How Violin Rosin is Made
In a little lab in Greece, a craftsman cooks up a product no violinist can do without
First, Early prepares the wooden molds from long, narrow strips of sap-gum wood, each custom milled lengthwise with a rabbet, or trough: the ultimate receptacle for the rosin. Next, Early chips out a measure of "Rosin", combines it in a saucepan with beeswax and some other "secret" ingredients, then slowly heats the concoction over a large propane flame. At its hottest, around 300 degrees F, the mixture has the texture and viscosity of hot molasses. Since this cooked amalgam must cool and thicken slightly before pouring, Early uses a hand torch to keep the liquid from glazing over and to force any bubbles to the surface. Bubbles are the bane of the rosin maker, and constant vigilance is required to achieve a flawless cake. Because sap gum wood releases fewer bubbles into the hot rosin than other woods, Early favors it for his molds.When the mixture has cooled partially, to about 225 degrees, Early lifts the pan and smoothly drizzles just the right measure into each prepared mold, wielding a scrap of tin to shield the wood's pristine edges from any drips. Once he's filled the molds, he flames each cake with the torch. The hot flame not only drives out more bubbles but polishes the surface and helps keep each cake crystal clear.As the rosin cools and hardens, the rubber stops are peeled away and the ends torched smooth. Printed paper box tops, folded by hand, are slipped over the shiny cakes.