What is spermaceti?

Spermaceti is usually brought home in casks, and in some cases has so little oil mixed with it as to obtain the denomination of head matter. It is of the consistence of a stiff ointment, of a yellowish color, and not tenacious. Besides the head matter, there is also a quantity of sperm obtained from the oil by filtration. Indeed, in all good spermaceti lamp oil, which is not transparent, particles of the sperm may be seen floating.

Having the head-matter, or filtered sperm, in order to purify it, first put it into hair-cloths, and with an iron plate between each cloth to the number of half a dozen or more, submit it to the action of an iron screw-press, and, as the oil does not separate very readily, it will in general be necessary to let the cakes of sperm be pressed three different times. The third time the cakes will become so dry that they may be broken in small pieces with little trouble, and then put in a furnace containing 1/3 water and 2/3 cake. Let the fire be raised sufficiently under the furnace to melt the cake, which it will do before the water begins to boil; after which boil the whole together for about 1/2 an hour, taking off during the boiling what scum and other extraneous bodies rise to the top, then let the whole be dipped out into a tub or other coolers. After it is completely cold take off the cake of spermaceti, which will be on the top of the water, and cut it into pieces. Suppose, for example, that the cake weighs 1 cwt., it will be necessary to have a furnace, or rather a movable kettle, where the light is thrown in such a way that the process can be observed. Having taken 1 cwt. of the unrefined spermaceti prepared as above, melt it together with about 3 galls. of water. As soon as it begins to boil add from time to time small portions of the following liquor, say 1/2 pint at a time: Take of the alkaline salt, or potash, 7 lbs.; pour on it 2 galls. of water; let them stand together 24 hours, and from the top dip off the lye as wanted, adding more water occasionally, till the alkali is exhausted. After boiling the spermaceti for about 4 hours, having during the process taken off the scum as it arose, let the kettle be removed from the fire; and after remaining about 1/4 hour, dip off the spermaceti into suitable coolers. This process must in general be repeated 3 times. The third time, if the processes have been properly conducted, the spermaceti will be as clear as crystal; and then, after it is cool, the only thing necessary to make it fit for sale, is to cut it into moderately small pieces, when it will break into that flakey appearance which it has in the shops.

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