From Kristin Mortenson
Posted April 17, 2009 at 05:59 AM
A student asked me today: does rosin expire? I'd never really thought about it, and I didn't really know how to answer. I figured one of you would know... so? How long can one expect a rosin to stay "good" or do they last forever, or until dropped and shattered? She said that she thought it seemed that her rosin wasn't giving her enough bite, but that her sister's (new) rosin was great. They are the same brand--Motrya Gold. Thoughts?
Yes, I think it probably does, although I've heard conflicting views from experts. A well-known violin shop in rue de Rome cited 4 years as the maximum life of rosin adding that they knew of many instances where players systematically replaced their rosin after one year. My own bow maker said that the amount of temperature fluctuation that rosin is subjected to might have an effect on lifespan eg. living in a very hot climate and transporting violin in and out of temperature controlled buildings etc.
if you go to the Pirastro website they talk about this. I think they mention a life expectancy of a year but I am too lazy to check. I remeber being annoyed at the time. I mean if rosin really does have the life they state then why do they manufacture such large block. I would be quite happy with half as much for yep, half the price.
If they manufactured thin slabs to last the year they would crack in half, but that would be good for business.....
I had some rosin that began to turn to dust...... it just disintegrated......after more than a year when I was living in Texas years ago. Temprature extremes and humidity I supose?
Photographic film also degrades over time. If you want it to behave exactly as it's designed to, you use it before the "use by" date. Many excellent pictures have been made on out-of-date film, though. It's usually cheaper than the fresh sort. Reputable film sellers keep the film in refrigerators to minimise the degradation, even during the in-date period. (And yes, there are still many photographers using film.)
I am irritated by rosin makers who claim that they "ensure freshness" by making it in small batches, but fail to provide a manufacturing date. Who can tell how long it has been sitting with the distributor or the dealer, or under what conditions?
Perhaps this goes some way to explaining the "I just love xxx rosin", "xxx is the worst rosin I've ever used" exchanges you see here and elsewhere.
I've noticed the rosin dries out over time...making it harder to put on the bow...but have never noticed a difference in 'bite'.
Between rosins - yes - I have noticed slight differences...but not between fresh and old of the same bar.
My two 'good' rosins are at least 5 years old...and at the rate I'm using them up - I can expect them to physically last another 100 years...
I might have to replace them before that.;)
Tom Baker, a rosin maker, says rosin will start to go bad a year from manufacture. He has checked, in devious ways, and found rosin on the store shelves for several years. Only a few rosin do not have impurities which degrade the sound slightly. Tom's rosin and Melos rosins are pure, I can't speak for the rest.
I do think rosin will degrade when it's started to be used or exposed to different humidity and temperature. Shouldn't be much of a problem when they're sitting in the shop for long while.
I've had a rosin that's almost 5 years sold, and it's not possible to get a smooth sound if it ever got a chance to rub on the bow hairs. Doesn't seems to be sticky as it used to be, it's brittle and hard.
At the same time, I've got a rosin that's more than 2 years old, and I'm still using it frequently from day one. Doesn't seems to have much of a problem. Perhaps, when you have a rosin that you don't use frequently it'll sort of become dead itself.
Agree on the size of the rosin. I can't imagine if I could finish the rosin cake in 10 years. It's crazy to make such a big one. Half of the size (and price) seems more reasonable.
Count me a skeptic. It sounds to me like rinse and repeat.
There are definitely different schools of thought on this. I think that I also remember Pirastro saying one year. Well I had a Pirastro Goldflex for many years. I wore it down very evenly, and it got quite thin - but still effective. (It became a bit of a sport, or like a sucking candy: how long could I roll it on my tongue w.o. succumbing to biting it?) Unfortunately I left it at a gig one day and that was that. So I got another one, and used that one for a long time. I came to prefer a combination of that with Kolstein. Then I started using Tartini, which I liked better than both. The manufacturer claimed to have discovered an amazing piece of rosin in a case so old that he attributed both to Tartini's time - hence the name - and set out to analyze it and reproduce it. Well, if that extremely old piece was still so great, I hope that he's not recommending an expiration date, or he has some explaining to do! (I don't know if he is or not.). Alternating a number of violins, bows and cases as I do, I currently alternate Bernadel, Millant-Deroux, and Motriya - slightly favoring the latter.
