Wednesday, June 23, 2010

How to make a wood rosette

Over the past few years, I’ve made quite a few instruments with “wood rosettes”; they seem to be a popular alternative to abalone or plain lines. The grain of the wood ensures that each rosette that you make is quite unique and it’s relatively easy to get hold of small billets of exotic woods that can be used to make up stunning rosettes. Anyway, I thought I’d show you how I make mine.
I’ve been making burr walnut rosette for Jonathan’s 12 fret steel-string cutaway.
Firstly, I cut thin book-matched slices from a solid billet of burr walnut; commercially made, knife cut veneers are only 0.6mm thick which, I feel, doesn’t give you enough thickness to play with. Another alternative is to use the off-cuts from the back or sides and I’ve done this on rosewood guitars to good effect.

The thin slices are stuck together (edge to edge) with a waterproof glue and then temporarily fixed down to a work board with hide glue (water soluble- see where I’m going with this?).

I use the router, with my compass attachment that I made for it, to cut the recess that the rosette will be inlaid in to. Jonathan has requested a Sitka spruce soundboard and this board is a very nice one with lots of medullary rays- these are what give the soundboard that silky looking effect that some players drool over.
With the recess cut, lines of purfling and veneers are glued in place for the inner and outer rings. Once the lines have been glued in, I carefully measure the gap in between them and then use the router again to cut out the walnut circle. Next comes the fun part; using a hot knife and water to lift the ring off of its backing board without breaking it!
Once the ring is off, it can be glued in place and then cleaned-up; you have to be careful not to grind dark wood dust into the light soundboard.
Here we have one burr walnut rosette! On with the bracing........

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Anonymous Garrett C. said...

Great article! I have a question. I am trying to use Padauk as my rosette and it seems to really want to stain the spruce top. Any tips? I used a scraper and it seemed to tear out a lot if the grain from the spruce. Thanks again for the article and for any help or suggestions.

6:02 PM  
Blogger Gary Nava, Luthier said...

These days I seal the soundboard with a couple of coats of shellac before cutting the groove, this seems to help to keep everything clean.
If you sand, I would recommend using nothing courser than 320 silicon carbide.

8:19 AM  
Anonymous Garrett C. said...

Thank you so much for the advice! Great blog by the way. I can get lost reading through it for quite a while. I'm on guitar number two and number three as well and have a lot to learn still. Thanks again for the advice, I really appreciate it!

2:29 AM  

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