There are a wide range of approaches to designing a guitar rosette. Some designs, such as the classical mosaic or the herringbone 3-ring, are anchored in tradition and luthiers who build in this style choose materials and designs that work within that framework. Others choose to give their instruments a bit of modern flair by stretching the boundaries just a bit by including colored veneers or other materials. And there are others who see the rosette as a purely empty canvas where anything goes! Regardless of your approach, the craftsmanship required to make a good rosette is high as any errors or inconsistencies, in either design or execution, are in plain view. Discriminating buyers will often look at the rosette (and the bindings) to evaluate a luthier’s standards for fit and finish.
There are several main classes,
or types, of rosettes:
MOSAIC: The standard choice for classical guitars, a mosaic rosette is composed of ‘tiles’ that are made by stacking and gluing tiny colored veneer sticks into a log from which the individual tiles are cut. Though it is perfectly legitimate to select a pre-made rosette from the dozens that LMI offers, many luthiers seek to create a ‘signature’ rosette that they make from colored “rosette sticks”. Additional materials for these rosettes are found among our veneers and purflings.
SHELL & PURFLING: An abalone ring, framed by black and white borders and separate black/white/black (or similar) rings, is often found on traditional steel string guitars. Working with shell has its challenges, but we help by offering several types of shell pieces cut specifically for rosette rings.
SOLID WOOD: When modern luthiers began experimenting with alternative tonewoods and woods of exceptional beauty for backs and sides, it made sense to extend the aesthetic to the rosette, the headplate, and other appointments. LMI produces some pre-cut solid wood rosettes for you to work with (they can be inlaid, framed with purfling or used as-is) in a variety of species. Check back on these, as the offerings change from time to time. Some people use material from the wide variety of headplate veneers we sell to make their own solid wood rosettes.
SEGMENTED: A hallmark of the Somogyi school of lutherie, a segmented rosette may or may not combine mosaics, shell, solid wood pieces and a variety of colors. Individual inlays circumambulate the soundhole but are only occasionally connected. The effect is very artistic. Of course, the creation of the inlay cavities is extremely challenging, but the careful execution of this technique conveys the dedication of a skilled woodworker.
Many of LMI’s selection of standard inlay tools should be at hand for rosette making, but consider adding our Richard Schneider inspired Rosette Circle Cutter (for ultra-clean edges) or the Drill Press Rosette Cutter if you want to replicate a design on a number of soundboards –a real time saver. The Jasper Circle Guide is also well worth looking at!
Luthiers Tips du Jour
with Robert O’Brien