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Balmaha Acid Works

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The works have been identified on

Balmaha Acid Works lay opposite the harbour at Balmaha, on the eastern side of Loch Lomond, and was described as a pyroligneous acid works.

Historic records and old maps dating from 1864 to 1923 show that the works had four main building on site, with a dam and lade to the north which would have provided the factory with water.

There are no remains of the factory, and the site has been developed as a hotel.

Pyroligneous acid

Pyroligneous acid, also referred to as wood vinegar, is a dark liquid produced by the dry, destructive distillation of wood. Its principal components are acetic acid and methanol. This is a development of the traditional process of charcoal burning, and refers to a process by which wood is burnt in an airless atmosphere so that it is reduced to charcoal, rather than to carbon dioxide, water vapour and ash. The process of wood distillation typically uses an iron or firebrick chamber, together with a condensing system to collect and cool the vapours released from the heated wood. The condensate consists of pyroligneous acid and a tarry residue which separates from it and settles as it cools. The principal constituent of the acid is acetic acid.

The distillate was most likely destined for use in the fabric trade, being used to manufacture sodium acetate, required in the process of dyeing cloth as a mordant, or fixative. Acetic acid obtained in this way, from wood, was cheaper than that produced from malt vinegar.

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