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An Encyclopedia of Varnish Ingredients, their
Properties, and Origin.
A fossil gum or resin principally found along the shores of a
large part of the Baltic and North Seas, especially off the promontory
of Samland. It is cast up by the sea, and collected at ebb tide
with nets, and is also brought up by divers and dredging. It is
partly soluble in alcohol and entirely so in chloroform. It decomposes
when heated rather below 300 degrees Celsius, yielding "oil
of amber," and a black residue called "amber pitch."
This last, when dissolved in oil of turpentine or linseed oil,
forms "amber varnish" or "amber lac."
A small South American tree of the Indian plum family producing
the yellowish-red dye also known as annatto.
The bituminous pitch coming principally from Trinidad, sparingly
soluble in alcohol, but more so in naphtha, turpentine or ether.
(Gum Benzoic or Benzoe)
(1) A balsamic resin obtained from the Styrax benzoin,
a tree native to Java and Sumatra, and from other varieties of
(2) the Lithocarpus benzoin, a tree found in Siam. The
Siamese benzoin occurs in the form of small "tears."
This Siamese benzoin is reddish-yellow to white in colour, consisting
of 10-14 % of benzoic acid, and the rest resin. The Sumatra benzoin
occurs only in masses of dull red resin enclosing white tears.
Wood and Pernambucco
The red wood of the Brazilian Caesalpina used as a dye.
The dark, yellowish-red heartwood of the Caesalpina echinata
or Pernambucco wood (bois de Fernambuc) is largely used
for the making of violin bows.
A patent yellow pigment.
An ore of mercury, cochineal-red to lead-gray mercury sulphite,
found in crystals and powders, and used as a pigment.
A dyestuff consisting of female cochineal insects, killed and
dried by heat, which gives a brilliant scarlet dye and the pigment
Colophony, or pine resin, is extracted by slashing the bark of
spruce and pine trees, and is collected throughout Europe and
North America. The pine resin is distilled, yielding turpentine,
and the residue yields colophony. It is rarely used in violin
varnish because of its brittleness, and its tendency to show scratches
as white streaks.
Pine resin of high quality is used as bow rosin. Violin bow rosin
is harder than cello bow rosin - cooking it for a longer period
of time yields a softer and darker rosin.
Copiaba or Copiaba is an oleoresin from trees of the Copiaba
species found in the West Indies and the valleys of the Amazon.
From its golden coloured, viscous liquid, there is disengaged
a volatile oil.
Copal, from the Mexican copalli, incense, is a hard, lustrous
resin, and the term is generally and vaguely used for resins which,
though similar in physical properties, are all together distinct
as to their sources.
Mexican copal, generally considered the best, is obtained from
a species of Hymenia. It is tasteless, odorless, almost
colorless, transparent, and lemon-yellow or yellowish brown in
colour. It forms one of the most valuable of varnishes when it
has been dissolved in alcohol, spirits of turpentine, oil of turpentine
which has been exposed to the air, or any other suitable medium.
The addition of oil of spike or rosemary promotes its solubility
in alcohol. As a gum it ranks next to amber in hardness. Copal
is also obtained from Sierra Leone, and in a fossil state, from
the west coast of Africa, as well as from Brazil and other South
American countries, from trees of the Guibourtia, Trachylobium
and Hymenia families.
Anim is the hard copal resin obtained from the Hymenia courbaril,
a South American tree; while gum anime is the name also given
to the resin known in commerce as Zanzibar or East African copal.
The raw copal yielded by Zanzibar Trachylobium hornemannianum
is inferior, and used only in India and China for making a coarse
varnish. The fossil East African copal is dug from the fround
over a wide belt of the mainland coast of Zanzibar. A gum obtained
from the Vateria indica is also known as gum anime, and
is often confused with true copal in commerce.
The best gum dragon or dragon's blood is obtained from the Calamus
draco, a rotang or mattan palm of the eastern Archipelago
and India. It is a dark red-brown in colour, brittle, nearly opaque,
and when ground supplies a fine red powder soluble in ether, alcohol
and fixed and volatile oils. Much of the dragon's blood of commerce
is obtained from the Pterocarpus draco, of South America.
This is a fragrant resin obtained from the Egyptian Amyris
elemifera and the Mexican Elaphirium elemiferum,
and is greenish yellow and semitransparent. The oleoresin known
as manilla elemi is obtained in the Phillipines, probably from
the cananarium commune, and is pale yellowish colour,
soluble in alcohol. In the 17th and 18th centuries the term elemi
usually denoted a Brazilian elemi obtained from trees of the icaeiu
(Gum Gutta or Gummi Gutti) **Poison**
Externally a dirty orange in colour, gamboge, which occurs in
commerce as pipe or roll gamboge, which is purer, and cake gamboge,
inferior in quality, is a gum resin coming from Cambodia and Siam.
