Today’s topic is Pine Pitch Candles/Torches. I have an earlier blog post that gives an introduction into Pine trees. I find them to be an amazing gift of God’s creation. Live Oak Trees are my favorite for vanity’s sake, but Pine Trees are where it is really at.
Pine pitch is really just pine sap, or resin. It can be gooey or hard, the latter having had the turpentine content evaporated out of it. (Sap is usually used to refer to the runnier form of it, while resin tends to be used for the hard pieces.) Gooey sap is better for making candles, because the turpentine is flammable. (Pine trees are the source of turpentine, which is an entire post in and of itself that I will get to later.) It has multiple uses from making simple candles that deter insects and provide light, to waterproofing your gear outdoors. It can be used as glue, if heated, applied where needed, and left to dry, and mixed with beeswax, it makes an anti-bacterial salve that can draw out splinters.
Making a pine pitch candle is as simple as collecting sap in a metal container, packing it down, and lighting it on fire. Of course you can add a wick if you have one at your disposal.
A pine pitch torch is a little more labor intensive, but well worth it:
1. Choose a green branch as the base for your torch. A green branch has enough water content to prevent it from burning up when you light the pitch on fire. You have to have something to hold on to.
2. Remove any twigs/branches from the pole. They will just get in the way later.
3. Cut an X in the top, about 2″ deep, splitting the head and making a place for the pitch to rest.
4. Wedge a small twig or rock inside the cut to hold it open, giving your pitch a place to burn without being smothered.
5. This step would probably be best done when you go searching for your torch handle to save some time, but that decision is yours. Locate and collect pitch from knot-holes, gouges, or cuts in the trees. Try not to damage the trees if you can. If you do need to cut them, do it in small areas. The bigger the wound, the more energy it will take for the tree to regenerate, and the higher the chance of the tree catching a disease. Sap protects the tree against this, so when you remove it from a fresh wound, it increases the risk of sickness. Also, never remove the bark all around the trunk, it will kill the tree.
*It is said that sap runs more freely around the time of a full moon, when the sap moves upwards. I also came across a little saying today that would attest that the wind is also a factor. “Wind from the east, sap flows the least; wind from the west, sap flows the best.” -author unknown. Try collecting sap at different times, and see if any of it hold any truth for you!
6. Press pitch into the opening in the top of you torch handle.
7. Light and enjoy.
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This post is part of a series on Pine Trees. The other posts can be found below:
Pine Needle Tea & Medicine
Pine Tar Salve DIY
Pine Pitch Candles
Pine Needle Oxymel
Infused Cleaning Vinegar
Identifying Pine Trees
All About That Pine Bark
Collecting Pine Pitch