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Making Violin Rosin


NicholasP

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Hello! I recently took a swing at making/refining my own rosin as I enjoy projects that involve science and produce something quite beautiful in the process. A few days ago I went to a small area where there were Pine trees growing near a creek and collected some resin deposits. It was a very small amount but I came back days later fully prepared with better gear to collect more. The resin used in this one is from the first harvest I did. I’ll provide images and videos from start to finish of everything. Please let me know how I can improve and if it’s an alright first go! I do know it needs beeswax to be actual playable rosin but I’m storing it until I get my cloth and mold in to pour the rosin/beeswax mix into and I do know there’s small dirt particles in there, I’ll see if a coffee strainer works for most of the small particles.

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40 minutes ago, NicholasP said:

...it needs beeswax to be actual playable rosin...

I don't know anything about making bow rosin from tree sap, but I think the addition of any kind of wax would actually make the mix unplayable.  The point of rosin is to increase the friction between the bow hair and the strings, but wax would decrease the friction by lubricating the hair.

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13 minutes ago, Brad Dorsey said:

I don't know anything about making bow rosin from tree sap, but I think the addition of any kind of wax would actually make the mix unplayable.  The point of rosin is to increase the friction between the bow hair and the strings, but wax would decrease the friction by lubricating the hair.

From what I read from some Luthier sources and I believe a D'Addario interview article as well that without the wax the rosin is actually too rough on the bow hairs and could cause issues. Not sure though so I'm open to what others have to say on that. Thanks for the input.

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Have collected quite a bit from the Long Leaf pines here in S. Florida.  Boiled until volatiles evaporated, filtered and molded. Didn't work. Added small bit of bee's wax but not a lot of improvement.
Kinda gave up after that as I have more engaging projects but will closely follow this process.

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Posted (edited)
30 minutes ago, Cathode Ray said:

Have collected quite a bit from the Long Leaf pines here in S. Florida.  Boiled until volatiles evaporated, filtered and molded. Didn't work. Added small bit of bee's wax but not a lot of improvement.
Kinda gave up after that as I have more engaging projects but will closely follow this process.

Pine species and time of year could be an important factor. I doubt the time of year thing though but maybe species could be true, these are all just hypothesis though. The pine species I used I believe for this rosin was a "Jack Pine" (Pinus banksiana). I'll try and put together a guide of how to get to this crude rosin form soon in case it's helpful.

Edited by NicholasP
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Tried a double boiler distiller today. It almost worked but the water evaporates too early before it’s actually useful and right when I neared 300F I learned that mason jars can explode at that temp if it’s soda lime. Only way it didn’t explode for me just yet was because it was a slow heat up and the water helped. But I still called it off anyways as the resin while a decent amount was a dark beautiful red, the rest was still white which was a clear indicator the temps weren’t right yet. Tomorrow I’ll try again with direct heat to the resin with aluminum foil that wraps around a 1/4” aluminum tube that has a 135 degree angle which then runs through a ziplock bag filled with ice and water to condensate the steam and then the cup at the end to collect it all. I’ll likely cover the cup too with a wet towel to try and prevent any vapor of turpentine or oil from escaping since I want to keep as much as I can from this process as every single part of this is useful for bowed instruments and can be used for something. Probably even the pine oil.

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Made another batch today with a different setup. This time used the induction stove with direct heat. This took 2 hours and 30 minutes to make. Way longer than my first batch which took an hour, but this one had around 1.5-2x more mass so I guess it’s reasonable. Also this batch was collected a few days later than the first so that might be why. A hypothesis I have is that since this one didn’t have as much twigs in it but way more dirt, it might just be the dirt dyed it darker. Another theory is that the more time I had it exposed to high temps is what did it. And the last theory is that each tree may just have varying amounts of pigment in their resin. Anywho, since the rosin feels fine I’ve decided to start setting up trial rosin blocks. First trial is with the third batch of rosin and will use 5% beeswax to rosin weight. The weight of the rosin came out to 71 grams so 5% of that would be 3.5 grams so I’m rounding to 75 grams. I also did collect a small amount of turpentine after fiddling with the seal of the pot during this but unfortunately forgot just how fast it evaporates and by the time I remembered I hadn’t covered the jar it had all evaporated. But I have around 100 grams more of resin to play around with and the failed batch from last night. We’ll see how this turns out. 