With all the above experience, it's my considerd opinion that rosin stays good for a very long time. It may temporarily react to temperature/humidity changes, like a violin, but it will come back. I really think that manufacturers just want to make more sales.
I'm a professional bowmaker and have a busy rehair business. I get quite a bit of feedback regarding rosin. Some players expect that I rosin up their bows when completing a rehair job. Others, but not many, prefer that I leave this task to them.
My view as a bow professional and an active player is that rosin degrades quite slowly. . . maybe 3-4 years. You'll probably drop and destroy it before that time!
The exception might be rosin for bass bows. Bass players are particularly neurotic about rosin and bowhair. They usually prefer to rosin up themselves. In my market of San Francisco, Calif. most bass players use Pops, which is quite soft and does dry out after a couple of years.
Getting back to violin rosin, I do like the Tartini-Paganini, Pirastro-Goldflex, Pirastro-Oliv, and Mitroya, but I'm sure that a number of others are just fine. Rosin is really not an expense item anyway. For best sound, I think that it's preferable to rehair more often and keep your strings fresh.
John Greenwood, Bowmaker
I can't comment about rosin expiring, since I really don't know....
OK, I'll comment!
Ray, you mentioned that there was often rosin on the shelf that exceeded the expected life of the rosin. When I was shooting a lot of film, I used to make certain I bought from high-volume film specialty shops; it was usually a few weeks from manufacture.
So, I would suggest only buying rosin from places that sell a lot; it will be more likely to be closer to manufacture date.
I do remember starting to have some problems with more than one bow after buying rosin from a music shop that was almost all guitars; I may have been their only rosin customer for months or years.
So, I guess I'll toss that rosin... but it leads to the next question.
What is the best way to clean poor rosin off your bow?
O dear, my rosin is at least ten years old...
First I ever heard of this. If true, why no expiration date???....hmmmmmmmm time to get the US Government involved. Quick let's call The Rosin Police
One more quick thought. Many people - including myself - like to start off a new rosin by scratching the new and relatively smooth surface to get the adhesion process going faster. If you feel that an old rosin has lost some of its zing, there would be no harm in scratching the surface again. It might help.
OLD ROSIN, you betcha!
The well used, 2-sided cake of Thomastik cello rosin that came in the bag of the 1877 Lowendall cello I got in 1949 served me as a cellist for many years.Since the cello had last been repaired in 1929, and was found in someone's attic, I told myself that the rosin dated from that time (which woud make it 80 years old now). It did seem to disappear for many years, but resurfaced again 8 years ago ( in 2001) when my then 7 year old granddaughter decided to add to her ballet, piano, and singing ventures and take up violin too (a quite successful effort that unfortunately lasted only slightly more than a month).
Possibly over 70 years old at the time, the rosin still seemed to work just fine, although one side of it was worn down to less than 1/8 inch thickness.
Unfortunately, the rosin vanished at that time, so my "study" of rosin longevity can no longer continue.
However, I seem to have no trouble at all with any of the rosins I have acquired in the past decade. My early-purchase Tartini rosins are just as utile as my Andrea rosins, so this myth of 1 (or even) 4 year longevity is debunked as far as I'm concerned.
But I will concede the possibility that I have never actually used a rosin that was 100% great, so I would not have noticed degradation over time. Now, having very recently started using BAKER rosins, I find them to have some finer properties for sound production than any of my previous rosins. I think I will notice if these degrade over time - especially if I get new ones every year as the manufacturer recommends.
Besides playing the rosin off the hair you can wet a rag in alcohol and spend maybe a little less than half an hour getting all the rosin off the hair with the alcohol. Don't get any alcohol on the stick, though. I usually unscrew the frog and wipe the hair with the alcohol rag that way. At the end you can wipe the hair with clean dry rags to get the last smidgen of rosin off. Hang it up to dry for a day. Now carefully untangle the hairs, straighten them out and screw the frog back in. What do you have now? An almost newly rehaired bow with the "nap" (scales) on the bow hair back up again. This was taught to me by the former concertmaster of the metropolitan Opera in New York. He said back in the 1920's they really couldn't afford getting their bows rehaird as often as they should and this procedure worked just fine to extend the bow hair's life and get the old rosin off. Good luck.
