How To Make Fuel From Birch

Practical Primitive
By Practical Primitive July 6, 2017 09:26

How To Make Fuel From Birch

This post was gladly contributed by Practical Primitive.

The oil extracted from birch bark can be produced easily and in quantity, and in my opinion it makes a superior product to traditional pine pitch.
Good survival is all about metabolic efficiency (expending your calories wisely), and considering the ease with which it can be collected and processed, Birch Tar is ideal!

Here is the procedure for extracting this wondrous sticky substance that can, in addition to the traditional bonding agent, be used for fuel, medicine, waterproofing, leather treatment and wood preservation.

Step-by-step Instructions for Making Birch Tar:

Step 1

Obtain two empty metal cans, one that has a tight-fitting lid. Paint cans work great for this, but pay attention, since a lot of paint now comes in plastic cans. It’s best if the two cans are close to the same diameter, since the concept is to create an oxygen-free environment in which to heat the bark. Of the two, the one without the lid may be of a smaller diameter.1. Twocans How To Make Fuel From Birch Tar

Step 2

Punch a hole in the center of the bottom of the can that has a lid. (The easiest way to make your hole is with a hammer and nail.) A hole about 3/8″ in diameter is good. This will be your “condensing” can.2. bottomhole How To Make Fuel From Birch Tar

Step 3

Cut your birch bark so that when it is standing on edge it is a little shorter than the height of your condensing can. Roll up the strips all together and stand them on edge in the can — be sure you don’t cover up the hole you punched in the bottom! (In the photos we used six strips of bark that were 6 inches high and 18 inches long.) Once all the bark is inside, place the lid on the can and close it up firmly.3. barkstrips How To Make Fuel From Birch Tar

Step 4

In the center of your fire pit dig a hole deep enough that your second can (the “collecting” can) will sit with it’s rim at or below ground level. (We used an economy-sized tuna can in the photos.)


4. canhole How To Make Fuel From Birch TarRelated: 10 Trees Every Survivalist Should Know and Why

Step 5

Place your collecting can in the hole, making sure that it sits stable and level. Be careful not to get any dirt inside! Now place the condensing can so that it sits directly on top of the collecting can. There should be NO air gaps — remember, we’re working for an oxygen-free environment.5. cansinpit How To Make Fuel From Birch Tar

Step 6

Use soil to carefully create a light seal around where the two cans come together. Not so tight as to seal in the gasses, but enough to keep the two cans in place so that you don’t knock the condensing can off of it’s perch, or get any dirt into the collecting can. The collecting can should be completely covered at this point. (Don’t pack down the dirt. Too tight a seal may cause the expanding gasses to blow the lid off your condensing can!)6. covercan How To Make Fuel From Birch Tar

Step 7

Start a fire over and around the condensing can and keep it burning. It does not have to be a huge fire, but should surround the can well on all sides. The condensing can will glow red (just like when you’re firing pottery) and you will probably hear the tar start to run once the can reaches a high enough temperature. If not, just keep the fire burning for an hour or two.7. buildfire How To Make Fuel From Birch Tar

Step 8

Allow the fire to burn down, then once it has cooled, carefully scrape away the ashes and soil from around the two cans, being mindful not to allow dirt or ash to fall into your new tar.


8. Picture How To Make Fuel From Birch TarRelated: Do You Recognize this Tree? [All Parts are Edible]

Step 9

Then, using tongs or welding gloves, remove the condensing can, and look at all of that beautiful birch tar that has collected in the bottom can! After the condensing can has had a chance to cool, carefully remove the lid to see how little is left of your original birch bark strips.9. newtar How To Make Fuel From Birch Tar

Step 10

In it’s “straight-from-the-fire” state the oil can be used for waterproofing, wood treatment, and medicine. With a bit of further refinement you can easily create fuel, other medicines, and bonding agents.10. birchtarstick How To Make Fuel From Birch Tar

Step 11

To thicken the oil into something more pitch-like you simply need to simmer off the volatile (flammable) substances. Slowly simmer the oil over a low heat for about an hour or so until it becomes quite gooey, and is about half the original volume. When the tar will firm to your desired consistency remove it from the heat and allow it to cool. This material can now be stored and used just like pitch. (Stirring the oil occasionally during the refining process will cause foam to rise and will hasten the process, but be careful not to allow it to boil over or flame up.)11. simmerdown How To Make Fuel From Birch Tar

Next time you see a downed birch be sure to snag some bark and give this one a try. Easy to make and lots of bang for your buck, it smells better than pitch too! So Distill Away, and Have fun!

This post was gladly contributed by Practical Primitive.

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Practical Primitive
By Practical Primitive July 6, 2017 09:26
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12 Comments

  1. Wannabe July 6, 15:01

    Looks messy, I love it

    Reply to this comment
  2. diane July 6, 15:03

    misleading article in that it explains (and very well) how to make pitch, but not how to refine it into a fuel–except that pitch/tar is flammable, as well as the oil. how is it rendered in to a usable (and reasonably safe) fuel and how long can if be kept/stored before it evaporates?

    Reply to this comment
  3. ghost July 6, 17:37

    medicine for what?

    Reply to this comment
  4. Opal Bob July 6, 17:42

    I’ve not yet tried this but I will. One interesting side thought will be to test the carbon residue from the bark to see if it can be used to help start a fire. If my thought is correct, using a spark from flint and steel or old lighter, the activated carbon should readily start to burn slowly. If it does burn gather some dry tinder around it an blow gently to start a fire

    Reply to this comment
  5. Bronco bill July 10, 16:12

    So how do you make fuel? Very miss leading. Maybe you can do better next time .

    Reply to this comment
  6. vocalpatriot July 12, 03:28

    I suggest careful use of a waterproofing substance that is also a very good fuel…oh wait that’s oil..

    Reply to this comment
  7. Broncobill July 13, 01:17

    Ok oil is ok so how do you refine it to make fuel ?

    Reply to this comment
  8. TheSouthernNationalist July 14, 16:56

    This story is missing a lot of info, make part 2 please.

    Reply to this comment
  9. Opal Bob July 14, 22:24

    I expect that the oil will burn quite readily as it is.
    I expect that the oil could be refined by distilling it but be careful.

    Reply to this comment
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