Pine tar

Pine tar is a sticky material produced by the high temperature carbonization of pine wood in anoxic conditions (dry distillation or destructive distillation). The wood is rapidly decomposed by applying heat and pressure in a closed container; the primary resulting products are charcoal and pine tar.

Pine tar consists primarily of aromatic hydrocarbons, tar acids and tar bases. Components of tar vary according to the pyrolytic process (e.g. method, duration, temperature) and origin of the wood (e.g. age of pine trees, type of soil and moisture conditions during tree growth). The choice of wood, design of kiln, burning and collection of the tar can vary. Only pine stumps and roots are used in the traditional production of pine tar.

Pine tar has a long history as a wood preservative, as a wood sealant for maritime use, in soaps, in roofing construction and maintenance, and in the treatment of skin diseases.

General use

Pine tar has long been used in Scandinavian nations as a preservative for wood which may be exposed to harsh conditions, including outdoor furniture and ship decking and rigging. The high-grade pine tar used in this application is often called "Stockholm Tar" after the company which for many years had a monopoly on its production in Sweden and is also frequently known as "Archangel Tar".

Pine tar is widely used as a veterinary care product. It's a traditional antiseptic and hoof care product for horses and cattle. Pine tar has been used when chickens start pecking the low hen. Once they get a spot of blood then they would be pecked to death. Applying a smear of pine tar on the wound gives the attacking hens something else to do. They go nuts trying to get the sticky pine tar off their beaks. Pine tar has also been used to make medicinal soap for people with skin ailments.

Preserving wooden vessels

Pine tar can be used for preserving wooden boats by coating the interior sole of the boat with the mixture of pine tar, gum turpentine and boiled linseed oil. First, a thin coat is applied using a mixture with greater turpentine. This allows it to permeate deeper into the oakum and fibre of the wood and lets the tar seep into any pinholes and larger gaps that might be in the planks. The tar weeps out to the exterior and indicates where the boat needs the most attention. Having the solution in place and the repairs complete, the vessel is ready for the thicker standard mix. Pine tar is also efficacious for properly saturating lead or standard oakum so that the endurance of the sealing capacity is optimal.

Use of pine tar in baseball

An additional, minor use of pine tar is as the sticky substance baseball players use on their bats to improve grip. Pine tar is applied liberally to Major League Baseball bats every season in the United States of America. Because of its texture, pine tar improves a batter's grip on the bat and prevents the bat from slipping out of the batter's hands during hard swings.

Rule 1.10(c) of the 2002 Official Rules of Major League Baseball states that batters may apply pine tar only from the handle of the bat extending up for 18 inches.

Pine tar is also sometimes used by pitchers in baseball to improve grip on the ball in cold weather, although it is questionable whether it gives a pitcher any competitive advantage. However, the application of any foreign substance to a ball is expressly prohibited by 8.02 of the MLB Official Rules , and, if caught, results in an automatic ten-game suspension.

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