Yellow Pine Pitch

Heating yellow pine will set the pitch. December 15, 2005

I make fireplace mantels from reclaimed red pine, doug fir, and yellow s. pine timbers (originally milled 1874-1920; average size 5-6" thick, 10-12" deep) The yellow s. pine is especially sappy/pitchy. On a recent mantel, the pitch spewed/spit out once the fireplace warmed up some.

In your opinion, can YSP be used appropriately for fireplace mantels? How would you suggest we deal with preventing so much sapping (via kiln drying)? Short of kilning, can a finish (oil poly or shellac?) reduce or prevent the sapping upon heat? Some folks tell me the age of our old timbers should have reduced the pitch some, but that is not our experience. Thoughts there too?

Forum Responses
(Sawing and Drying Forum)
From Gene Wengert, forum technical advisor:
I suggest that you heat the wood to drive off the sap that would be liquid at room temperature and a bit hotter. I suggest 180 F for about 24 hours.

From contributor A:
Set the pitch like the Good Doc said and the mess cleans off tools and hands with rubbing alcohol.

From contributor D:
I'd try putting the SYP timbers up in an attic for a week or so. The outside of the timber should be pitchy. I would not think the mantel would get as hot as it would in a summer time attic (?). As I understand it, the SYP has hundreds of chemical compounds with their own melting point. Once the melting point has been reached for a long enough time, those compounds will dry up.