Would you pour rubbing alcohol on your own head?
The answer is NEIGH
So why then would you do it to a horse's tail?
if it is indeed an issue, how long do you think that rosin is on the shelf in the store? Why don't companies put a made on or best by date?
Wow, mine as at least 3 years!!! I think I'll change it soon!!! By the way, I saw 100 + years old rosin in someone's case a few months ago and it was still very nice! It was so special to hold this in my hands!
Sam, I love your horses!
I suppose if rosinhas a low life expectancy then trees are gettign worried about their health?
I have noticed that over a long time (like MANY years), it tends to dry out and shrink a bit. Nothing wrong with 3-year-old rosin, though! My somewhat shrunken rosin is from the 1980's, and it has been stored in a cardboard box (and not a tin).
I don't buy it. Personally, I think rosin lasts a very long time. If it really has a shelf life of 1 year, then the rosin manufacturers are complete idiots for not putting an expiration (or "Use by") date.
An alternate explanation is that violinists are complete idiots. We'll spend $20,000 for a violin, but we won't shell out 5 bucks for a new cake of rosin.
I think I like the first explanation better.
I guess it depends on the brand....
If it's pirastro, dump it after a year....
If it's a Hill or most everything else, it will probably last you a few years at least....
And if you find it in an old beat up case from the Renaissance.... Jackpot!
I've heard conflicting views as well. My first teacher said, "A good cake of rosin will last you a lifetime." But just because I'm slightly OCD at random circumstances, I generally get a new cake of rosin once every year or if there are disconcerting cracks on (especially in) it. Same goes for the box that carries it. ^_^
Before resin becomes amber, I believe it passes through an intermediate state of polymerization known as copal. While the amount of time this takes varies widely, it may be achieved in as little as a hundred years. It is probably a good idea to use rosin up or dispose of it within a century of its manufacture.
This is beautiful!!
The expert panel is stumped.
So far we hear everything from six months to 100 years..... !!
And here I am a violinist with also a degree and roughly six years of lab research work experience in biochemistry, and I should have something to say, yet I'm mostly lacking in clues....
I've come across my share of clearly several or many more decades old rosins, and some dark cheap brittle products as well, which do seem to me more brittle and hard, and I could imagine this as more polymerized and/or oxidized-- such rosins seem more vitrified, vitreous, literally glass-like: harder and more resistant to being transferred / rubbed onto bow hair, and even if you do move it onto your hair, it lacks stickiness, and mostly just falls off unusually quickly, making mess.... Maybe more precisely, the old / vitreous rosin lacks meltability more than stickiness. It falls off and makes a sticky enough mess, but while it was on the bow hair, it didn't melt right at the bow hair / string interface [which is actually amazingly what really happens there when all goes well!].
My vague, anecdotal impression is that rosin has to be decades old before this is at all an issue-- 20 or 30 or 50 years.
Although, after proudly working the same cakes of Salchow and of Millant de Roux (sp?) unshattered for five or seven years (different sets of years), I came to suspect each of them of losing some transferability and some grab (and I bought new!).
Maybe we should routinely replace after a few years, as if random shattering wouldn't usually force us anyway.... but I guess it doesn't always, and that's why this discussion thread is happening and we don't know confidently yet....
Thanks for discussion!
I just looked over link to copal / amber / resin provided by Fyoder...
... I hope none of us are trying to rosin our bows with anything resembling copal or amber!
"Rosin: An immature and controversial copal" [my fake quote]
What I do believe is chemically relevant from that link to the current discussion is the whole gradual process continuum idea:-- there is no precise point where rosin becomes unuseful for violinists, or rosin becomes copal, or copal becomes amber-- our artificial words!-- but there is an on-going, continuous, SLOW process, and you can make your call after some years... or not... :-)
Well after a million of so years and it turns to amber....I'd say it's time for a new cake! ;)
I live in Texas and I've also spent a lot of time in Laramie--I would think that the dry air up there would be far more detrimental to the rosin than the weather here (though it varies greatly in different parts of our state)
Out of curiosity, where were you in Texas?
