What is Gutta-percha?

   Gutta Percha (Palaquium) is the dried, milky juice of a large spongy tree found mainly in the Malay Peninsula, Java, Borneo, and Sumatra. It resembles rubber, but it has very little elasticity, and is a distinct substance. The natives cut down the trees to obtain the product. When placed in hot water pieces soften, become sticky, are molded readily, and, when placed under pressure, cohere firmly. Gutta-percha is a nonconductor of electricity, and for that reason is used largely to insulate wires. No other substance seems to do as well for coating submarine cables. Of late a demand has sprung up for gutta-percha in the manufacture of golf balls, causing a scarcity and a sharp advance in price. Complaint is heard that a fashionable sport is hastening the destruction of the gutta-percha forests and actually endangering the future of ocean telegraphy. Gutta-percha corrodes rapidly, however, and a more durable substitute for marine work is desirable. Wireless telegraphy may solve the problem. Surgeons occasionally use gutta-percha for splints. A sheet of this substance softened in hot water may be pressed to the shape of the limb where it hardens like a plaster cast.