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Rosin came out pretty good. The sound isn’t too different from Gustave Bernadel Dark Rosin surprisingly. I think it needs a little more beeswax though as the grip is a little much for my liking for soloist pieces. I have ideas to fix the bubbling. I read about after the rosin is poured people will heat the mold back up so the bubbles escape and everything evens out so I’ll try that soon. Excuse the molds, they’re all I had :wacko:

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Made some more rosin today before the storm hits. Finally got a standard down for the dark rosin. The cycle I do right now is: 30 minutes at 320F with top on (Gets all the water and turpentine out), 20 minutes at 390F (Boils some oils out), and 10 minutes at 390F with no lid on (Lets everything else boil out in case if the flow wasn't enough through the distiller tube).

Before doing this step make sure that most of the bubbling of the liquid has stopped. If it's bubbling a little that's fine, just make sure it's not bubbling violently as it did in the beginning when you first started cooking it.

After that you strain it through stainless steel mesh and if you just want the pure rosin you can just dump it in in a mold and store it or use it.

Otherwise if you want "Bowed Instrument Rosin", you then set it on a scale and set it to grams. Measure the weight of your rosin, and then calculate what 5% of the weight of the rosin would be and add that amount to the rosin in the form of beeswax.

Boil it all together for 10-15 minutes at 305-320F and stir the mixture intermittently and then (the most important thing to go off of though is to make sure all the beeswax has melted by then). Then pour into a silicone mold designed for baking and strain it as you do so through stainless steel mesh.

Now that you've done that you must get a pan out and heat it up to 305-320F and set the mold on top of it and leave it there for 5-10 minutes. It's recommended to try and get the mold as soon as possible on the pan just so you save energy and a possibly more uniform result. This step will force all the bubbles out of the rosin and give you a nice clean result. Once the time has finished you can simply remove the pan and leave it to cool down with the mold still on it. Then once cool you can remove the rosin and glue it down onto a cloth and use it for your instrument. Voila.

On a seperate note, I'll be posting pictures later today of the results.

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  • 3 weeks later...

I've today found out that 212F is low enough to boil off spirit of turpentine. I want to see if maybe I can achieve making a lighter rosin as I have an experiment right now on recreating the violin I currently play which has orangish yellow varnish on it. I'll be back later today and inform you all on the progress with times and process of how to make the lighter rosin if it works out.

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21 minutes ago, NicholasP said:

I've today found out that 212F is low enough to boil off spirit of turpentine.

Are you sure? As far as I know, the boiling point of turpentine essence is between 155°C and 170°C (311°F/338°F). 212°F (100°C) is the boiling point of water and it seems a little low for turpentine, if it doesn't reach boiling point, how can it evaporate?

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30 minutes ago, Davide Sora said:

Are you sure? As far as I know, the boiling point of turpentine essence is between 155°C and 170°C (311°F/338°F). 212°F (100°C) is the boiling point of water and it seems a little low for turpentine, if it doesn't reach boiling point, how can it evaporate?

I could certainly be wrong and I apologize if I am. My 2 sources of this is Wikipedia which in most would probably already spark doubt. But I'll leave the clips of the parts where I read something like this. Also, here's the source where it seems Wikipedia pulled from: http://indopicri.co.id/indonesia-gum-rosin-2/image.png.db5f3cc5ab972c704220617fcb189769.pngimage.png.02a23596fbef3d8e8838f33ff41ee994.png

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10 hours ago, NicholasP said:

