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Stalking the Wild Pine Rosin

Stalking the Wild Pine Rosin

by Dave Raley

Originally published in American Lutherie #78, 2004

Having read Louis De Grazia’s article “Rosin Varnishes” on p. 167 of The Big Red Book of American Lutherie Volume One, and seeking an undercoat that would not turn cedar red, and also not wishing to breathe the fumes of any of the various synthetics, I set out to buy some rosin stock. Couldn’t find it. Eventually I thought to check out the pines in the yard. Sure enough, not a hundred feet from the porch there were nodules of rosin and rosin-coated bark free for the taking. We are talking about good old pine pitch.

Gathering what I could from three trees, I chipped away some of the excess bark and filled a baby food jar loosely, topped it off with 190-proof ethyl alcohol and crimped aluminum foil over the top with a rubber band. The rosin dissolved in about a week and I began to make test pieces using the same stock the instrument was made of, to wit, cedar shingles. The tincture was darker than I had expected. It didn’t stain the test pieces a lot, but more than I wanted. Gotta have more rosin. A half-hour’s walk in the woods turned up enough mixed stock to overfill a quart baggie. About a third of the pines had at least a trace, and one in ten yielded worthwhile amounts. I had intended to fetch some cedar rosin while I was about it but couldn’t find any. Even the cedar that I had taken a branch off of last fall was clean.

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