How to Make Tar

featured image background photo: by Andrew Hitchcock, adapted from Flickr.om

Before today’s technological and industrial advancements, our ancestors had to make do with whatever nature had to offer. They learned how to start a fire with a branch and a rock. They made weapons out of sharp stones and sturdy sticks. They made their homes out of just about anything that could protect them from any kind of weather.

Though this knowledge is in danger of being forgotten, it can still help us through dire and critical circumstances wherein we have to fight for our survival. In these situations, we can expect that we will have almost nothing to go by and the only help that we can reach immediately is nature. Without some basic knowledge, we might as well be doomed.

Unbeknownst to many, we don’t need to ransack a supermarket and pharmacy to get materials to make a heat source or to treat wounds. Pine resin, more commonly known as tar, is one of the most need-to-know survival materials.

SURVIVAL USES OF TAR

A pine tree’s defense mechanism in the face of animals or insects that hurt it is to secret resin to help close the wounds. The resin acts as a sealant, which is soft and gold at first and then hardens and darkens over time. Clumps of that resin can for and that is what you can harvest and consider as pine resin.

Like the tree’s healing tactic, tar has positive medical effects on your injury. It’s considered as an antiseptic, antibacterial and anti-inflammatory. It can treat your wounds by helping to stop the bleeding and if you put tar over gashes, it acts as a band aid with antiseptic and antibacterial benefits. It can also help with skin rashes and eczema that you could’ve gotten because of the unfamiliar surroundings.

Because of its sealing characteristic, tar can also be used as something like a glue and an epoxy. You can use the tar to make weapons by using it as you would a superglue. You can make arrowheads, hammers and other tools that you may need in your quest for survival. In addition to this, you can use the tar to cover up the holes on your shelter. You can also use the tar to cover the pillars of your shelter to make it last longer and stand stronger.

Pine resin or tar can also be used as a heating source. If you manage to find a rock that has a hollow point, you can use that to make a candle. By simply filling the hollow point with tar and putting something that burns easily (wick, cloth or dried moss) on top, you can light it up and it will provide you a source of light. On the other hand, it can be a heating source if you light up the tar in a container (preferably metal) as it will conduct the heat and help spread it to the surroundings.

During rainy days, your first concern might be that you just ran out of things that you can burn because almost everything is damp or wet. Don’t worry. Tar is flammable and with just a little bit of it on a stick, you will have something that looks like a match that you can use to start bigger fires to dry out the wood that you use for burning.

A final use of tar is waterproofing. Although it may not be flexible and it can crack easily, tar can slow down water from ruining the things you want dry like shoes or bags.

WHAT YOU CAN USE TO MAKE TAR

The number one ingredient that you can use to make tar is pine resin. All you need to do is look for cut off or injured parts of a pine tree where you will find pines resin trying to heal the wounds. Fallen branches will yield a small amount and if not you may find clumps of resin on it. The tree itself will have clumps of resin from previous injuries caused by the weather or animals scratching on it. Before you decide to make new sources of pine resin, always check if the tree can offer you what you need before intentionally hurting it.

Another thing that you can use to make tar are birch barks. These can be burned over a fire which will yield a considerable amount of tar. Here are a few tips to help you determine if you can harvest the bark and how to do it:

  1. The best time to harvest birch bark is during spring. When harvested at this time, the bark will come off easily which reduces that risks of inflicting fatal damage on the tree. If it is harvested later in the year, you will risk taking off the inner bark which could kill the tree.
  2. Know the width and age of the tree. Bigger trees will naturally give you wider barks. Trees that have been harvested before will give you thicker barks.
  3. Once you’ve pinpointed a tree and you’ve determined how thick the bark is, use your knife and cut a vertical line down to the inner bark for however long you need it to be. Do not cut horizontally or around the tree because it will cause the tree to die. (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pFiwGC_n810)
  4. If the bark is harvested at a perfect time in the year, it will pop out as soon as you the vertical line. If not, you will have to use your knife to pop it out.
  5. Use your hands to gently separate the bark from the trunk and work your way around the tree until the entire bark has come off.

HOW TO MAKE TAR

Here’s a step-by-step process of how to make tar out of pine resin and birch barks:

  1. Choose a location where you can start a fire. If you’re in a grassland, clear a small space and surround it with rocks to prevent the fire from spreading. Make sure that you’re not in any danger of accidentally starting a forest fire.
  2. You will need two metal cans because plastic will melt because of the fire. Ideally, the two cans should be the same in diameter but if you can’t find those, then one can be smaller than the other. Make sure that the larger one is equipped with a tight-fitting lid. If you can’t find one that has a lid, make sure that you find something that can act as one.
  3. Punch a hole (or several evenly spaced holes) in the center of the metal can that has a lid. Make the holes from the inside out because doing so in the other way will only trap the liquid inside. This is where the tar will drip from. The holes should not be too big as it will cause more debris than tar to fall.
  4. In the space where you chose to start a fire, dig a hole in the middle. It should be able to fit the can with no lid (or the smaller one) in a way that the only part that pops out of the ground is the rim. You can also make the hole big enough to cover the rim.
  5. Put the smaller can in the hole that you made. Make sure that it is clear of soil and other debris that may have gotten in it when you placed it there. This can is your collecting can. This is where you will find the tar.
  6. Fill the larger can with the birch bark. You can either cut it in smaller strips or roll them as it is. Either way, the size of the bark in the can should allow you to put a lid on it. If you’re going to use pine wood, cut the wood to smaller pieces. It should not be too small or too big because you will need to make sure that you don’t cover up the hole that you punched in the center earlier.
  7. Cover the larger can with a lid and place it on top of the collecting can (smaller one). There should not be any air gaps because this setup will need an oxygen-free environment.
  8. Use the soil that you dug out earlier to create a light seal around where the two cans meet. It should be tight enough to hold the two cans together but tight enough to make the expanding gasses cause your cans to explode. To make sure that you don’t accidentally do this, just remember not to pack the dirt. Let it loosely surround your cans.
  9. Start a fire around and over the cans. Remember to be mindful of your surroundings so as to keep the fire from spreading. It does not have to be a big fire but it needs to cover and surround your cans to give it the necessary heat.
  10. Let the fire burn and die by itself. Once the fire is gone, let it cool down before doing anything.
  11. Clean off the ashes, wood and debris that is covering your cans. Again, make sure that none of it falls into your tar.
  12. Using tongs, pliers, gloves or thick cloth, lift the top can. The bottom can should now contain your new tar.
  13. Remove the can filled with tar from the ground. If you need to use it to treat wounds or waterproof and protect your stuff, you can use it while it’s still hot. Otherwise, you can let it cool down and store it for future uses.

As you have seen, tar is more than just that black and sticky stuff. It has many uses and although it takes time and effort to make, tar is a must to have in your survival arsenal. It’s a five-in-one deal wherein you get medicine that you can use for waterproofing and strengthening and act as a sealant and a source of heat. In situations wherein survival is your priority, tar may save your life.

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About Dan F. Sullivan

My dad was military. My grandfather was a cop. They served their country well. But I don't like taking orders. I'm taking matters into my own hands so I'm not just preparing, I'm going to a friggin' war to provide you the best of the best survival and preparedness content out there.

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