I could certainly be wrong and I apologize if I am. My 2 sources of this is Wikipedia which in most would probably already spark doubt. But I'll leave the clips of the parts where I read something like this. Also, here's the source where it seems Wikipedia pulled from: http://indopicri.co.id/indonesia-gum-rosin-2/image.png.db5f3cc5ab972c704220617fcb189769.pngimage.png.02a23596fbef3d8e8838f33ff41ee994.png

I see, and I could be wrong too, because I'm not a chemist. My information on the boiling point comes from the SDS of the Lefranc turpentine essence that I use (see below), which however is the finished product while your information refers to the raw turpentine (the raw resin). Based on my experience cooking the resin personally collected from the tree (spruce) I noted a certain boiling around 100°C. Still, I believe these are alcoholic components and not turpentine essence that are boiling off. The effervescence stopped only after exceeding 160°C, which I interpret as a sign that all essential solvents were gone. Then, since these are natural resins there will certainly be differences between the various batches or types of resin, hence the indication of a range rather than an exact temperature. Just my two cents, nothing peremptory or definitive.

TurpentineessenceLefrancPhysicalsndchemicalpropertiesfromSDS.thumb.jpg.5c7680fc4421be986b9e67bc0b1fbb2f.jpg

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16 hours ago, Davide Sora said:

I see, and I could be wrong too, because I'm not a chemist. My information on the boiling point comes from the SDS of the Lefranc turpentine essence that I use (see below), which however is the finished product while your information refers to the raw turpentine (the raw resin). Based on my experience cooking the resin personally collected from the tree (spruce) I noted a certain boiling around 100°C. Still, I believe these are alcoholic components and not turpentine essence that are boiling off. The effervescence stopped only after exceeding 160°C, which I interpret as a sign that all essential solvents were gone. Then, since these are natural resins there will certainly be differences between the various batches or types of resin, hence the indication of a range rather than an exact temperature. Just my two cents, nothing peremptory or definitive.

TurpentineessenceLefrancPhysicalsndchemicalpropertiesfromSDS.thumb.jpg.5c7680fc4421be986b9e67bc0b1fbb2f.jpg

This is interesting. I use ILO and NOAA for my info on the chemicals. I did manage to extract a small amount of turpentine into a small glass in my last trial of making rosin, but within less than 20 minutes it had all evaporated which was way faster than any of the water I had collected.

My theory is that since Turpentine is soluable in Alcohols and Benzene, if pine or spruce sap does have "Alcoholic compounds" that the turpentine dissolves in the alcohol and once it turns into vapor and is condensed, they're both mixed together and the alcohol substantially increases the rate at which it evaporates and/or also significantly lowers the boiling point for it. It's possible that the effervescence starts dying down once oils of the pine are also starting to be boiled off. I noticed that at lower temperatures below 320-330F (160-165C) that I mostly got vapors out and basically just that after I got into the higher range such as 340F (182C) that I mostly got brownish-orange oils (incredibly sticky) from the resin in the pot and as time progressed the effervescence almost completely ceased.

This is purely just a theory that I have, but I'm not sure of any way to prove it.

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7 hours ago, NicholasP said:

I noticed that at lower temperatures below 320-330F (160-165C) that I mostly got vapors out ...

Distilling can be a tricky operation to get going nicely. Think about those long coils of copper you see people using to cool down ordinary alcohol. A lot of cooling power is necessary and people use circulating water jackets to cart excess heat away because otherwise the condensor runs too hot and stops condensing.  You need to have minimum leakage too if you want to recover light volatiles at which point it gets more dangerous. Those vapours you mention might be the turpentine wooshing past on its way out unhindered.  If you're still using that short bent tube and bag of ice as a condensor and no serious lid on the pot you won't recover much. 

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9 hours ago, LCF said:

Distilling can be a tricky operation to get going nicely. Think about those long coils of copper you see people using to cool down ordinary alcohol. A lot of cooling power is necessary and people use circulating water jackets to cart excess heat away because otherwise the condensor runs too hot and stops condensing.  You need to have minimum leakage too if you want to recover light volatiles at which point it gets more dangerous. Those vapours you mention might be the turpentine wooshing past on its way out unhindered.  If you're still using that short bent tube and bag of ice as a condensor and no serious lid on the pot you won't recover much. 

