Making Pine Tar - My Results

  • Hey Guest, We've had to cancel our 2020 Summer BushMoot PLEASE LOOK HERE for more information.

Hypnagog

Full Member
Nov 12, 2012
136
1
Essex
hotchpotchblog.wordpress.com
I'm not sure if this belongs in this section, or in DIY / Crafts, but I experimented with making pine tar yesterday and am unsure of what I've actually made and would like to be sure before I add it to my next batch of soap.

I wanted to make it from pine resin, but the pine trees in my local nature reserve didn't yeald more than a few small specks of resin, so I decided to make a batch from fatwood sticks.

The sticks say they are completely natural with nothing added… http://www.fatwood.com

I'll explain the method I used in case that gives any clues to anything I may have done wrong.


First I sunk a tin can into the ground of my firepit so that the top was level with the surface.




Then I made hole in the base of a larger tin which would house the fatwood sticks.




Then I filled the tin with fatwood sticks and placed it over the can so that it was touching the top of the collection can.




…and lit my fire which burned for around 2 hours (after placing a pot on the fatwood can to act as a lid and weighing it down with a rock).




After the fire had died down I scraped away the coals and removed the rock and lid and found that I'd pretty much made charcoal as expected but that the charcoal was still a bit glossy. I took this to mean that I could have extracted more tar if I'd kept the fire going for longer.




As for the collection can, it had a fair amount of a thick fluid in it which smelled very strongly of a cross between pine tar soap and creosote. There were a few lumps of much thicker darker tar in the bottom.




Once I'd transferred the oil / tar to a jar I could see that it had tar in it, but also whitish fluid which, after shaking, remained mixed and didn't separate out after 24 hours.




I suspect that I have made pine tar oil and that I could reduce it down (being cautious of the vapours and also igniting it) to a tar.

Am I way off the mark here?

I am also concerned that I have creosote, although the "kiln" was as closed as it could be which seems to prevent creosote forming.

Any comments or advice would be really appreciated, thanks.
 
Last edited:

Macaroon

A bemused & bewildered
Jan 5, 2013
7,115
268
70
SE Wales
The only thing I can suggest that may help you somewhat is to go to a good equestrian suppliers and look at and smell the Stockholm Tar they sell - that'll give you a very good guide as to what you should be looking to get from your efforts. Any decent place will have stuff that's guaranteed creosote free as it's used as an anti-fungal thing on horse's hooves, up inside the frog which is very sensitive, and no owner would use sub-standard stuff.............Find somewhere in a part of Essex where the rich people keep their horses and go to the nearest supplier....I hope this helps, ................atb mac
 

Hypnagog

Full Member
Nov 12, 2012
136
1
Essex
hotchpotchblog.wordpress.com
Thanks to you all for the replies so far, getting some Stockholm Tar is a great idea and something that I'll do for comparison.

Looking at those links I wonder if I've made too many holes and that a single hole in the bottom of the can might mean that it takes longer to seep out and might thicken as it waits?

All being well I'll repeat it tonight after work and see what happens.
 
Last edited:

Skaukraft

Settler
Apr 8, 2012
539
4
Norway
Thats tar alright.
The thickness, colour and smell will vary a bit from batch to batch. No tree has the same amount and conststency of the ingredients. Boiling it down will make it thicker. The more dense core wood you use, the better the tar will get.
 

Hypnagog

Full Member
Nov 12, 2012
136
1
Essex
hotchpotchblog.wordpress.com
Thats tar alright.
The thickness, colour and smell will vary a bit from batch to batch. No tree has the same amount and conststency of the ingredients. Boiling it down will make it thicker. The more dense core wood you use, the better the tar will get.
Thanks very much for the confirmation. That makes a lot of sense about the variation between batches, especially since the run that I made was such a small one.

I bought a tub of Stockholm tar and the smell is similar.

I didn't get a chance to do a second batch with a different set-up the other day but I'll post some pics when I do.
 

British Red

M.A.B (Mad About Bushcraft)
Dec 30, 2005
25,532
402
Mercia
Looks right to me - just be very careful if adding to soap - it goes past trace to set in a nano second!
 

Hypnagog

Full Member
Nov 12, 2012
136
1
Essex
hotchpotchblog.wordpress.com
Looks right to me - just be very careful if adding to soap - it goes past trace to set in a nano second!
Great, thank you for the tip. Hopefully that'll mean a lot less stirring :)

It'd be great to do this whole thing as a bushcraft exercise: take ash and make lye water, combine it with fat from last night's food and add some home produced pine tar.

I was curious as to what was separating out of my pine tar, so I transferred it into a measuring cylinder and left it for a while.
It separated into a thicker tar which remained on top of a lighter coloured much thinner fluid…




Then I removed the lower fluid with a syringe…




…leaving behind the much thicker (and flammable) tar…




I had assumed that the thinner fluid was water, but as it sank to the bottom I doubted that it was and I wasn't happy adding it to soap until I knew what I'd made.

