Rosette Making


Process 039The entire process of building this rosette, from dyeing individual pieces of veneer to assembling and finishing it, is described below. Each section is quite comprehensive, and can be expanded and collapsed via “More…” and “Less…”.

Dyeing veneer
Making the ladder motif
Making the checkerboard motif
Making the wheatear motif – Part I, II & III
Rosette assembly & glueing

The gallery below shows the assembly of the prototype rosette; some features are not perfectly executed and the approach of exact replication is not a priority. The wheatear patterns in this rosette were built during the experimentation processes “Part I” and “Part II” as outlined above.

This prototype is ideal to assess how the different rosette making techniques will look under a French polish, and also enable me to be a little more reckless with the instrument later, when it comes to artificial aging with UV exposure and potentially even making a faux vintage French polish.

The challenge with this technique was the removal of wood in several stages – with prefab rosettes one can remove the wood from the rosette channel in one session and then glue the rosette in. When assembling a custom rosette with so many individual pieces however, one may prefer to inlay the entire rosette in 3-5 stages. Each stage consists of cutting one circle and glueing the inlay components. Once the glue has dried, the next ring can be cut right next to the previous one. While the latter method sounds a bit more time consuming, there are definitely advantages to breaking the process up – anyone who has ever had a fully dry-assembled rosette with hundreds of pieces pop out just before glueing knows what I mean. The biggest challenge at this point was the removal of wood on the bottom of the channel without damaging the surrounding areas with the chisel. The tool I would traditionally use for this (a small router plane) doesn’t fit into the channel, so I had to cut everything with a narrow chisel, freehand. Which takes a bit of patience and concentration.

And, finally, the finished rosette. The pictures below show the rosette “in the rough”, with all the  caked on hide glue (the last steps did get a bit hectic and messy).

And then the same rosette after a few passes with a small block plane, some sanding and a protective layer of shellac.


Cutting a rosette in several steps (e.g. cutting a channel, glueing inlay, cutting the next channel beside it, and so on until it is finished) is more challenging than just cutting one single broad channel, but it has a few advantages:
a) If some of the inlay is irregular in thickness, a careful pass with the circle cutter helps bring every single inlay ring back into circular perfection. This is important to achieve clean results, and also looks very clean.
b) Rosettes that contain many small pieces are easier to assemble, and spring back accumulating from over 20 veneer strips is minimized. The dry assembled rosette will not “explode” and complicate the work process.
c) The downside is that this procedure can take a bit longer, and one needs to have skill with a chisel. In the narrow channels, a router plane may not fit and/or be too risky to use, as it may damage the surrounding area.
d) What veneer groups go into the rosette per channel needs to be carefully planned out. I recommend grouping by inlay patterns and ensure that group joints are beside a dark veneer to hide pin indentations and glueing flaws.
e) The last group to be glued should not be on the edge of the rosette, but somewhere in the center. I call this the “compensation section”, as this is where one can address deviations between measurements in the rosette drawing and the actual veneer and glue joint thickness. The compensation section should be a mosaic-style pattern, as it is easiest to fit in the last channel. (Glueing strips into a tight-fitting channel at the end, while battling swelling from hide glue, can be very stressful and yield mediocre to poor results.)
The ladder motif as presented in the above work process can be improved. Experimentation with glue types is due, in order to eliminate the brownish glue line on one side. Ideally, hide or thin fish glue would be used for this.
The checkerboard motif is very fragile around its edges, where there is a border of 0.1 mm end grain veneer. Be aware that the table saw can tear this thin veneer to pieces when cutting the checkerboard sticks. Either resort to a hand saw if necessary, or find a foolproof method to glue the thin white boarder onto the checkerboard sticks.
The perfectly book matched wheatear veneers as presented in the Bogdanovich book can be used, but bending is quite problematic. The wheatear method (part III) may be more suitable, but it doesn’t provide a perfect book match.
Pre-glueing certain sections could be useful, as dealing with individual veneer strips can often be a bit annoying. Single veneers strips break easily, or they sometimes fold underneath its neighbour during the gluing process. Pre-bending rosette components is highly recommended, since spring back is very unproductive during this work procedure.


If you have enjoyed this thorough description of the rosette building process, and you feel that it has served as useful instruction for your own work, please consider donating a small amount to help  me offset the cost for maintaining this website. Thanks!


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