BTW, I've had rosin for 10 years or more with no noticeable degradation in its usefulness--but that's just me.
So, apparently the consensus is "we really have no idea." :-) I think the problem she was having may have more to do with the rehair than with the rosin.
It doesn't *seem* that something that is refined from tree sap should expire in a few months or years, but what do I know? Maybe I should ask the Car Talk guys... sounds like this is a question for Stump the Chump.
You hit the nail on the head. We have no earthly idea. The same goes for whether a little alcohol can make you play better by reducing performance jitters
actually I spelt out quite clearly the difference . I have no idea why you choose to pursue this matter in this thread but the people with some experience as profesisonals (and yes I will use that as part of my argument since you choose not to consider my points in any depth) do actually sometoimes know better than you. Considerably better.
I made my post in jest. My bad for not putting a few smiley faces in there. This board is a great way for people to share ideas and opinions, yes opinions and everyone is entitled to one. And yes, I am an amateur, and you are a professional, but I think your comment was uncalled for.
I don`t in this case. I love your contributions to this board and have alwsy enjoyed our exchanges. I just cannot understand why you pursue this one issue without going into what I said and incidentally promoting a potentially harmful idea to young players. I will qualify what I said about pro vs am that it does not give me any right to claim my opinion is bette rthan yours on all issues. Indee dthe oposite may well be true very often. However, In this particlar case, from a profesisonal perspective I have seen too often the effects of mixing alcohol and the job. Just two people I studied with, one who waspehaps the greatest palyer England produced was severly down graded by alcoholism which ultimately also wrevcked my first good teacher (awesome player ) Alcohol has gradually been replaced by beta blockers a sthe drug of choice to survive ina profesison that is just too hard for many people. It remains a tragedy.
However it is not just here that I use the pro.am qualification. I am sort of, a profesisonal teahcer, at elast by qualification and inclination. I have gone into this subject in some detail as part of the proces sof being as knowledgeable a guide a spossible. I think I noted the effects of consumign alcohol adequatkey and strongly advise even nervous adults who are quite capable of making their own decisions not to use this crutch but find other ways through.
I accept your Point that alcohol may well be efifcacious in reducing anxiety that lead sto shaking , naseau and whatever. However i hoenstly think I have takne this issue just a bit further in my initial explanation.
In sum, I invoke the pro/am distinction only in this case becuase i think it is actually relevant. As for the rest of the time I conside r you a knowledgeable colleague and hope to continue butting heads with you on a regualr basis. I hope this clarification makes my comment a little less offensive. Please accept my apologies if you still feel I am being unfair to you. I would be happy to explore things further by e-mail if you are still annoyed so we don`t waste peopels time.
Apology accepted. I agree, we've wasted enough bandwidth on this issue. My apologies to the rest of the board for ungentlemanly behavior.
So far, the AB rosin that I've been using is not quite a year old and still going strong. A cake of Bernadel, that I got in 2007 has become 'dustier', leaves more dust than when I got it, as time has gone by and the sound my violin makes screams, "No More of this Crap! Give me a dose of AB Please!!!!!"
Looks like old rosin that has become hard can be restored. I just melted a small hard block (about 10 years old) over low heat, mixed in a little spike oil so it would be softer when it recongealed, poured it into a very small cardboard box and popped into the fridge for about an hour. I had the heat on a little too high to start, it doesn't take that much.
It was quite the olafactory adventure. The rosin smelled of pine to start, and the spike oil (lavender) was quite intense. I hope those fumes aren't terribly carcinogenic. Pine and lavender sound innoucous enough, until one recalls that turpentine is made from pine. This is an exercise best undertaken with a lot of ventilation.
Or just buy some new and throw out the old. Not as much fun, but easier and safer. Still, it is cool to have rosin which is totally unique, and probably the nicest smelling in all the land ;)
At one point my daughter broke a cake of rosin, and I got some aluminum foil, and set the oven on about 200 degrees fahrenheit, and the rosin softened enough that I was able to put the rosin cake back together.
I currently have rosin that comes in a tin box, and it is now a few years old and perfectly fine. Maybe sealing it in the tin keeps the moisture in???
just my opinion, but heated rosin is dangerous. I don`t think the payoff is not enough to jsutify the risk. Hopefully nobody will try it with children around. Doesn`t this remind you of Blue peter?