It is tasteless, hard and brittle, affords a brilliant yellow
powder, and is often adulterated with rice powder or pulverized
(Fleur-de-garance or Madderbloom)
This "flowers of madder" is a refined dyestuff obtained
by macerating commercial madder.
Arabic (Chagual Gum)
Gum Arabic is of the type of the gums which are entirely soluble
in water. It is obtained from a variety of sources as it exists
in the juices of almost all plants. It is largely obtained from
the Acacia Arabica of North Africa and Eastern Asia,
and varies in colour from straw yellow to deep red. Varieties
are: gum Senegal produced by the Acacia Verek, occurring
in round pieces, reddish or yellow, and supplying a very clear,
tough mucilage. Shagual gum, from Santiago, Chile, resembles Gum
or Gum Lac
This is a resinous encrustation formed of the twigs of various
trees by an infesting insect, the Coccus lacca, allied
to the cochineal insect, the in the East Indies and southeastern
Asia. To obtain the largest amount of both resin and red dyestuff,
which is segregated in the ovaries of the females, the twigs with
their living inhabitants are gathered in June and November. "Stick
lac" is the lac encrusting the twigs when gathered; the resin
crushed small and washed in hot water to free it from coloring
matter is known as "seed lac," and this, melted and
strained is the "shellac" of commerce. Lac forms the
basis of some of the most valuable of varnishes.
The product of the distillation of flowers of lavender with water.
The variety most often used for varnishes is oil of spike (Lavender
oil spike) obtained from the Lavendula latifolia.
Lead monoxide, straw yellow in colour and used as a pigment.
The Mexican and Central American Haematoxylon campechianum
supplies the dark red heart wood, whose color pigments readily
dissolve in boiling water. It is also known as campeachy wood.
The Dutch Rubia tinctorum is the plant whose peeled roots
supply madder, a pigment whose colouring principle is alizarin.
The madders are brown, madder carmine and madder orange in colour.
A resinous exudation from the lentisk, Pistacia leatiscus,
the evergreen shrub found along the Mediterranean coast, Portugal,
Morocco and the Canaries. Mastic occurs in commerce on the form
of roundish tears as large as peas, transparent, with pale yellow
or greenish tinge. It is soluble in alcohol and oil of turpentine.
Hydrochloric acid, a corrosive gaseous compound, very soluble
in water, generally sold under the name of Muriatic acid.
An arsenic-sulfur combination yielding a brilliant yellow color
known as king's yellow.
The dried, deep orange-coloured stigmas of the saffron plant,
Crocus sativus, which yield a much used pigment for colouring
A soluble ammonium chloride, white in colour, and vitreous.
This wood, much used as a dye, is not the Santalum yasi,
but the Pterocarpus santalunis, and grows in India and
Ceylon. The close grained heart wood is a dark red in colour.
This is a yellowish transparent resin obtained from the Callitris
quadrivalvis, a conifer of northwest Africa; analogous resins
coming from the Callitris sineusis of China and the C.
reessii of South Australia, which last product is known as
pine gum. Sandarac reaches commerce in the form of small round
balls or elongated tears, is yellow in colour, and somewhat harder
than mastic for which it is sometimes substituted. True
Sandarac is obtained from the common juniper, and is another name
fro juniper gum.
A mixture of lead carbonate and hydrated oxide, used as a pigment.
The liquid oleoresinous exudation of the Pistacia terbinthus,
a small tree common in southern Europe and the Mediterranean area,
known as Chian, Scio or Cyprian turpentine.
This gum, a product of the Astragulus tragacantha, comes
from Smyrna and Constantinople, occurs in opaque whitish flakes,
and is an excellent thickener of colours. It may be considered
one of the varieties of gum Arabic.
Tumeric, terra merita or curcuma (safran d'Inde:
Indian Saffron), is made of the old roots of the Curcuma longa,
a plant of the ginger family; and curcumin is the yellow compound
contained in this root.
The oleoresins which exude from certain trees, especially of the
conifer family. These resins are separated by distillation into
rosin or colophony, and oil or spirit of turpentine. Venetian
or Venice turpentine, collected primarily from Tyrol, from the
larch tree, is the most esteemed variety. The result of its distillation
with water is a colourless volatile oil (essential oil or spirits
of turpentine) soluble in alcohol, ether, and other oils, and
a ready solvent of nearly all resins. Cyprian turpentine is inferior
in quality to the Venice turpentine.
Also known as Larch resin. Source: South Tyrol, Switzerland, Southern
France. The consistency is rather clear and quite thick, and is
soluable in spirit, volatile oils, and turpentine. It is a softener
for for spirit and oil varnishes, and can counterbalance brittle
resins, but do not use in excess of 3-5% in a varnish recipe or
the varnish will not dry properly.
A Hydrated ferric oxide, chestnut brown to liver brown in colour,
used as a pigment. As found in nature, the oxide is called raw
umber, and when heated, so as to produce a reddish brown, is known
as burnt umber.