I guess you're right. I guess what I'm aiming for then is "If I get any, good, if not, then that's also good." since my setup isn't very good for condensing the turpentine. The main thing I want is the rosin. The turpentine is basically the cherry on the top if I manage to get some, and if not, then it's still fine.

Also, I think I have another theory then as to get lighter colored rosin. One theory I have why my first ever batch turned out so vibrant was because there was hardly any debris or dirt in it. All the other ones I didn't really care if it had debris in it as I thought it wouldn't affect anything and was easily filtered out. But my theory is that those debris such as the bark, needles, and dirt all are a factor as to why my rosin gets so dark. Temperature is also probably at play and time of year the sap is collected but today what I'm going to try with a new small batch of resin from the same species and place of trees is that I'm going to heat the resin to just enough to melt it down and strain it to remove as much debris as I can. This likely is 150-180F (65-82C).

If my theory is correct and it is the debris that make the rosin so dark then the rosin should come out once strained first at the lower temperature and then heated up to normal rosin temperatures much lighter colored such as a dark-ish orange to light red and the more I cook it the darker it'll get. Hopefully this results in the color I need.

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Update for the day. I made a large batch with fresh resin from a pine tree collected around 2 days ago and with that I added my old batch of resin from weeks ago that was a double boiler setup that had failed (This might have botched the experiment a little but it still was helpful). I have a lot of interesting observations on this process so lets get into it.

As usual I chucked in all my resin I was going to use into my pot I needed. At first I heated it up to 160F (71C) and noticed that it was starting to melt, although it was painfully slow and not very runny. So after around half an hour or so I cranked up the heat to 180F (82C) and it started melting much faster and was runnier. As you can see in the videos below, I logged the whole process (mostly) and you can see that at 180F it started bubbling significantly. I kept this going until it had fully melted, I used a spoon at the same time to occasionally stir it and when I did to break up any chunks of wood and other debris that might be trapping any resin.

After a while, the bubbling slowed down significantly, and at some point along the way, it hardly bubbled anymore. This was very odd for me as normally I would've expected to see the bubbling stop completely at a much higher temperature such as 320F (160C). This made me start questioning whether it might be sticky or not. I had a theory that the higher temperature the rosin was cooked, the harder it got. And to me this would make sense if true because doublebass rosin from what I've heard tends to be much softer, and at times pliable, compared to violin rosin which generally was much harder and brittle. This would mainly only be able to be proved near the end of the test but at 160F I did try touching it and it was very sticky.

Another observation I should add, and it may also be partly a theory, is that it appears that if you look closely at the resin that hasn't melted, it has two components to it. The whitish-yellow part, and redish-brown specks in it that aren't very small at times. The resin definitely did not stay white as I cooked it as it turned into a more orangish-brown hue. So my theory is that the red specks are what gives the resin it's color as it's heated up, and the more heat it's given, the more color it releases into the resin. And this seems to certainly make sense as at much lower temperatures it still was fairly white (Though not at the point of melting, more so a little bit before the viscous stage), but as it kept getting heated, it got more and more color to it and you'll see this progression of color as we get further on in the experiment.

Back to the test, I did a first pour at 180F after it stopped bubbling for the most part. It was all poured into a glass bowl with aluminum foil on top that was covering the glass and it was filtered through my usual method of using a fine stainless steel mesh which has always proven to filter out almost everything except extremely fine dirt particles. Pouring this proved to be a challenge compared to the rosin I made before at much higher temps as this simply did not want to flow very well. I had to use the back side of the spoon to try and squeeze the resin out of the debris. I managed to get most of the resin out of the debris and I chucked the debris after the first round of pouring into a glass jar.

