Turpentine (also called spirit of turpentine, oil of turpentine, and wood turpentine) is a fluid obtained by the distillation of resin obtained from trees, mainly pine trees. It is composed of terpenes, mainly the monoterpenes alpha-pinene and beta-pinene. It is sometimes known colloquially as turps, but this more often refers to turpentine substitute (or mineral turpentine).
The word turpentine derives (via French and Latin) from the Greek word τερεβινθίνη terebinthine, the name of a species of tree, the terebinth tree, from whose sap the spirit was originally distilled.
One of the earliest sources was the terebinth or turpentine tree (Pistacia terebinthus), a Mediterranean tree related to the pistachio.
Important pines for turpentine production include: Maritime Pine (Pinus pinaster), Aleppo Pine (Pinus halepensis), Masson's Pine (Pinus massoniana), Sumatran Pine (Pinus merkusii), Longleaf Pine (Pinus palustris), Loblolly Pine (Pinus taeda) and Ponderosa Pine (Pinus ponderosa).
Turpentine distilled from the California pines such as Ponderosa Pine (Pinus ponderosa) and Gray Pine (Pinus sabiniana) yield a form of turpentine that is almost pure Heptane.
When producing chemical wood pulp from pines or other coniferous trees with the Kraft process, turpentine is collected as a byproduct. Often it is burned at the mill for energy production. The average yield of crude turpentine is 5–10 kg/t pulp.
Industrial and other end uses
1912 postcard depicting harvesting pine resin for the turpentine industry
The two primary uses of turpentine in industry are as a solvent and as a source of materials for organic synthesis.
As a solvent, turpentine is used for thinning oil-based paints, for producing varnishes, and as a raw material for the chemical industry. Its industrial use as a solvent in industrialized nations has largely been replaced by the much cheaper turpentine substitutes distilled from crude oil.
Canada balsam, also called Canada turpentine or balsam of fir, is a turpentine which is made from the resin of the balsam fir.
Venice turpentine is produced from the Western Larch Larix occidentalis.
Turpentine is also used as a source of raw materials in the synthesis of fragrant chemical compounds. Commercially used camphor, linalool, alpha-terpineol, and geraniol are all usually produced from alpha-pinene and beta-pinene, which are two of the chief chemical components of turpentine. These pinenes are separated and purified by distillation. The mixture of diterpenes and triterpenes that is left as residue after turpentine distillation is sold as rosin.
Turpentine is also added to many cleaning and sanitary products due to its antiseptic properties and its "clean scent".
In early 19th-century America, turpentine was sometimes burned in lamps as a cheap alternative to whale oil. It was most commonly used for outdoor lighting, due to its strong odor. A blend of ethanol and turpentine added as an illuminant called burning fluid was also important for several decades.
Turpentine has long been used as a solvent, mixed with beeswax or with carnauba wax, to make fine furniture wax for use as a protective coating over oiled wood finishes (e.g., lemon oil).
In 1946, Soichiro Honda used turpentine as a fuel for the first Honda motorcycles as gasoline was almost totally unavailable following World War II.