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Does rosin expire?

Life in general: A student asked me today: does rosin expire? I'd never really thought about it, and I didn't really know how to answer. Thoughts?

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?

From Nigel Keay
Posted on April 17, 2009 at 06:13 AM

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.

From Stephen Brivati
Posted on April 17, 2009 at 06:40 AM

Greetings,

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.

Cheers,

Buri

From Nigel Keay
Posted on April 17, 2009 at 06:55 AM

 If they manufactured thin slabs to last the year they would crack in half, but that would be good for business.....

From Royce Faina
Posted on April 17, 2009 at 10:14 AM

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?

royce

From Rex Whitehead
Posted on April 17, 2009 at 03:43 PM

 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 Many excellent pictures have been made on out-of-date film, though.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.

From N.A. Mohr
Posted on April 17, 2009 at 04:07 PM

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.;)

 

 

From Ray Randall
Posted on April 17, 2009 at 04:14 PM

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.

From Casey Jefferson
Posted on April 17, 2009 at 04:16 PM

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.

From Corwin Slack
Posted on April 17, 2009 at 04:41 PM

 Count me a skeptic. It sounds to me like rinse and repeat.

From Raphael Klayman
Posted on April 18, 2009 at 12:11 AM

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.

From John Greenwood
Posted on April 18, 2009 at 01:27 AM

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

 

From Roland Garrison
Posted on April 18, 2009 at 05:54 AM

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?

From Bart Meijer
Posted on April 18, 2009 at 11:04 AM

O dear, my rosin is at least ten years old...

From SAM MIHAILOFF
Posted on April 18, 2009 at 11:43 AM

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

From Raphael Klayman
Posted on April 18, 2009 at 03:29 PM

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.

From Andrew Victor
Posted on April 18, 2009 at 03:56 PM

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.

Andy

From Ray Randall
Posted on April 18, 2009 at 08:05 PM

Roland,

  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.

From SAM MIHAILOFF
Posted on April 19, 2009 at 01:31 AM

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?

From Ward Ennish
Posted on April 20, 2009 at 10:46 PM

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?

From Anne-Marie Proulx
Posted on April 20, 2009 at 11:25 PM

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!

Anne-Marie

Sam, I love your horses! 

From Stephen Brivati
Posted on April 21, 2009 at 01:36 AM

Greetings,

I suppose if rosinhas a low life expectancy then trees are gettign worried about their health?

Cheers,

Forever Amber.

From Pamela Schulz
Posted on April 21, 2009 at 03:12 AM

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).

From Tom Quinn
Posted on May 5, 2009 at 12:43 AM
From Smiley Hsu
Posted on May 5, 2009 at 02:32 AM

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.

From Manuel Tabora
Posted on May 5, 2009 at 04:02 AM

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!

From Christopher Liao
Posted on May 9, 2009 at 06:57 AM

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. ^_^

From Fyoder Larue
Posted on May 9, 2009 at 07:39 AM

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.

http://www.emporia.edu/earthsci/amber/copal.htm

 

From Gabriel Kastelle
Posted on May 11, 2009 at 05:36 AM

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!

From Gabriel Kastelle
Posted on May 11, 2009 at 05:50 AM

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...  :-)

 

From Royce Faina
Posted on May 11, 2009 at 01:06 PM

Well after a million of so years and it turns to amber....I'd say it's time for a new cake! ;)

From Mike Harris
Posted on May 11, 2009 at 05:29 PM

Royce,

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.

 

From Kristin Mortenson
Posted on May 11, 2009 at 10:40 PM

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.

From Smiley Hsu
Posted on May 12, 2009 at 01:38 AM

Kristin,

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

From Stephen Brivati
Posted on May 12, 2009 at 01:44 AM

Greetings,

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.

From Smiley Hsu
Posted on May 12, 2009 at 02:03 AM

Buri,

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.

 

From Stephen Brivati
Posted on May 12, 2009 at 02:20 AM

Greetings,

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.

Cheers,

Buri

From Smiley Hsu
Posted on May 12, 2009 at 12:45 PM

Hi Buri,

Apology accepted.  I agree, we've wasted enough bandwidth on this issue.  My apologies to the rest of the board for ungentlemanly behavior.

 

From Royce Faina
Posted on May 12, 2009 at 05:29 PM

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!!!!!" 

From Fyoder Larue
Posted on May 30, 2009 at 03:20 AM

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 ;)

From Pamela Schulz
Posted on May 30, 2009 at 05:40 AM

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???

From Stephen Brivati
Posted on May 30, 2009 at 08:20 AM

Greetings,

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?

Cheers,

Buri 

From Tom Quinn
Posted on June 1, 2009 at 10:52 PM

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.  

From Bart Meijer
Posted on June 3, 2009 at 06:11 PM

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.

From Sijin Chen
Posted on October 19, 2009 at 04:59 AM

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.

   

From D Kurganov
Posted on October 19, 2009 at 05:46 PM

rosin lasts for decades.  shops and manufacturers want you to buy more, so they say it expires in a year or 2

From claudio mahle
Posted on October 20, 2009 at 11:48 AM

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... 