My latest guess is that it is Pine Tar Acid which I found mentioned in this paper:
http://his.library.nenu.edu.cn/upload/soft/haoli/114/343.pdf

It's described as being heavier than the pine tar and as separating out from the mixture:

The raw material was big, old stumps from Scots pine (Pinus SylTestris), from trees felled about 50 years earlier. At this stage, the remains primarily consist of resinous heartwood, which is carefully rinsed during autumn season, dried and chopped by axe in frosty weather in the wintertime into pieces approximately 30–40 cm long and 4–5 cm thick. The wood sticks were stacked in the following summer, due to tradition. The wood was stacked ﰀhemisphericallyﰁ on a funnel shaped platform on top of a birch bark layer. Eight thermo-elements where installed in the stack during construction to measure temperatures every 10 min during the burning process. The wood stack was finally covered with heather turf except along the base, where the kiln was ignited. It was allowed to catch fire properly before being covered by turf all over. In the centre of the funnel was a drain hole, which lead to a hollowed-out log underneath from which the tar was tapped off in portions of 10–20 l directly into barrels. The kiln consisted of approximately 35 m3 of wood, burned for 45 h and gave about 1050 l of tar and 230 l of ‘tar acid’. Tar acid is an acidic water phase, heavier than tar, which gradually separates from the tar during storage and which is usually removed after a couple of weeks The kiln filled up six big plastic barrels of 220 l each. Six samples, each of 1.5 l, were taken just after every barrel shift (within the first 30 min) and represent as such each 220 l barrel in the production (Table 1). The samples of 1.5 l were brought to the laboratory and stored at room temperature for almost 5 months before the tar acid was removed..
So after reading this I took the PH of the thinner liquid and found that it was acidic.



I'm happy now with what I've made and plan to upscale the process so that I have enough for a decent batch of soap. I'm just hunting round for a couple of decent sized tins with lids. It's a shame that all the catering sized coffee "cans" are plastic or cardboard based now. :(
 
Last edited:

British Red

M.A.B (Mad About Bushcraft)
Dec 30, 2005
25,532
402
Mercia
Do you plan to titrate the alkalinity of your wodd ash lye as well ? Saponification index could be very tricky
 

Hypnagog

Full Member
Nov 12, 2012
136
1
Essex
hotchpotchblog.wordpress.com
Do you plan to titrate the alkalinity of your wodd ash lye as well ? Saponification index could be very tricky
That'd be good for consistency purposes and I've experiment with wood ash lye, but I really love the idea of having a go at doing things without all the tech around the fire one evening.

When I had a go at making wood ash lye I took the pH of it just out of curiosity and it wasn't as alkaline as the caustic-soda mix.

DSCN1182.jpg

I couldn't get saponification to happen with it, even when I tried hot processing the soap.
 
Last edited:

British Red

M.A.B (Mad About Bushcraft)
Dec 30, 2005
25,532
402
Mercia
You need to concentrate the lye sufficiently for saponification - repeated re-filtering through topped up ash is needed and boiling down. A lye stick with tell you when its concentrated enough without tech - but I would use a pH metre to calibrate the lye stick first time

Hope that helps!
 

British Red

M.A.B (Mad About Bushcraft)
Dec 30, 2005
25,532
402
Mercia
Let it steep rather than percolate, draw it off, top up the ash, and repeat :) An old bottom tap brewing bucket (5 gallon type) is ideal
 

Macaroon

A bemused & bewildered
Jan 5, 2013
7,115
268
70
SE Wales
I knew this'd be a good thread; Great exchange of information and experience, I've learned a lot.............I admire your "do it round the fire" attitude and look forward to hearing how you get on with your soap making.
Thanks for posting, atb mac
 

Tengu

Full Member
Jan 10, 2006
10,869
456
47
Wiltshire
I think it is fastinating, except your use of the word `titrate` That fills me with a great trauma, that does.
 

Hypnagog

Full Member
Nov 12, 2012
136
1
Essex
hotchpotchblog.wordpress.com
Here's a link to a norwegian site about making tar, amongst others.
Theres also plenty lovely woodcarving here to.

http://hjerleid.trykker.com/category/tjærebrenning/
Fantastic, thanks very much - It'd be great to be able to make it on that scale.


I knew this'd be a good thread; Great exchange of information and experience, I've learned a lot.............I admire your "do it round the fire" attitude and look forward to hearing how you get on with your soap making.
Thanks for posting, atb mac



I took the plunge and made some Pine Tar soap. It's just been poured into the mould, so I'll let you know how it went in a few weeks when it's ready.

DSCF5735.jpg
 
Last edited:

British Red

M.A.B (Mad About Bushcraft)
Dec 30, 2005
25,532
402
Mercia
Tell us about the process? Woodash lye or caustic? Did it trace fast when you added the tar (or did you add the tar to the fat base before the alkali?

Looks good regardless!