A History of Applied Fiber and Fabric Enhancements (Part 4)

Some Early Plant Based Fiber Enhancements:

Pine Tar is a vegetable liquid obtained from the wood of various Pine trees by destructive distillation. Pine Tar is known since ancient history for its capacity as a water repellent vapor barrier. This process was heavily used in ancient North America.

Tree Resin: pitch gum resin which can be extracted from a variety of tree species, notably pines, world wide. Again, it was used as a moisture barrier on early fibers.

Plant Waxes. Plants secrete waxes, the most important is carnauba wax, a hard was obtained from the Brazilian Palm.

Linseed Oil. Applied to various fibers and fabrics to produce “Oilcloth.”

Plant Based Fiber Enhancements


The most commonly known animal wax is beeswax, but other insects secrete waxes.

Spermaceti can be processed into a wax and occurs in large amounts in the head cavities of the Sperm Whale.

Lanolin is a wax obtained from wool consisting of esters of sterols.

Animal derived fats, oils, and greases were used for thousands of years.

Just as we discussed with leather, these same animal oils, fats, and greases were applied to early fibers as enhancements.


Early AnimalInsect Based Enhancements
Montan Wax is a fossilized wax extracted from coal and lignite. It is very hard, reflecting the high concentration of saturated fatty acids and alcohols.

Paraffin wax is a white or colorless, soft, solid substance derived from petroleum, coal, or shale oil.

A recipe of boiled Pine Sap, Animal Fat, and Charcoal was used by the ancient Greeks to waterproof linen and wool. This mixture is still in use today in some parts of the world.

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