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What Is Resin?

Resin is an ingredient used in making artwork and polymers. It is also used in the manufacturing of many consumer products. For example, varnish and lacquer—common finishes for furniture—contain resin. It is sometimes incorporated into ink, jewelry and even perfume. Not many people know that amber is fossilized plant resin. In fact, most plant resin share its beautiful dark-gold color (though there are rare instances when the resin comes in shades of blue).

Resin can be made from natural ingredients or created artificially in the laboratory. Natural resin is made from pine sap, a very viscous substance that grows hard after being exposed to air for a long time. Resin can also be harvested from other plants, but these tend to be more unstable compounds. For example, a rather harmless-looking plant could yield a rather flammable substance like hydrocarbons; in this case, efforts to get resin could literally “blow up in your face.” In the past, though, people would get gum resin (which is easily to mold than pine).

Synthetic resins are much more uniform and safer to handle, since they are stable and are free of any impurities. These are made by mixing together chemicals; the resulting chemical reaction creates a viscous substance that is quite similar to resin in texture and consistency. Thanks to this process, companies can “harvest” resin with considerably less risk and even cost.

Before, resin was used like a glue to seal boats against leaks or even as a key ingredient in the mummification process. Today, though, resin is mostly used to make polymers, plastics and paints.

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