Aspiring Writer

Rubber during Medival-ish Era

14 posts in this topic

Okay with the way things look, I'm about to dominate this forum for a bit with new topics, so I'm going to be surprised if Mods don't end up getting upset. But the new topic of the day... Rubber. Yes, my topics are so very exciting on this forum. 

Specifically, I want to know everything there is to know about Rubber around the medieval era or with medical technology. How is it made, where do we get it or what we use to make it, how hard is the process, manpower-wise, how long does it take, how easy is it to make it into stuff like clothes or anything really, is it a renewable or non-renewable resource, etc.

I know rubber was used in places with low technological advancement, so it was a thing, but other than that I've had a difficult time gleaning anything else. Also, are there any rubber-equivalents that can work in that era, and by rubber equivalent, I mean an insulator.

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Ah yes, my niche knowledge will come in handy! I had to do a project on rubber trees a while back.

Early rubber mostly comes from the varieties of rubber tree:

  • Amazonian rubber trees are the most common because they respond well to cultivation, and was used in early Mesoamerican societies to make rubber. They need lots of rain and no frost, because frost ruins the rubber. It takes 7-10 years before the first harvest can be made, and after 30 years, they tend to be cut down due to a significant drop in latex production volume. You tap the tree, the sap comes out, when it stops flowing, you take the bucket and fill molds with it, then the sap hardens and boom - rubber in whatever shape the mold was. Then move the tap and do it again. Actual production varies strongly from tree to tree and subvariety to subvariety. There's a real world blight that could be devastating to this species of rubber tree.
  • Congo rubber comes from a bush (that grows as a vine around other trees) that get used to make rubber. They grow in tropical places, notably Africa irl, if you couldn't tell from the name Congo rubber. They give fruit, so that's neat. The most common way this was collected was to slit the vine and let it flow all over your hand and arm, where it hardens slightly, until the flow stops, then make another slit in another part of the plant and repeat. After a few layers, you can peel it off and then it works well as a medicine against worms when consumed.
  • Dandelions produce a similar thing to the Amazonian rubber trees, but much much more varied in latex quality and amount, which trends toward being low enough to be unfeasible. 

Amazonian rubber was the main one used early on, because quite frankly it's the best of the three. Olmec ruins have the earliest evidence of its use, but Aztec and Mayan ruins also display some signs of use, likely from knowledge passed down for the duration of those civilizations' existences, but that's off-topic. The most common use that has evidence remaining is soaking water containers in the liquid sap before it had been formed into molds to make the container waterproof, when they weren't just making the containers out of rubber directly. For their game thing, the balls were normally made of rubber too, like a much more violent use for a kickball.

Congo rubber was and is used for medicine, working fairly effectively, but also was used for poisoning arrows, luring small animals and birds into traps for food, and the fruit that grows on the vines is both edible and fermentable into an alcohol. 

Manpower isn't that intensive, the molds can be left alone once filled until they're of the right consistency (overnight tends to work, but it depends on humidity). 

Clothes is a bad idea. Rubber rubbing against itself makes a horrible smell, and also tends to make anything that might be good about it go away, but most other things are just a matter of making the mold and letting it sit. 

Natural rubber like that is a renewable resource, since it's trees, but you have to be careful to stagger planting, because there's only about 25 years on average of actual production, not including the 7-10 on the front end that I mentioned earlier for it to actually start producing. A massive gap like that between harvests wouldn't be a good thing for a rubber-reliant income.

Edited by Invocation
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1 hour ago, Invocation said:

Ah yes, my niche knowledge will come in handy! I had to do a project on rubber trees a while back.

Early rubber mostly comes from the varieties of rubber tree:

  • Amazonian rubber trees are the most common because they respond well to cultivation, and was used in early Mesoamerican societies to make rubber. They need lots of rain and no frost, because frost ruins the rubber. It takes 7-10 years before the first harvest can be made, and after 30 years, they tend to be cut down due to a significant drop in latex production volume. You tap the tree, the sap comes out, when it stops flowing, you take the bucket and fill molds with it, then the sap hardens and boom - rubber in whatever shape the mold was. Then move the tap and do it again. Actual production varies strongly from tree to tree and subvariety to subvariety. There's a real world blight that could be devastating to this species of rubber tree.
  • Congo rubber comes from a bush (that grows as a vine around other trees) that get used to make rubber. They grow in tropical places, notably Africa irl, if you couldn't tell from the name Congo rubber. They give fruit, so that's neat. The most common way this was collected was to slit the vine and let it flow all over your hand and arm, where it hardens slightly, until the flow stops, then make another slit in another part of the plant and repeat. After a few layers, you can peel it off and then it works well as a medicine against worms when consumed.
  • Dandelions produce a similar thing to the Amazonian rubber trees, but much much more varied in latex quality and amount, which trends toward being low enough to be unfeasible. 

