Tips and Tricks

Making Primitive Glue Sticks

 

Our Native American ancestors used glues in many of their constructions.  Hafting of knife blades to handles, projectile points to arrow shafts and many other projects.  Different cultures used different materials depending on availability.  Many of the coastal people used 'Asphaltum', which is a natural tar-like substance that washes ashore from oil seepages in the ocean floor.  Most of the plains Indians used a 'Hide Glue', which was prepared through a lengthy process of boiling the animal hide to extract the'Collagen' (kinda like gelatin).  This glue was then heated and mixed with small amounts of water makeing a very strong, slow drying glue. 

The glue I'm showing below is a quick and easy adhesive that I've used in many of my crafts. This is pine pitch glue, whose components are readily available almost anywhere.

Pine Pitch

Pine Pitch

First step to making pine pitch glue is to find a source of sap from a conifer tree. Any conifer will work..cedar, juniper or pine. I prefer pine pitch and it's found almost anywhere in the country. Smells good too! I scrape it from a 'bleed' from the tree, not being too careful about foreign materials like bark, bugs or whatever. These can be cleaned or strained out after melting.

Charcoal Binder

Charcoal Binder

This mixture is much like making a filler for adobe bricks. I use charcoal from a wood fire, crushed up and then screened to filter out the chunks. I use a tea strainer or window screen for this. Then add a bit of organic material like bark or leaves. I crumble them up and run them through the same strainer. I estimate about a 3-1 ratio of charcoal and organics.

Electric Burner

Electric Burner

I use a small electric burner and a pan that I found at the thrift store to heat and melt the pitch. Take your time and don't get it too hot. This stuff is flammable and can make a real mess if you get it too hot.

Heated Mixture

Heated Mixture

Once the pitch is liquid (not bubbling) add the charcoal / organic binder. Let this mess simmer for about 10 minutes so it blends well. You need to get the binder up to the same temp as the melted pitch to make sure it binds together well. If not, the mixture will be kinda crumbly and won't make a good glue.

Glue Sticks

Glue Sticks

Once the mixture has heated for a few minutes and is very homogeneous, take a small stick (I use popsicle sticks) and dip/stir it into the mixture. Get it coated good and then dip it into a container of cold water for a few seconds. Stick it back in the hot mixture and coat it again, then cool it. Repeat this until you have a nice blob. Let these cool and they're ready.

Glue Sticks

Glue Sticks

This is a pic of a couple of sticks that have been dunked and cooled 4-5 times.

Glue Sticks

Glue Sticks

The finished glue sticks are now ready to use. They will store indefinitely. When ready to use, I heat them up over a small alcohol flame until they start to get soft and as they start to drip, I apply it to the materials I want to glue. Takes a bit of practice to not make a mess, but it does work. I've found that if I slightly heat the parts I want to join before applying the glue, it works better.