V.com weekend vote: How old is your current cake of rosin?

November 28, 2021, 4:38 PM · When I was a young violinist I asked my teacher, "How long does rosin last?"

Rosin, derived from tree resin, is that stuff we rub onto the hair of the bow to make it sticky enough to make a sound.

rosin

I wasn't sure if rosin was the kind of thing that "goes bad" after a while (it's not). My teacher, Jim Maurer of Denver, held up his own rosin, a round cake glued to a cloth, definitely a good deal shorter than a new one but worn perfectly flat, no groove in it.

"If you are careful, it can last a very long time," he said, pointing out that he deliberately used a different angle every time to keep the flat surface and avoid creating a groove. And then he added, to my complete astonishment, "This one is 12 years old."

Twelve years old -- that rosin was as old as I was!

I'm not as wowed by that as I used to be - I have a few cakes going on 20 years by now! But as a teacher, I certainly witness a lot of rosin-gone-wrong. For example, one very quick way to wreck a cake of rosin is to drop it on a hard surface. It will shatter like glass!

And while most rosin isn't terribly expensive, replacing it seems to inspire procrastination, as it requires a mail order or a visit to the music store. Very often a student will continue to try using the remaining shards that cling to the cloth or woodblock. Keeping the broken rosin in the case leads to a proliferation of "rosin sand" that spreads around the case and sticks in the corners. It creates such a mess - I feel it's better to throw away rosin that has been cracked or broken!

A slower way that rosin can meet an early demise is the infamous groove, which can get pretty deep and either weaken the integrity of the cake until it breaks, or just become too deep to reasonably get the hair in there.

My current rosin - a nice woodblock of Leatherwood Bespoke Rosin - is about four years old. It is long and rectangular and I've worn a bit of a groove in it. Though it is not cracked, it's worn down quite a bit, so am thinking of replacing it pretty soon for that reason.

For the vote, I'm asking how long you've had the rosin that you are currently using (or, if it is actually broken!) Please participate in the vote, and then tell us your rosin stories. Do you tend to be able to keep your rosin intact for a long time, or does it tend to crack up? What kind of rosin are you currently using? Is it round or rectangular? On a piece of cloth, or wood? Is it actually currently broken? Does yours have a groove in it? And beyond the rosin you use every day, how old is your longest-surviving (i.e. unbroken) cake of rosin, if you have several?

Replies

November 28, 2021 at 11:21 PM · Can you rejuvenate old rosin by melting it and pouring the molten rosin into a rectangular or circular receptacle?

November 28, 2021 at 11:44 PM · I'm only counting my viola rosin because I play violin so infrequently.

My current rosin is a little over 3 years old, but it's only the second viola rosin cake I've had. My first one lasted 12 years (before that I was using the rosin that came with a borrowed viola), and was still in good shape when I accidentally dropped it on a concrete floor and it shattered into tiny pieces; the largest piece I could find was less than half an inch long.

November 28, 2021 at 11:56 PM · I find the rosin can get harder as it ages. Not sure if all types do this, but I've noticed it with some. Maybe oxidation affects it. I prefer fresher rosin for a bit more bite.

November 29, 2021 at 12:04 AM · So. . . .is a groove bad?

November 29, 2021 at 12:38 AM · I get really excited about rosin and probably have about 10 cakes I’ve purchased over the last eight years to find the “perfect” one. I use the Leatherwood Bespoke also and that’s my go to! And, I love it. I keep it in a sealed container to prevent it from drying out and I’ve had this rosin for about 2 years.

November 29, 2021 at 12:45 AM · Mine's a 4-year old Melos Violin Dark. Christos (spelled with an eta - It meant "useful" in Koine and Classical, so not in any way blasphemous) gave me samples of others to try. His light rosin is not suitable for the kind of hair my bows get rehaired with these days (When Arthur Grove was around, his rehairs were far less demanding on rosin quality).

It's only recently that I learned (from my brother) about avoiding grooves.

November 29, 2021 at 01:10 AM · My oldest is some Pirastro Olive that’s probably pushing up against 30 years old. I don’t currently use it, so I don’t know if it’s still good or not, but I’d bet that it is. The rosin I do currently use is Andrea Orchestra, which is probably around 10 years old. The maker of Andrea (now called Tartini?) rosins claimed that he was inspired to research and make rosins after finding a cake in an old violin case that he believed to be from the 19th century, and being so impressed with its performance. Personally, I don’t like planned obsolescence. I like things that are good forever (even if they really aren’t). I can’t remember the last time I dropped my rosin. After all, we’re handling violins and bows that simply can’t be dropped, and I honor that obligation.