Rosin is thermoplastic and melts around 170F, depending on the formulation. The vapors are not carcinogenic, but they are strongly allergenic to susceptible people, and they can induce asthma after prolonged exposure. Rosin is flammable so be careful when heating it.
Rosin does not contain water, except for trace amounts it absorbs on humid days, and when it ages, it does not "dry out" from lack of moisture. Instead it oxidizes which changes it chemically and makes it less thermoplastic, harder, and less tacky.
Here is an idea -- I don't know if it's any good in practice. Buyer beware.
If rosin ages by oxydation, and the oxydizing agent is the oxygen in the air, could it be that the aging occurs chiefly in the outer layer? And that one could regenerate rosin by removing that outer layer, say with sandpaper? The cakes are too big anyhow, so shaving off a little won't hurt.
I do believe that rosin could last for a long long time. I putted a rosin in my last violin case for more than 25 years. About two years ago I found it as a supries.
I still use the 25 years old rosin and it works very good as another one which I bought one year ago.
rosin lasts for decades. shops and manufacturers want you to buy more, so they say it expires in a year or 2
I also think it lasts indefinitely, but now I know that it "ages"...Since I've lost my old rosin, I took the reserve one, new in box but about 3 years old, and the top surface looked smooth as usual with new rosin, but the side surface looked like a raisin or the skin of a mummy...(VERY hot here over...) Looks weird but can be used normally, no difference at all...
Rosin easily oxidizes and changes with time. People who use rosin commercially, like for cosmetics or adhesives, typically consider the shelf-life to be six months. That is, they will not purchase rosin that is older than that.
The "operating window" of properties for violin bow use is very wide and although the properties of rosin change over time, I don't think most people notice, even after years of change.
Tom (fairly good adhesive chemist for 36 years, and fairly bad fiddle player for 30 years)
Is not Amber petrified? It was resin?
Amber is not crystallized rosin and not derived from rosin.
Please read the Wikipedia article on amber.
when I lived in Corpus Christi, Texas U.S.A. I use to find amber washing ashore. It had cured in the sea water and was a deep brown. Neat stuff! Making a rosin with amber... intriguing!
Does rosin cracking actually cause any prblems besides incovenience?
>And here is a tip: If your rosin accidentaly breaks, you can repair it by holding very carefully the pieces of the rosin in one hand and applying heat with a lighter's flame for just a few seconds (taking care in not burning your hand,
Never, ever do this. It is the most irresponsible tip I have ever seen. Heated rosin on your hand will cause veyr sever burns.
Blue Peter has a lot to answer for.
I dont really think rosin expires. but if it comes to a certain point and it's not rosining(is that a word?) your bow enough, its probably time to get a new bar of rosin. hope it helps!!
I have it from a violinmaker who used to make his own rosin from an antique recipe. The recipe included rosin itself, a brittle matter, which is a residue from the distillation of pine gum to make turpentine, and Venice turpentine, a very sticky, thick, honey-looking stuff that is actually volatile. Venice turpentine is actually what makes rosin sticky. Since it is volatile, it evaporates over time, making the rosin block less efficient, because less sticky, and more powdery, as gradually only the brittle pine rosin remains.
This violin maker advised to keep rosin in a sealed container, such as a film tube, to slow down the evaporation of the Venice turpentine. He also considered that for optimal quality and use, rosin should be changed every year, as texture will have changed because the Venice turpentine will really have begun evaporating.
But of course, this depends on what one expects from rosin. However, to keep rosin in a sealed container (and away from heat!) to slow down evaporation is still good advice.
I think it must expire after a certain point; maybe a year ago I opened up an old rosin and found it had completely disintegrated. It turned to dust.
Did she constantly use her rosin ? My rosin is around 2 /3 years , been using it daily , it's ( somehow ) better then new rosin's of the same brand .
Mine's Jade btw. The green in colour cover
Right! I've had two cakes of rosin for over 30 years, I recently lost one and the other I dropped.
Time for new rosin.....now I should be able to discern the qualities of new and old.
Rosin - I can tell you of a lady who used the same cake for 40 years - it is now wafer thin but still works perfectly well.
