oil barell is.
    Note: I have never done this myself, but seen people do it.
    Organic farmer friend back in Sweden.

    He used birch logs.

    Off topic: Britain did not create Eurovision Song contest. But ABBA won in Brighton.
    I see ABBA as the perfect elevator music. Not everybody from Sweden likes them, which may surprise you! Some of us prefer proper music.
     
    #18 Janne, Feb 11, 2019
    Last edited: Feb 11, 2019
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  19. jimbo75

    jimbo75 Settler

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    I think it was caused by basically creating a furnace in the chimenia. It was really going some, as I was burning up all the birch 'brush' that had fallen in the recent high winds. The paper birch was the same volume/weight as regular birch bark. Also, I had too many air vents in the top of the can.
    I will continue experimenting shortly.
     
  20. Janne

    Janne M.A.B (Mad About Bushcraft)

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    One way to insulate the walls a bit is to use rocks against the sides of the 'vessel'. if you overheat the tar, it will vaporize rapidly and burn.
    Plus, only one hole in bottom, one smaller one on top. If you see a jet of flames above the top hole, you are too liberal with the heat.
     
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