Painter’s pit



In the Perhonjoki river valley, tar burning was a rapidly growing livelihood as early as the 1600s. Tar manufacture was a lengthy, multiphase working process requiring caution. The phased peeling of pine trees selected for pitchy wood, as well as the formation of pitch, took three years. In the winter, the trees were felled and transported next to the tar-burning pit for cutting. Building the pit required professional skills and care. In the spring, the pit was burned for several days. Depending on its size, a pit could produce dozens of barrels of tar, sometimes even a hundred. When successful, tar manufacturing gave the producers remarkable incomes. However, accidents also happened, which could result from either the lack of the pit master’s skills or his falling asleep while supervising the pit. Excessive drinking could also cause accidents.


According to folk memory, the so-called painter’s pit in Halsua’s Ylikylä was among the less fortunate cases. The carpenter and painter Heikki Ruuska with his helpers were building a large tar-burning pit and preparing for tar burning in the mid-1800s. The place of the pit is located at a twenty-minute hiking distance (about 1.2 kilometres) southwest of Penningintie. In the winter, you can reach it on skis or by snowmobile. – But what happened to the tar-burning pit back in the day?