I have a quick description of how to gather and refine pitch (pine, yew, cedar, etc) on my Glues and Finishes
page in the Archery section of my site.
I figured a pictorial and some further explanation might be worthwhile.
To start with, you’re simply looking for pitch bearing trees. Conifers are the most common source, especially the various pines. If you wander around in a stand of pine trees very long, you’ll notice scars on trees due to bug damage, lightning strikes, or even scrubs from tractors. These also occur on the other conifers – yews, hemlocks, and juniper/cedar. The image below is a yew tree in my yard.
If you grab an old spoon and either a tin can or a plastic bag, you can gather chunks of the pitch very easily – enough to make a cupful in a few minutes, usually. This image shows just a couple of minutes’ work.
With pine trees, you may find very large chunks of hard rosin. These are great, but may need a solid knife or even small axe to get chunks from.
When you get home, pick any dirt, bark, leaves or other impurities out as much as possible, but don’t sweat it too much; you’ll strain it later.
Outside of your house, heat your pitch slowly in a small soup can in a pot of water (double boiler) or over direct heat until melted completely. Continue to heat it for quite some time, taking care to avoid letting the turpentine that is cooking off catch fire — it can be a huge fireball. This is relatively easily avoided with a double boiler, but direct heat can be a problem. If it catches fire, cover it to put it out (having a larger diameter can as a “lid” is helpful here).
Once it’s bubbled away for 10-20 minutes, you need to remove any foreign stuff like bark and needles. You can pour it through a strainer that you don’t plan on using again, or poke holes in the bottom of another small can. You’ll need pliers or gloves to handle this — don’t get it on your skin, it will stick and burn you badly.
Once it’s cooked off and strained, you are ready to use it to mix for hafting material or straight up for glue.
One note: Yew trees contain some toxins, so if you are using this for anything you’d eat with, avoid any yew pitch in your concoction.