March 06, 2010
When I was a Boy Scout our troop used to take new members (usually on their first camp out) snipe hunting. Snipes, we were told, we afraid to fly in the dark so when spooked they’d run along the ground and look for a hole to hide in. The technique then to catch a snipe at night was to position the new scout somewhere in the woods with a large sack or bag while the other, in-the-know-scouts went off to beat sticks and carry on so as to scare the hapless snipe into the bag.
The numerous holes in this theory of snipe catching never seemed to appear to the new scout and he ended up in the woods, alone, while the others were back at camp, having pulled off their prank.
When I started playing cello last November the cello I was borrowing came with everything except a rosin cake. The lender assured me, earnestly, that I needed to mar the surface of the new rosin cake so that the bow hairs could pick up some rosin. It was the same kind of earnestness that was used when glossing over the fact that a bird afraid to fly in the dark would seek refuge in a dark hole.
I was dubious but used the edge of a coin to scratch up my new rosin. It worked.
Today, I picked up a second rosin cake. The first still has hundreds if not thousands of rosin applications left but I dislike it’s container and applying it to my bow. The cake is round and stuck to a small cloth. The tin that contains the cake in its cloth is only marginally large enough so it is hard to get it out of, or back into, the tin without getting rosin on your fingers. The cloth is now covered with rosin as well, making it impossible to handle the rosin without making my fingers sticky.
I had seen rectangular rosin cakes, with a nifty U-shaped handle on the two long sides and bottom. Since the application process to the bow involves long bow strokes, this shape seems better off the bat than the round cake. Tonight, as I got ready to use the new rosin for the first time, I thought about scoring the top of it to “get it started,” and wondered again if this was really true or just a thing that was told to new students.
A quick Google search for “starting new rosin” lead me to this excellent page: Violin Rosin.
So with pocket knife in hand, I’m off to mar up the surface of my new rosin in a nice cross hatch pattern before I practice.
By the way, my troop stopped snipe hunts after our scout master turned the tables on us on night. Unbeknownst to us he had let the new scout in on the secret and after we left him by the side of the path in the woods, he promptly went back to camp and then to bed in his tent. The rest of us spent more than a hour combing the woods looking for him, until the scout master asked us if we had searched his tent.