From Tom Quinn
Posted on October 20, 2009 at 07:20 PM

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)

From Pedro Caldas
Posted on October 23, 2009 at 08:24 PM
From Royce Faina
Posted on October 24, 2009 at 03:42 PM

Is not Amber petrified?  It was resin?

From Pedro Caldas
Posted on October 25, 2009 at 02:36 PM
From Tom Quinn
Posted on October 26, 2009 at 08:37 PM

Amber is not crystallized rosin and not derived from rosin.

Please read the Wikipedia article on amber.

From Pedro Caldas
Posted on October 27, 2009 at 03:18 PM
From Royce Faina
Posted on October 27, 2009 at 05:11 PM

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!

From Pedro Caldas
Posted on October 28, 2009 at 04:32 PM
From Kathryn Woodby
Posted on October 28, 2009 at 06:53 PM

Does rosin cracking actually cause any prblems besides incovenience? 

From Pedro Caldas
Posted on October 28, 2009 at 08:48 PM
From Stephen Brivati
Posted on October 28, 2009 at 10:06 PM

Greetings,

>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.

 

Buri

From Pedro Caldas
Posted on October 28, 2009 at 11:51 PM
From Amy Jean
Posted on November 3, 2009 at 01:59 AM

 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!!

From Annie Girard
Posted on February 23, 2010 at 06:52 AM

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.  

From Alison Daurio
Posted on February 23, 2010 at 06:14 PM

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.

From renbin woo
Posted on February 25, 2010 at 08:31 AM

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

From Henry Butcher.
Posted on February 25, 2010 at 09:20 AM

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.

 

From John Thomson
Posted on March 27, 2010 at 11:42 PM

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.

 

From Stephen Clayton
Posted on May 3, 2012 at 12:01 AM
Responding to an older post regarding rosining a bow with amber, well, yes - I do! And I don't recommend anyone try it unless you're willing to ruin an otherwise good bow. But as a lapidary, I have pieces of *Baltic* honey amber lying around that make a very good rosin - for me. This amber is fossilized (not petrified!) sap from ancient Sugar Pine trees (Pinus succinifera). It is completely clear, medium-golden in color, polishes easily with olive oil, cigarette ash and a cloth and when rubbed vigorously with a cotton cloth, smells like old wood. Other ambers, such as Dominican Republic amber, are far too "young" and the "amber" that floats in from the Gulf of Mexico is basically very funky pine sap, not even aged enough to take a polish. ::::: Of course, the other thing I do is also very bad for bowhair, or so everyone is quick to tell me - I clean my bowhair with double-distilled gum turpentine spirit. It doesn't dry out the hair, conditions it quite well and I believe it minimizes breakage. The combination of a turpentine cleaning and a fresh amber rosining give the hair a good grip, but a very controllable one. Initial rosining with amber must be fairly enthusiastic; subsequent rosining as usual. Okay, all that said - "Don't*try*this*at*home!" It works very well for me - experiment at your own risk!
From Peter Charles
Posted on May 3, 2012 at 07:20 AM
There is more rubbish written about rosin than anything else. (Maybe SR's get near ...)

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.

From Trevor Jennings
Posted on May 3, 2012 at 03:38 PM
If the miniscule rate I get through rosin is anything to go by I wouldn't recommend spending good money in buying shares in manufacturers of the stuff. I've a couple of cakes of rosin which I've had for at least 12 years; I'm sure of that because I used them on the cello long before I took up the violin. No idea what make they are.
From Paul Deck
Posted on May 3, 2012 at 04:27 PM
I think it would be great to have a cake of rosin that some great violinist formerly used. A famous violinist (say, Bell or Mutter) takes a few swipes of rosin from a new cake, just enough to leave a bit of a mark, autographs the little cloth to which the rosin is adhered, and then sells the cake for $250. Who wouldn't fancy a souvenir like that? You could have Bernardel rosin that is "ex Mutter" or "ex Bell" this way.

Sort of like having a flag that once flew over the Capitol.

From Charlie Gibbs
Posted on May 3, 2012 at 07:57 PM
YES! Rosin expires! You MUST go out and buy a fresh cake ever year - better still, every six months. The rosin industry is depending on you - it is your duty to The Economy to spend and spend and spend and...

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...

From katrina thurlow
Posted on May 4, 2012 at 06:27 PM
I have leftover rosin from my grandpa, who was a violinist in the 30s! It's still ok and in one piece, although it makes for mushy adagios.
From Carlo Ballara
Posted on May 4, 2012 at 08:15 PM
I believe rosin does dry out and go brittle over time. Cheap enough to replace. What's the big deal? Just get a new one every five years or so.

Cheers Carlo

From Bev Saunders
Posted on May 5, 2012 at 06:15 AM
I don't know if rosin expires, but I will say that I am still working on a cake of Hill's Dark rosin and it's over 9 years old. It is still working fine on my bows.

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! :-)

From Paul Deck
Posted on May 25, 2012 at 02:41 PM
I have reconstituted a rosin and I am reporting here how I did it.

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.

