As a violin and cello maker I now look at trees and imagine their potential to produce good looking, great sounding instruments. As a varnish maker, I also look at trees as a source of resin, a principal component of varnish. Consequently, I found myself grabbing a baggie and some bear spray and heading into the woods in search of the essential pitch for making my prized varnish. I quickly discovered that most trees don't have a lot of pitch to spare, and if they do, they're not showing it. However the odd tree would have something to offer. After an hour of foraging, I amassed the 3 chunks on the left. This is a mixture of spruce, balsam fir and Douglas fir sap, aka pitch.
Then I headed down to the Great Rocky Mountain Trench where the forests are predominantly mature Ponderosa Pine. Most trees had nothing to offer, but one big old beautiful beast contained the motherlode. The chunk on the right was collected in about 5 minutes and I took about 15 % of what it had to offer. It was soft like lard and sticky like honey. The earlier samples I collected were mainly hard like rocks.
I look forward to firing up the varnish pot this fall, boiling off the turpenes, straining the liquid and letting it harden into the chunks known as colophony. Then on another day, I'll use it to make the varnish for next year.