Whatever floats your boat.
I've had a rosin block for over 20 years and its just like day one. Spend your time and efforts trying to play the fiddle instead. If you all did there would be a lot more Heifetz's around.
Sort of like having a flag that once flew over the Capitol.
Oh all right, I'm being sarcastic. But not very. Every Christmas the Vancouver Sun runs at least one editorial exhorting shoppers to get out there and do their duty. None of this "living within your means" stuff, no sir. Think of all those corporate CEOs who wouldn't be able to afford a new jet...
I have it so thin you can almost see through it - it's so exciting! I've never gotten my rosin close to where I can see thru it. I know, I know I'm a total geek - but a happy one! :-)
I had two broken, partly-used Bernardel rosins. I peeled them away from the little cloth (thereupon learning that they are stuck to the cloth with mounting tape). Then I put the rosin bits into a small steel measuring cup and onto the stove at low heat. (Steam heat using a makeshift double boiler setup did not work for me.) In about 15 minutes on the stove the rosin was completely melted. There was no smoke or significant release of moisture.
I then realized that upon hardening the biggest problem would be release from the mold. I solved this problem by using a silicone baking pan designed for mini cupcakes. I poured the rosin into the silicone mold, let it cool on the counter for a couple of hours, and then in the refrigerator overnight. In the morning the silicone mold peeled away from the rosin rather easily, and I stuck the rosin back to one of the little cloths with a new piece of mounting tape. The rosin works just fine and I cannot distinguish it from a new Bernardel in terms of its performance.
The funny part of this is that the only silicone baking mold that I had was for mini-cupcakes in the shape of tiny hearts, i.e., for Valentine's Day. Thus I now have a Bernardel rosin that is rather tall and heart-shaped.
I still had that cake over 50 years later when my youngest granddaughter wanted to try playing violin. It worked just fine with the bow I loaned her.
Whether it "expires" due to these changes is a matter of personal judgment. People have a huge tolerance for rosin differences and the differences have to be big before most people notice.
Tom, as a professional chemist, I have to inquire about your evidence that rosin changes "through oxidation." Please tell me exactly how you know this.
No - only old violinists do.
You're right, I could research this using Google or SciFinder, but since you're claiming expertise in this area, perhaps you could help me out with a couple of lead references or, better still, a review or monograph? I would like to learn more about this. Googling "oxidation of rosin" didn't turn up much, especially when limiting refinement to solid violin rosin in the bulk.
I've done many accelerated and long term aging tests with rosins and similar materials and the properties do change with time from oxidation.
My point in an earlier post was that rosin does change over time, but whether it changes to the extent that any musician would notice is a matter of personal and subjective judgment.
My previous employer used rosin in rail car quantities and 6 months was considered the useful shelf-life. It wasn't used if older than that.
As an aside, I've wondered if the reason we have to re-rosin our bows isn't only because the rosin has dropped away, but because the fine film and powder on the bow hair and strings has oxidized and lost its tack. It would be interesting to compare the FTIR of rosin from a cake to the white residue that collects on the violin body which I suspect is highly oxidized.
If I can ever get the time (could I possibly retire some day?) I want to explore some of these things.
On the other hand my next thought was to explore the details of the FTIR experiment (since I am fairly well equipped for such measurements) with you, and I think that is more likely to bore our v.com colleagues and I would do better sending you an individual message!
I just looked for TAPPI Journal and I see that their archives (at least those accessible to me) go back only to 1990. As for "Naval Stores" I would need more information about it, as this appears to be a yearbook of sorts. Our library is pretty good at getting stuff, but it would be helpful to have authors, dates of publication, and so on, as our librarians do not like to go hunting for things that are not well defined.
As you can well imagine, what I will be looking for is details about the type of sample used (e.g., whether it's violin rosin specifically or at least something of similar hardness and composition), evidence that the increase in oxygen content is from oxygen and not water, and so on.
The "shelf life" of a material depends highly on a specific purpose and from my experience (a few summers) working in the chemical industry I learned that things like "color" and "appearance" and "odor" were often deal-breaking quality control measures even though they had essentially nothing to do with the performance of the product (e.g., tallow used to make rolling oil for steel mills had to be "white enough").
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