November 29, 2021 at 01:15 AM · Bury a cake of rosin and after a million years it might turn into amber.

November 29, 2021 at 03:10 AM · I have several cakes in with different violins. The one I consider my "active" cake is about 5yo. The others range to as old as maybe 45?

One thing I found is that if you have a cracked cake on the cloth, you can "fix" it with a hot table knife or spatula. Just melt the sides of the split and stick it back together!

November 29, 2021 at 03:27 AM · Although all the rosins I might now use are 1 to 5 years old. When I received my first decent 19th century-made cello in 1949 there was a used cake of Yhomastik rosin in the pouch of the cello bag. Since that cello had been resting in someone's attic for many years and their was a 1929 repair sticker inside the cello, I always assumed the rosin had likely left the shop at the same time as the cello - 1929.

That was the only cello rosin I used for a long time (it accompanied me in my move from Maryland to California in 1962) and I continued to use it until I got a new cello in 1964 and sort of lost track of the old cello rosin.

In the year 2001, my youngest granddaughter (7 yr old at the time) became interested in string playing and I located that old rosin cake and gave it to her to use on the bow I gave her. She quit playing violin - and also viola - in a short time and I took back the instruments but never found the rosin again. But it did still work fine (after at least 50 years and more likely over 72).

November 29, 2021 at 04:16 AM · I just purchased the Holstein Rosin. I had been using the Jade and a Shar Music versions before that. I wanted to purchase the Holstein or the Pirastro Gold and decided on the Holstein as it is in the middle of being hard or soft.

November 29, 2021 at 08:32 AM · Every time my rosin gets chipped, I quickly melt the damage with a gas lighter. Is there any reason for not to melt an old broken block of rosin and let the liquid harden in a suitable form? This way rosin could last just about forever. Of course, it is possible, that over time the rosin looses some oils and gets more brittle. My impression is, that after melting it, it returns to its original state.

November 29, 2021 at 10:41 AM · "The groove" is easy to avoid if, from the very beginning, you always bow uniformly over the cake's surface. Mine is more than 10 years old, the cake is quite a bit thinner, but no groove. But it's true: you only replace a cake because you dropped it, not because you "emptied" it!

November 29, 2021 at 12:32 PM · Goodness, I cannot even remember when I bought it. 10+ years old. I tend to go with a softer rosin which gives better and more consistent tone plus I don't need as much. Due to physical limitations I'm limited on how often I can play. So, it lasts for quite a while.

November 29, 2021 at 02:09 PM · I have a Petz Vienna cake that I bought in my first years of violin learning, so it's around 6 years old and in a pretty good shape. I don't know if I will ever need to buy another in my life.

November 29, 2021 at 03:58 PM · One of my luthiers has a container of finely ground rosin that he applies to freshly cleaned (with acetone I believe) bow hairs before he commits to applying rosin from the cake. He warms the bow hairs a bit with a hairdryer/heat gun. He says the bow is prepared (rosined) quicker and takes on the rosin from the cake better.

December 1, 2021 at 08:28 AM · My pirastro rosin is about 15 years old.

It is as if i bought it yesterday.

When applying the cake along the bow, i give a slow clockwise turn to the cake and this way i avoid the groove and i believe the rosin more efficiently applied to the bow.

December 1, 2021 at 10:15 PM · Oldest: Liebenzeller from the early 1980ies, still works fine.

Current: Jade from 2017.

No groove. But I think there's nothing wrong with grooves, as long as you play like ASM...

December 1, 2021 at 10:58 PM · Since I left the orchestra many years back, my rosin breakage rate has dropped to zero. No more dropping it off the music stand shelf, stepping on it, or lending it to another player. Now, if I drop it, it's most likely on carpet, so no breakage. I'm still working through a cake of Bernardel rosin I've had for quite a while (couple years), plus I have a few other types of rosin in a drawer. At this rate, I'll go the rest of my life without ever needing to buy rosin again.

December 5, 2021 at 12:12 PM · 1-5 years old here. I have 3 fiddles and 6 bows. Rosins are all round on pieces of cloth -- 1 Jade and 2 Hill. Jade is newest, about 1-1/2 years old. The Hill disks are 3-5 years old. All still in good condition, no cracks, and still doing a good job. No grooves -- I rotate the disks as I run them up and down on the bow hairs.

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