The Lac Tree.

Practical Magazine 17, 1876

(Chemistry applied to the Arts, Manufactures, &c. Miscellaneous).

Lac is a varnish which can hardly be impaired, and possesses a transparent brightness. It is applied to every variety of useful and fancy articles. It is found abundantly in Japan and China, but the Japanese lac is far superior in quality to the Chinese. This product has long been much sought after by European countries, and it is the most important article of export. Wax is extracted from the fruit of the lac tree, and Japan derives large profits from traffic in this substance.

There are two lac trees, the male and the female. The male bears no fruit. It is not till the trees have reached the age of four or five years that any use is made of them. Produce is obtained from them for only three years, and after that they are cut down. The Japanese propagate the tree either by seed or cuttings. The former method produces seedlings of inferior quality.

For extracting the lac account is taken of the quality of the soil, the size of the tree, and its height. A horizontal gash is made in the bark with an implement called kaki-gama, a sort of double hook, then an incision in the middle of the gash. Through this opening the lac flows, which is taken up with an iron knife and poured into a vessel fastened to the girdle of the collector, who makes incisions in one tree after another for four days. He then goes back to the first tree, makes a gash above the former one, and repeats the operation on each of the trees previously cut. The incisions are begun again in the same order from below upwards until the whole tree has been gashed, after which the tree is cut down.

The branches are cut off, made into a bundle, and put in water for ten or twenty days. If they are large, incisions are made in them with the kaki-gama. For small branches a small-bladed instrument is used, which cuts both ways.

- Les Mondes, March 23, 1876.

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