Natural resins

Several different types of natural resins can be used for varnishing wood. To make the resin more fluid, organic solvents are most often added.

Colophony is extracted from the resin of pine trees after distilling vegetable turpentine oil, and consists mainly of abietic acid. It can be dissolved in alcohol or turpentine. Copal, a fossil form of resin, is extracted in India, the Philippines, Australia and Africa; alcohol or turpentine is used as a solvent. Shellac comes from the Bengal fig tree (Ficus bengalensis) when it is attacked by wood lice; alcohol is used as a solvent. Dammar comes from special trees in East India and Malaysia (Dipterocarpaceae); alcohol or turpentine can be used as solvents. Sanderac is drawn from the juniper gum tree (Callitris quadrivalis) in Morocco; it dissolves in alcohol, turpentine, ether and acetone. Rubber mastic is extracted from the resin of the mastic tree (Pistacia lentiscus) found on Mediterranean islands; it dissolves in alcohol or ether. Elimi gum is resin extracted from amyris trees (Burseraceae) on the Philippines, Mauritius, Mexico and Brazil; it dissolves in alcohol, petroleum or turpentine. Acaroid resin is from the grass tree (Xanthorrhoea australe) in Australia; it dissolves in alcohol.

These products are mainly based on renewable resources, with the exception of some types of solvents. During application, substances can be emitted by the solvent vapour that can lead to respiratory ailments and allergies. Also some of the resins themselves can emit irritants. Colophony is a well-known allergen. These emissions can continue after the building is finished. A varnish layer of natural resin is about as vapour-proof as a synthetic products and the moisture regulating properties of the underlayer is thus aborted. As waste, these products are normally not a problem, depending partly upon the pigment used.

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