Amazonian rubber was the main one used early on, because quite frankly it's the best of the three. Olmec ruins have the earliest evidence of its use, but Aztec and Mayan ruins also display some signs of use, likely from knowledge passed down for the duration of those civilizations' existences, but that's off-topic. The most common use that has evidence remaining is soaking water containers in the liquid sap before it had been formed into molds to make the container waterproof, when they weren't just making the containers out of rubber directly. For their game thing, the balls were normally made of rubber too, like a much more violent use for a kickball.

Congo rubber was and is used for medicine, working fairly effectively, but also was used for poisoning arrows, luring small animals and birds into traps for food, and the fruit that grows on the vines is both edible and fermentable into an alcohol. 

Manpower isn't that intensive, the molds can be left alone once filled until they're of the right consistency (overnight tends to work, but it depends on humidity). 

Clothes is a bad idea. Rubber rubbing against itself makes a horrible smell, and also tends to make anything that might be good about it go away, but most other things are just a matter of making the mold and letting it sit. 

Natural rubber like that is a renewable resource, since it's trees, but you have to be careful to stagger planting, because there's only about 25 years on average of actual production, not including the 7-10 on the front end that I mentioned earlier for it to actually start producing. A massive gap like that between harvests wouldn't be a good thing for a rubber-reliant income.

Very interesting. Are these the only ways to get rubber back then, or could there still be others? And are you sure about the clothes things? Like, can I make gloves and armor padding with it? Those are the two I need. And if not, do you know of an alternative I can use?

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18 minutes ago, Aspiring Writer said:

Are these the only ways to get rubber back then, or could there still be others

Depends on how true to reality you're trying to be. We didn't even know about the dandelion thing until WW2 or so. But if it's fantasy stuff, sure, go wild.

20 minutes ago, Aspiring Writer said:

And are you sure about the clothes things? Like, can I make gloves and armor padding with it?

If rubber doesn't rub on other rubber or anything particularly abrasive you should be fine. Maybe have it be wrapped in cloth or something, that could work.

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Okay, this is awesome. I love how inquisitive you are! Thumbs up for all of the new threads, I don't think the mods will get mad.

I know nothing about this, so... peace out!

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3 minutes ago, Condensation said:

Okay, this is awesome. I love how inquisitive you are! Thumbs up for all of the new threads, I don't think the mods will get mad.

I know nothing about this, so... peace out!

Thanks, I am a person who appreciates details. Hope they don't, because I have around ten planned. I have lots of science questions.  Peace!

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Just now, Aspiring Writer said:

Thanks, I am a person who appreciates details. Hope they don't, because I have around ten planned. I have lots of science questions.  Peace!

So many questions, so little time. Enjoy it! :)

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Don't forget about vulcanization, though. Natural rubber gets gooey in the heat, and cracks in the cold

Edited by The_Truthwatcher
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2 hours ago, The_Truthwatcher said:

Don't forget about vulcanization, though. Natural rubber gets gooey in the heat, and cracks in the cold

What era was Vulcanization invented, can people in the medieval-ish era use the process?

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12 minutes ago, Aspiring Writer said:

What era was Vulcanization invented, can people in the medieval-ish era use the process?

Modern vulcanization was invented sometime in the 1800s, but older civilizations used to process rubber too. I don't know much about it, sorry.

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40 minutes ago, The_Truthwatcher said:

Modern vulcanization was invented sometime in the 1800s, but older civilizations used to process rubber too. I don't know much about it, sorry.

Hmm, I was hoping for more, but thanks. I'm still looking for how vulcanization used in those eras and civilizations.

 

EDIT: I have found the answer! So I knew the Aztecs had rubber, and I now know how they were able to harden it! Spoiler, it's not vulcanization. As said above, rubber is harvested as sap from rubber trees BUT THEN is then mixed with a juice from a purple flower named morning glory. Depending on the proportion of the two you get different qualities; a 50-50 blend of latex and glory juice gets you rubber with maximum bounce and 75-25 blend of latex and glory juice gets you maximum durability. Small note is that this process needs to be in warm temperatures like in Mexico. So that is how you can make rubber in the medieval-ish era. Victory is mine!

Edited by Aspiring Writer
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5 minutes ago, The_Truthwatcher said:

I didn't do much, but happy to help! :D

You reminded me of a problem and made me find a solution, so you did enough. Also, anyone who has any more information on rubber or rubber alternatives, please still post, any extra info is welcome.

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