Home >> Encyclopedia Americana, Volume 27 >> Tropical Forests to Twelfth Century >> Turpentine


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TURPENTINE, a resinous juice, oleo resin, extracted from several trees belonging to the genus Pinus. The common American tur pentine of commerce comes from the Pinus palustris, which grows abundantly in the South ern States. When first extracted it is crude or common turpentine, varying from 75 to 90 per cent of resin and 25 to 10 per cent of oil. Crude turpentines are named from the trees or the territory from which they are taken, as Aleppo turpentine, from the Aleppo pine; American turpentine, from Pinus palustris; Bordeau turpentine, from the seaside pine (P. pinater); Canadian turpentine, from the bal sam-fir; Carpathia turpentine, from the Swiss pine; Hungarian turpentine, from the Mugho pine; also white turpentine, from the long leaved Carolina pine. The Pistacia tree also yields an excellent turpentine and is sometimes called the turpentine tree, or terebinth. This is believed to have been the original source, the trees being plentiful in the island of Chios. To obtain the oil of turpentine the juice is dis tilled, usually with water. (See TURPENTINE OIL). Oil or spirit of turpentine, often called simply turpentine, and also qurps,I) is color less and is employed extensively in medicine, both internally and externally, and it is also widely used in the preparation of paints and varnishes.

The Box Prior to 1901, turpen tine gathering, as conducted in the United States, was needlessly destructive of the forests and needlessly wasteful of the product. The method, under the box system universally em ployed, was to chop into the base of the tree itself a cup-like cavity, the sole purpose of which was to receive the resin which flowed from a scarified face of the trunk above it. The box itself does not add to the flow of turpentine; on the contrary, experiment has proved that it diminishes the flow. It is an unnecessary wound driven into the body of the tree at its most vital spot, both weakening its vigor and lessening its power to support the strain of the wind. At the same time it opens the trunk to disease and provides a storehouse of combustibles against the coming of the for est's great enemy — fire. A forest which has been heavily turpentined by this method has before it only decay and death. Until recently

the destructive methods in use have been re garded with entire indifference in the regions affected. This has 'been due to the low valua tion of timber throughout the turpentine belt and to the popular belief that the pine forests of the Southern States were inexhaustible.

The Cup In 1901 Dr. Charles H. Herty, of the Bureau of Forestry, after numer ous experiments, discovered a new way of ex tracting turpentine by using earthen pails or cups; not unlike the method of obtaining maple sap. The discovery has resulted in a complete change of methods by turpentine operators all over the South. In a bulletin published in 1902 by the Bureau of Forestry, the claim was made that the experiments with the new cup and gutter system of turpentming had resulted in an increase over the old boxing system of 23 per cent in the amount of the product extracted. This figure was raised in 1903 to more than 36 per cent. The economic saving of this new discovery is enormous. It not only causes a great increase in the amount of turpentine pro duced, but it is a most important factor in sav ing the pine forests of the South. Trees from which turpentine has been, extracted by the old method soon die from the wounds inflicted on them. The cup and gutter system, on the other hand, is not fatal to the life of the tree and does very little damage to the timber.

The experiments during 1903 have abund antly justified the claim made that the box is an °unnecessary wound,° for the cup system has proved efficient in the hands of the regular tur pentine labor, while the increased profits under this improved system are sufficient to warrant its adoption by any turpentine operator, regard less of all questions connected with the future of the naval-stores industry. Recent experi ments in the distillation of wood have demon strated that a vast amount of turpentine may yet be obtained from the fallen pines of the South, which are preserved by their content of resin and turpentine. This product is some times called artificial turpentine. For statistics and other information concerning the turpen tine industry see the article NAVAL STonEs. See also ROSIN.