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What is cork made of?


Cork, tissue or layer of the bark of the cork oak (Quercus suber) which grows in Spain, Portugal, and some areas of Europe bordering the Mediterranean. A tree first yields a supply when it is about twenty years old, and supplies are obtained about every ten years. The first production is of little value, but each successive supply increases in value.

The cork is stripped from the tree by means of incisions made in longitudinal and transverse directions. The pieces thus detached are soaked in water, scraped, washed, pressed flat, and dried. They are then placed over a coal fire which conceals blemishes, and blackens and smooths the surface. The elasticity of cork makes it useful for stopping bottles and casks; its lightness enables it to be used for lifebelts, artificial legs, and the floats of nets; and its impermeability to water makes it suitable for the soles of shoes. The uses of cork were known to the ancients. Pliny mentions them. Plutarch says that Pontius Cominius swam the Tiber with the help of pieces of cork, and the ancient Egyptians made coffins from it. The use of cork, however, for stopping glass bottles was not known until the 15th century. Spanish black is made by burning the parings of cork, and cork waste is employed in the manufacture of linoleum.

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