I’m a bit ashamed of how long it took me to buy an inexpensive block of rosin and put it in my tool chest. Rosin, also called calophony, is derived from pine sap and increases friction on anything you rub it upon. That means that your slippery bench dogs or planing stop will suddenly stand at attention and stay that way. Rosin makes things stick.
It comes in a variety of colors, prices and confusing characteristics – that’s because it is used in the music trade for stringed instruments. I’ve tried out a variety of rosin blocks – dark, light and in between. I haven’t found much difference for the woodworker.
So buy a small block to give it a try. I bought two blocks for $6 to try it out. I destroyed the first block by using too much pressure to apply it. Rosin is brittle. Press hard and the block will shatter like rock candy. After destroying that first block of rosin ($3, argh!), I took it easy with the second. Rub the block on your work with light pressure. Cradle the block with your hands to warm it up with your body temperature.
When you do it right, it will leave a slightly (very slightly) sticky surface behind. Experiment a bit with the stuff before you go to town. You will quickly figure out that a few rubs with warm rosin will fix most problems where things are slipping.
Once again, this is a gift from the forest, much like the unending supply of timber we enjoy. Don’t take it for granted.
— Christopher Schwarz