How to Make Glue From Sap

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Glue derived from sap is called "pitch glue." American Indians used pitch glue made from materials found in nature to make tools and various waterproof items. Pitch glue differs from conventional glue that is available in stores today because of its tar-like consistency and high malleability. While different tribes had their own recipes for making pitch glue -- adding or subtracting ingredients to make it more or less fibrous -- there’s not just one method that will achieve effective results.

Make Charcoal

    Cut the wood into pieces no bigger than 4-by-4 inches using a saw. Cut enough pieces to fill a cooking pot.

    Fill the cooking pot with the small pieces of wood. Pack the wood in the pot as tightly as possible.

    Build a fire in a fire pit.

    Place the cooking pot filled with wood on top of the fire. Put a lid on top of the pot.

    Leave the cooking pot on top of the fire until the fire burns out.

    Wait 12 to 24 hours for the cooking pot to cool off before opening it to remove the wood pieces.

    Remove the lid from the cooking pot and pour out the blackened wood pieces. Grind up the blackened wood into a fine powder using a rock.

Making the Glue

    Collect dried sap from pine trees. When a pine tree is injured, sap slowly drips out and dries on the tree's surface. Look for the thick, light brown sap on the outside of the trunks of the trees. Carefully scrape the dried sap off the tree using a knife.

    Melt the sap in a cooking pot over the fire. Wait to put the sap into the pot until the flames are low to prevent the flames from touching the sap and possibly igniting it. The sap takes five to ten minutes to melt.

    Pour ground charcoal into the melted sap. Use an equal ratio of ground charcoal and sap.

    Stir the ground charcoal and sap with a long metal stirring utensil until it is thoroughly combined and remove it from the fire. The glue will harden to a putty-like consistency when it cools off. Heat it over a fire before use if you want it to be thinner.

    Things You'll Need

    • Sap
    • Saw
    • Wood
    • Cooking pot with lid
    • Fire pit
    • Rock
    • Knife
    • Container
    • Long metal stirring utensil


    • If you want, you can experiment with this recipe by adding ground up dried leaves from various plants to the mixture for a thicker consistency.

      Good hardwoods such as oak, ash and maple make excellent charcoal. They burn cleaner and light easier than traditional charcoal briquettes.

      Uses for pitch glue are extensive and disparate, from waterproofing shoes to sealing up wounds to repairing containers.


    • Sap is highly flammable. Be cautious to prevent fire flames and fumes from touching the sap. Maintain a safe distance from sap that is melting over a fire.


  • Survival Skills of Native California; Paul Douglas Campbell; 2004
  • Primitive Technology; David Wescott, Society of Primitive Technology; 1999

About the Author

Rose Kivi has been a writer for more than 10 years. She has a background in the nursing field, wildlife rehabilitation and habitat conservation. Kivi has authored educational textbooks, patient health care pamphlets, animal husbandry guides, outdoor survival manuals and was a contributing writer for two books in the Uncle John’s Bathroom Reader Series.