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Author Topic: What makes 'pitch wood'?  (Read 13807 times)

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Offline chain

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What makes 'pitch wood'?
« on: February 11, 2010, 09:14:08 AM »
Had a forester point out to me many years ago of a log laying on the ground that was a rare 'pitch log'. He said use to be common as folks would gather it up for their home and camp fires. Well, I found a nice log of it last month, but realizing this log looked ancient and not every pine log seems to make pitch wood as they just rot away. Any comments?

Offline WDH

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Re: What makes 'pitch wood'?
« Reply #1 on: February 11, 2010, 09:48:41 AM »
The southern pines produce resin/pitch as a defense mechanism for wounds or insect attack.  When the bark is breached with a wound or if an insect bores into the wood, the tree responds by pumping out resin to protect the wound from fungal attack or to expell the offending insect.  Over time as the heartwood forms with age, excess resin over the tree's needs is shunted into the heartwood.  Over more time, this resin can totally permeate the heartwood to create a "pitch soaked" condition.  This high concentration of resin creates a very decay resistent heartwood.  If the tree dies and falls over, the sapwood (the living functioning part of the wood), decays fairly rapidly.  However, the pitch soaked heart can persist for decades.  This heartwood is what we know as fat liter.  Even the heartwood in a limb can be pitch soaked, forming a "litered knot". 

For the condition to develop, the tree has to have developed heartwood.  This takes time.  So, age is a big factor.  Younger pines have resin and pitch as evidenced by the gummy build up on your saw blades and resin oozing out of the cut surfaces, but there may not be enough heartwood formation to allow for a "pitch soaked" condition.  Old trees can have a lot of heartwood formation, and they will be more likely to have the pitch soaking and the resulting resistance to decay.
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Offline Pullinchips

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Re: What makes 'pitch wood'?
« Reply #2 on: February 15, 2010, 09:03:09 PM »
use it sparingly it produces a lot of heat and more than one person have burned their homes down by burning pure lighter wood in their fire place and cracking the chimney.  use small amounts to start a fire.  Outside in your barrel or fire go ahead split it like fire wood and burn away but it puts out a thick black smoke that smell like pine!
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Offline dovetails

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Re: What makes 'pitch wood'?
« Reply #3 on: February 17, 2010, 12:56:14 PM »
use it sparingly it produces a lot of heat and more than one person have burned their homes down by burning pure lighter wood in their fire place and cracking the chimney.  use small amounts to start a fire.  Outside in your barrel or fire go ahead split it like fire wood and burn away but it puts out a thick black smoke that smell like pine!
I was told it's the long leaf pine that makes it.Have several stumps of it in the yard.
I use it all the time to start the wood stove we heat with.Best thing in the world to get a fire going easy! A couple slivers about the thickness of a wooden match,4-5 inches long,on the bottom of stove, a couple pieces of old dry board split for kindlin,light with a match, add bigger logs,and you got heat in a very short time! But  as said, you will get black smoke till the lighter is burned up, so close the stove door once you light it..... also be sure damper is open.
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Offline Dodgy Loner

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Re: What makes 'pitch wood'?
« Reply #4 on: February 17, 2010, 02:17:04 PM »
You can get it out of any pine - even white pine - but the slash and the longleaf pine of the Coastal Plain are generally acknowledged to produce it more abundantly and of higher quality (ie, more pitch in the wood).
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Offline Magicman

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Re: What makes 'pitch wood'?
« Reply #5 on: February 17, 2010, 05:49:14 PM »
Loblolly makes plenty.
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Offline Dakota

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Re: What makes 'pitch wood'?
« Reply #6 on: February 18, 2010, 08:04:04 AM »
Here on the ranch, we gather pitch logs and use them for fence posts.  They last for 30-40 years.

Dakota
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Offline WDH

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Re: What makes 'pitch wood'?
« Reply #7 on: February 18, 2010, 08:04:50 AM »
In the first half of the twentieth century, naval stores were an important cash crop.  The southern pines, slash and longleaf as Dodgy points out, were tapped to collect the resin.  The bark was scared in a V shaped pattern and the resin ran down into tin cups.  The resin was collected in large barrels and shipped to chemical plants for processing into turpentine, rosin, gunpowder, and many other products.  Also, longleaf and slash stumps from previous harvesting were dug up with excavators and shipped by rail to the plants.  The old stumps were especially pitch soaked and desired.

Here is some background info if interested.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Naval_stores_industry
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Offline Tom

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Re: What makes 'pitch wood'?
« Reply #8 on: February 18, 2010, 06:47:39 PM »
Here are a few of our forum threads where it is discussed in one form or another.

Link1

Link2

Link3

Link4

Link5

Link6

Link7

Link8

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