For experimental purposes, which in the end made me regret ever trying it, I tried picking up the debris and see how sticky they are. And like Icarus, I flew too close to the sun and suddenly realized that this was like a bonding agent like none that I've ever tried. It was extremely sticky and it would have incredible sticking strength if any of my fingers that touched it came in contact with another finger. Please never do this, unless you want to glue something together and never get the parts unstuck. I had to use several rounds of Spirit Mineral Oil to try and clean off my hands of the debris which has now left some extremely dry spots on the back of my hand.

So, after I had cleaned up my disaster, I went back and cranked up the temperature to 200F (93C) to try and make pouring the resin easier. Miraculously, the resin started bubbling again, although after several minutes it had ceased once more. This time, pouring was a decent amount easier as it flowed more, but I still had to use the spoon to add pressure on the debris as it would not really flow by itself well. A quick note on this is that at this point, the color darkened a little more so instead of a light transparent orange, it became a more vibrant orange with some brown which I believe the brownish hue was a result of how long I took doing this which spanned several hours to do which gave the debris a chance to release dark color into it if the debris adding color theory is true. So for the next time I do this, I'll try and do just a fresh batch of resin.

I managed to filter all the resin into the bowl in the end and set it in the refrigerator to cool so it's less sticky so I can easily remove it from the aluminum foil and store it in a ziploc bag when I'm ready to use it. As you can see on the tiny bit of resin painted onto this piece of red pine, it has a nice orange-brown color which I was aiming for. You can see some tiny dirt particles but I think that if I add the linseed oil to the resin in the process to make it into varnish and strain it through a coffee filter, it'll be just fine. I also forgot to see if it keeps it's color if I heat it up to 320F (160C) so I'll try that soon.

On an important note, the resin got less and less sticky the higher the temperature went. It was still definitely sticky, but not as bad as before. This seems to have proven my theory right that the higher the temperature is, the less sticky and harder it becomes. This leaves the question, can rosin have turpentine in it and still function fine as rosin? Or does it truly have to have no turpentine? We see that generally Double Bass rosin is fairly pliable but rosins for violin tend to be much harder and more brittle. And if pine resin becomes harder if it receives higher and higher temps, does this mean that more pliable rosin has turpentine in it and more rigid rosins have virtually none? This is a question that I myself cannot prove as I do not have enough experience creating rosin yet and I'm not a double bass player. But to me, it could potentially make sense.

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Sorry for such a long post. Just wanted to leave all the info I could hear so anyone that wants to try can follow along and learn from my mistakes. I do want to ask though, now that I've removed all the major debris, would it be possible to make oil varnish with this? Even without extracting all the turpentine? Because from what I hear, oil varnish needs turpentine, but if what if you don't add turpentine (or not much at least) and just use the turpentine already in there? Any advice or info is greatly appreciated. If no one knows then I'll make a very small batch to test with myself.

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On 4/11/2024 at 6:31 PM, Brad Dorsey said:

I don't know anything about making bow rosin from tree sap, but I think the addition of any kind of wax would actually make the mix unplayable.  The point of rosin is to increase the friction between the bow hair and the strings, but wax would decrease the friction by lubricating the hair.

But you could sell it to school music teachers as an alternative to 'soaping' select student's bows.

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It seems like I'll have to experiment on how to make this varnish. I hear that the acidity of pine resin can be an issue, I cannot confirm nor deny this as I've never tested the PH, I'll see if I can find a PH strip. But I can't then I'll just use the bark of a black walnut tree I collected and burn the bark to make ash, and from there I'll take the ash and run water through it to try and hopefully get what I heard in a video would be mostly "Lye and Water". Ash tends to be fairly basic with a PH of around 10-12 and Lye having a PH of 13-14 making it highly basic. To my knowledge, it seems like species of pine will also affect how acidic the sap is. For Red Pine according to the USDA they live in soil with 5-6PH so it shouldn't be much that I'll need to neutralize it. I'll also be getting some cold pressed Linseed Oil. If the varnish needs to be thinned up then I'll buy some turpentine to thin it though with how it currently hasn't been heated up to the temperature where turpentine boils, I doubt it will need much, if any at all.

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