Over the centuries turpentine, either alone or in combination with other naval stores, has been used in many ways—as fuel for lamps and torches, for medicinal applications, and for embalming fluids. More recently it has been used chiefly as a solvent, especially by the paint industry. However, the development of waterbased paints, as well as low-cost solvent streams from petroleum, has drastically reduced this demand. Only in the past few decades has the chemical industry begun to recognize turpentine as a wonderfully versatile raw material for enhancing product salability, and sometimes adding expensive and exotic effects. At present, chemical uses consume about ten times as much turpentine as all other uses combined.
Three types of turpentine—gum, wood, and sulfate—are produced commercially today. Gum turpentine is obtained by distillation from the oleoresin (incorrectly called gum) collected from wounds (scars) made in living pine trees. Wood turpentine is obtained by extraction of virgin pine stumps from which the sapwood has rotted away and further processing (steam distillation) of the extract. Sulfate turpentine is a by-product of the kraft (sulfate) pulping process for producing paper.