Love, Paul

From Frederick Rupert
Posted on June 4, 2012 at 01:34 AM
I would say mostly no, though the softer back rosins like Hill may have some volatile ingredient that eventually is lost. I had a very old Hill Dark that I eventually used up; when I bought a new one it was obvious that it was a bit softer and slightly grabbier than the old one. But the difference was slight and the old cake was 10+ years old. In others words, use that old rosin until it's gone. :-)
From Millie Bartlett
Posted on June 4, 2012 at 11:13 AM
I had Hill dark rosin as a teenager. Then I put my violin away for a very long time. When I decided to relearn 27 years later, I unfurled my rosin bag and came upon a crumbly mess. Oh well, a chance for some excitement to learn about all the new types of rosin out there in the big wide world!
From Paul Deck
Posted on June 4, 2012 at 03:19 PM
Millie -- send it to me in a plastic bag and I will melt it back into a new cake for you. Free of charge!
From Brian Kelly
Posted on June 6, 2012 at 09:51 AM
Yes, it does. I have a block of Hill violin rosin that is about 7 years old. I live in the tropics so the summers get very hot and humid here. I noticed that lately my violin has been sounding a bit rough and the bow seemed to be 'skidding' on the strings. I thought I may need a new bow but I decided to first try a new block of Hill rosin. It definitely solved the problem ; things now sound and feel normal. I am quite amazed at the difference.
From Sandrine RAFFIN
Posted on June 6, 2012 at 10:01 AM
Of course, it does... After one year, the quality of the rosin is altered. It depends on the temperature and humidity of the place where it is stored.
From Paul Deck
Posted on June 6, 2012 at 01:56 PM
Everyone who sells rosin wants you to believe that it goes bad so that you have to buy more. Of theirs, hopefully.
From Andrew Victor
Posted on June 6, 2012 at 02:06 PM
Does rosin expire. Well maybe, but when I got my first cello in 1949 a well-used used two-sided Thomstik-Infeld cake was in the canvas cello bag with it. That was the only cake of cello rosin I used with my cello for the next decade.

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.

Andy

From John Stromness
Posted on June 6, 2012 at 07:31 PM
Paul,
What is your method for melting broken rosin and what do you use for a mold?
From Tom Quinn
Posted on June 6, 2012 at 08:12 PM
Rosin absolutely changes over time through oxidation, and the rate depends on many factors, the most important of which is the degree to which the manufacture stabilized it with antioxidants.

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.

From Paul Deck
Posted on June 8, 2012 at 04:12 AM
John, I put the rosin bits into a steel measuring cup and put that on the stove at lowest heat. (I have a smooth-top stove). It took about 15 minutes to melt completely. Then pour right into the mold. For a mold I used a silicone mini-cupcake pan. I did not spray it or treat it with anything. After refrigeration overnight the silicon peels away from the hardened rosin quite easily. Then the rosin cake is stuck to a bit of cloth with a square inch of mounting tape. The interesting bit is that the only mini-cupcake pan I had was little heart-shapes, for Valentine's Day. So now I've got a heart-shaped rosin. I'm patenting it.

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.

From Peter Charles
Posted on June 9, 2012 at 06:29 PM
"Does rosin expire?"

No - only old violinists do.

From Tom Quinn
Posted on June 10, 2012 at 03:22 AM
Paul, as a professional chemist myself who has worked with rosin and similar materials for 39 years, I'm puzzled as to why you'd ask such a question. What organic compound doesn't oxidize? And as resinous materials go, rosin is one of the more vulnerable and a lot of effort goes into stabilizing it (hindered phenols, etc.) and chemical modification (hydrogenation, esterification, etc.) There is considerable literature on the subject. Just Google it.
From Paul Deck
Posted on June 11, 2012 at 04:07 AM
Tom, I can certainly see how the types of compounds present in rosin (e.g., abietic acid) could be subject to oxidation, but in order for a cake of rosin to oxidize enough to affect its overall properties, oxygen has to diffuse into the bulk (presuming oxygen is the primary oxidant). Perhaps it is observed that the rosin is slowly becoming dark throughout, but the color of a bulk organic substance can be strongly influenced by very small quantities of highly colored impurities. And oxidation is not the only reaction that is possible; photolysis and acid-catalyzed rearrangements seem possible too. Alternatively one could argue that the rosin at the surface of the cake is what will next be applied to the bow, and this surface layer is much more subject to oxidation by air. Again I would be curious to learn the evidence that this has actually happened. It's genuine curiosity on my part.

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.

From Tom Quinn
Posted on June 11, 2012 at 02:19 PM
Paul, I doubt if many on this forum are that interested in the details, but I'll quickly reference "Naval Stores", an out of print book by the Pulp chemicals Association which has a whole section on the subject, and a TAPPI paper (Issue 48, p 548) from 1965 that found, a weight gain resulting from oxygen pickup where in the powdered state the sample gained 6-8% in weight in 90 days and 11-13% in five years.”

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.

Tom (www.adherentlabs.com)

From Paul Deck
Posted on June 11, 2012 at 03:22 PM
Tom, thanks for that information, very interesting stuff indeed. I think we have many curiosities in common. My perception is that violinists tend to be fairly detail-oriented folks and will not be bothered by our exchange. We are not off-topic. Yet!

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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