I get so many questions from new carvers at my E-bay wood carving store about where to find the resin knots for my wood sculptures that I thought I would do a small section on locating knots. This picture was taken at about 4000 foot elevation in northern Ca. near the Feather River. Between 3500 and 5500 ft is usually the best elevations to look, although their are no set rules. It's like finding gold. Some days it can be very hard to find them, and when they say gold is where you find it, it's a lot like that, it can bring a rush of excitment when you find a good spot! You can see I have my backpack on, as sometime you can not drive to the site and have to pack in to get them. The fallen tree to my left is the type of area you will be looking for. This happens to be an ancient old fir tree that is mostly rotted away. It has been lying here for at least 50 years or more. Part of the tree that is still above ground level is still partially intact and the knots are still attached to the tree. Most of those can not be harvested without cutting them off.
The best spot is the area where the tree has become partially submerged over the years by over growth, fallen leaves, pine needles and earth where the main part of the trunk has rotted away leaving only the resinous knots, the only part of the tree able to survive the termites and soldier ants. You can see my best buddy Ben to my right. He's helping me sniff out the best ones...he's got a nose for those things.
In my carvings I use only Pine and Fir knots. Some types like the digger pine are not suitable and do not contain enough resin.
Hopefully you are not parked to far away from the truck and get several backpacks full, before the end of the day. On good days you may be able to find some good spots right by the road and just load them up. Try old logging sites and mountain ridges, and watch out for trespassing signs and be carefull to stayout of somebodys pot garden or you might not make it home!
Here are several piles stacked outside my wood shop...