Our 100 percent pure Canada Balsam has a refractive index close to glass! When added to a paint medium in small amounts, it brings out the richness of the pigments, it promotes permanence, and its optical properties do not deteriorate with age. Historically, painters have used balsams because of the quality they give to the overall painting. Balsams add luminosity and viscosity to the paint, and help to protect the paint film. Until recently Canada Balsam was too expensive for common use, but the availability has now increased – it is much more affordable. According to Robert Massey in Formulas for Painters, “Canada Balsam is worth every penny, for it is unequaled in clarity and drying time”.
It is important to note the difference between balsams, resins, rosins, and essential oils. In general, when you distill a tree sap, it separates into an essential oil and a rosin. Examples of rosins include the Copal and Damar crystals we sell. Examples of essential oils include Oil of Spike Lavender and Oil of Rosemary. Resin is a term commonly used in the paint world for a dissolved rosin. Sometimes large scale paint manufacturers dissolve rosins with chemicals such as xylene, rough turpentine, benzene, toluene, and other chemicals. While this saves money, it introduces an element of toxicity. The Art Treehouse Canada Balsam has no such chemicals – it is pure, direct from the Canadian fir tree (Abies Balsamea). You may recognize the smell – it is the classic Christmas Tree scent.
In the mid 1800s Canada Balsam was imported into Europe because it was considered superior to the rosins and Venice turpentine previously in use, and it is mentioned in a great many nineteenth-century recipes. The Europeans learned that Canada Balsam forms a film – not purely by evaporation – but by the joining together components in the paint film. This results in a much tougher and more resilient surface than was the case with the previous resins distilled from pine. Canada Balsam shows no more of a tendency toward film defects than would be expected with drying oils such as linseed or walnut.
Canada Balsam is sometimes referred to as the “English Balm of Gilead.” This may be due to the fact that it is occasionally added to folk medicines and various herbal products. Because of its clarity, it has been used for many years as an adhesive in making microscope slides. Canada Balsam is a perfect addition to oil paint, when enrichment of color and enhancement of permanance are desired.
For CANADA, ships by USPS Air or Fedex Ground. Not available internationally due to IATA regulations.