First You Cut Down a Tree... (Part 5)

posted Mar 17, 2012, 2:48 PM by Hiram Philo   [ updated Mar 24, 2012, 6:00 PM ]

Today's topic is the rosette; that's the decorative inlay around the guitar's sound hole.   So... about a year ago I was cutting firewood when I came across this spalting in an old silver maple.  My definition of "spalting" is decoration to wood done by bacteria.  Some people might define it as part of how wood rots.

I am aware of a guitar luthier (see who utilizes spalted maple for his guitar rosettes so I decided that my rotting fire wood should become part of the Shadow Valley Cedar guitar you all are watching me build.  Below is a picture of a drill press tool designed by John Greven, of the afore mentioned Greven Guitars.  In front of the rosette cutter is a clean cut piece of my firewood ready for inlay.  By the way, this rosette cutter also cuts the channel in the guitar top for the inlay, as well a cutting the sound hole itself. Isn't it fitting that I used a tool designed by the man who's work inspired me to use spalting maple in this guitar's rosette?

This picture shows one of the steps of the inlay process.

Thus far I am pleased with the result.

I have been asked "what is the value of inlaying a weakened wood as a rosette?"  One value is that it can prevent cracking which can originate at the sound hole.  Decorative rosettes have been a part of guitar luthierie for centuries.  Traditionally these were made from a mosaic of many tiny colored wood cuttings.  These traditional inlays also presented a "weakness" around the sound hole.  I believe the rosette's primary function is decoration.  However, let me point out that the rosette surrounds a very significant week spot...the hole.  There is a theory that the rosette creates a gradual transition from the sound hole to the sound board.  According to this theory, this enhances the sound quality.  I am very familiar with this theory because I just now made it up.
Click this link to see the next post in this series:  First You Cut Down a Tree... (Part 6)
Click on this link to see this series of posts from it's start:  First You Cut Down A Tree