ArboristSite.com Sponsors
www.harvesterbars.com


Pipe dream or can I make decent money

Bitsy

Bitsy

Birchy!
Joined
Jul 1, 2019
Messages
26
Location
Canada
Been awhile! Just wanted to touch in here and say where this has taken me. Searching for uses of the Birch bark of trees I was cutting for firewood took me down quite a path and it is still going. I found out I can distill Birch tar oil from the bark and it a super versatile oil which can be used for different things in different consistencies.

In oil form it is a powerful antiseptic, antibacterial, antiviral. Also used to treat many different skin conditions and an excellent wood and leather preserver.
In tar form it is a excellent sealant and traditionally used on things like sealing seams on birch bark canoes.
Further refined it turns into a very strong adhesive, which has been used since Neanderthal days. Otzi the icemans axe was hafted with it.

So I started making and selling all of these things, I now supply people all over the world including research institutes, medical research, universities, among others. While I still do that I have transitioned into making an all natural leather conditioner and wax (waterproofer). That is something I have been developing over the last year and just recently started selling. The Birch tar oil is exceptional as a leather preserver and I have done my best to enhance and expand its capabilities, and it has turned out well. I have tested my conditioner and wax against most of the other products and substances out there and it has proven to outperform every one of them so far and that has been exciting!

The Birch tar oil was used to make Russia leather and I also went down a bit of a side road with that. I somehow found myself getting salmon skins that are normally thrown away at local markets, fleshing, and descaling them, and making Russia style salmon leather. I use a custom birch tar oil mix in the fat liquoring stage and it has worked really well, I sell some of that leather on the side as well. I use the inner bark of the birch to make tanning liquor, this is also how Russia leather was tanned.

I no longer cut wood to sell, I cut what I need and harvest the bark both inner and outer, plenty busy with just that.

Wow what a journey!!
 
ChoppyChoppy

ChoppyChoppy

Tree Freak
Joined
Jun 17, 2013
Messages
10,326
Location
AK
Been awhile! Just wanted to touch in here and say where this has taken me. Searching for uses of the Birch bark of trees I was cutting for firewood took me down quite a path and it is still going. I found out I can distill Birch tar oil from the bark and it a super versatile oil which can be used for different things in different consistencies.

In oil form it is a powerful antiseptic, antibacterial, antiviral. Also used to treat many different skin conditions and an excellent wood and leather preserver.
In tar form it is a excellent sealant and traditionally used on things like sealing seams on birch bark canoes.
Further refined it turns into a very strong adhesive, which has been used since Neanderthal days. Otzi the icemans axe was hafted with it.

So I started making and selling all of these things, I now supply people all over the world including research institutes, medical research, universities, among others. While I still do that I have transitioned into making an all natural leather conditioner and wax (waterproofer). That is something I have been developing over the last year and just recently started selling. The Birch tar oil is exceptional as a leather preserver and I have done my best to enhance and expand its capabilities, and it has turned out well. I have tested my conditioner and wax against most of the other products and substances out there and it has proven to outperform every one of them so far and that has been exciting!

The Birch tar oil was used to make Russia leather and I also went down a bit of a side road with that. I somehow found myself getting salmon skins that are normally thrown away at local markets, fleshing, and descaling them, and making Russia style salmon leather. I use a custom birch tar oil mix in the fat liquoring stage and it has worked really well, I sell some of that leather on the side as well. I use the inner bark of the birch to make tanning liquor, this is also how Russia leather was tanned.

I no longer cut wood to sell, I cut what I need and harvest the bark both inner and outer, plenty busy with just that.

Wow what a journey!!

How many tons of bark to make a drum of oil?
 
ChoppyChoppy

ChoppyChoppy

Tree Freak
Joined
Jun 17, 2013
Messages
10,326
Location
AK
45 gallon drum would be in the neighborhood of 1.5 tons if from white birch. Other species tend not to yield as much oil.

Would be interesting to see your setup. How many gallons a day do you produce?

I'd never heard of using the bark oil for anything. I know when it burns, it makes thick black smoke, almost like when burning plastic or tires. I'll sometimes run into logs that the bark falls off. End up with wheelbarrow loads of the stuff.
 
Bitsy

Bitsy

Birchy!
Joined
Jul 1, 2019
Messages
26
Location
Canada
Would be interesting to see your setup. How many gallons a day do you produce?

I'd never heard of using the bark oil for anything. I know when it burns, it makes thick black smoke, almost like when burning plastic or tires. I'll sometimes run into logs that the bark falls off. End up with wheelbarrow loads of the stuff.

You are not alone, seems like it has been largely forgotten and is currently being rediscovered. Usually my birch wood takes minimum a year to dry well, with the bark removed it is ready to go in four months. That is with outer and inner bark removed, kind of nice. Stove and chimney also stay a bit cleaner longer.

Right now I only produce a few gallons a month with occasional large orders where I need to do larger amounts. I would hope by next year to be producing and selling 100 gallons a month. At the moment I produce a gallon per run and the process is still not that efficient and temperature control is a pain. I am working on a few ideas one of them being shredding the bark and compressing it into bricks, you can pack an awful lot of bark into a 1' cube! The heat source for that I am toying with the idea of a propane burner system as much less babysitting and temperature control is easier. I'll snap a few pictures next time I am out at the site.

The inner bark people use as a flour extender, it is catching on in some of the high end restaurants in the cities, I prefer it for tanning though. It is a bit bitter for me to be eating.
 
Huskybill

Huskybill

Addicted to ArboristSite
Joined
May 21, 2018
Messages
6,336
Location
Northeast
You know intime your sales could grow to the point you need to think about speeding up the process to keep up with the demand? Think about the future.
 
Bitsy

Bitsy

Birchy!
Joined
Jul 1, 2019
Messages
26
Location
Canada
Propane would add to your cost.

Could a rocket mass type heat source be used, burning your sawdust/noodles/limbs/waste wood?

I am not sure it would. It takes about 3 hours to distill the oil from the bark. During that time you are keeping a fire burning in a circle around the can. You use a ton of wood and it requires constant attention, that time could be better spent on other things. I would estimate with the propane burner a cost of $20 - $25 (CAD) per run, a 100lbs tank would be needed so it doesn't freeze up.

The rocket heater would be interesting and could be efficient. Not sure how to get it in a circle around the can, it cannot be heated from the bottom, also temperature control might be tough. There is a specific temperature that results in the most efficient distillation, and a 50-75C range that I need to stay within.
 
Ted Jenkins

Ted Jenkins

Firewood by TJ
Joined
Apr 18, 2016
Messages
2,767
Location
Twin Peaks
I made a still for wood grain alcohol out of some water heaters. I regulate temperature by how much I run the fan. I also made a forge the same way. I am going to be putting a cedar hot tub together using the forge to heat the water. I would think that to to distill bark with about about six furnaces going full time would make the process practical and profitable. Thanks
 
Top