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Tag Archives: spalted beech

All that remains at this stage is to cut the inner and outer circles to make the annulus of the rosette. I start by drilling a hole in the centre of the work piece…

… and then use a Dremmel mounted in a shop-made jig to cut the circles. (More details of the jig are available in the ‘Tools and Jigs’ section of this site.)

Here are the two rosettes that I’ve talked about in early posts in this series cut out.

And here are a few more. Going clockwise from top left, they’re made of English yew, laburnum, spalted beech, spalted crab apple and mulberry burr.

It’s probably best to leave them attached to their base until you’re ready to install them on the soundboard but, as you can see from the two rosettes at the bottom, I don’t always heed my own advice.


This is the second half of the story, started in my last post, about making a rosette from spalted beech.

The next step was to cut the channels around the edge of the rosette to receive the border strips. Again, I used my jig mounted Dremel for this.


Here the channels have been cut and the decorative strips bent more or less to the right curvature on the bending iron ready for glueing in.


And here is the finished rosette, planed flush with the soundboard and given a wipe of shellac. I shan’t cut the soundhole until I’ve planed the soundboard down to it final thickness.


A few weeks ago, I bought a block of spalted beech from Mark Bennett and mentioned, in a previous post, that I hoped it would make some striking guitar rosettes. I’ve been trying out some ideas. Here’s the piece of wood that provided the starting point.


Having decided which face looked most attractive, I set up the bandsaw for a fine cut and sawed two veneers at about 4mm thickness. Then I book-matched them to create a more or less symmetrical pattern, by gluing them onto thin (1/64 inch) plywood for stability. Actually, there’s a bit more to it than that. First, using weak hot hide glue, I stuck a sheet of paper to a 6 by 6 inch square of 6mm MDF. Then I stuck a similar sized square of 1/64 inch thick plywood over that, again using thin hide glue, and weighted it down until the glue was dry. This provided the base onto which the veneers were glued.


Using a Dremel mounted in a jig (details of jig available here) I cut out the rosette making the depth of cut just through the layer of thin plywood. It was then possible to remove the rosette using a thin blade – an ordinary knife from the dinner table works well – sliding it between the plywood and MDF layers in the plane of cleavage provided by the paper. Any paper or glue remaining on the underside of the rosette can easily be cleaned off with a hot damp cloth, which of course was the reason for using hide glue in the first place.


I missed the opportunity to photograph either the detached rosette or the routed channel in the soundboard but below you can see the rosette being glued into position on the soundboard, weighted down so that it dries flat.


Classic Hand Tools held a show at West Dean last weekend. It wasn’t a big event but I’m glad that I went for all sorts of reasons. One was the opportunity to meet Karl Holtey and to see and handle some of the planes that he makes. Another was to talk to Mark Bennett who, as always, had brought some amazing wood with him. With some difficulty, I succeeded in persuading him to part with this remarkable specimen of spalted beech.


It’s not a big block (only about 5 inches by 5 inches by 6 inches) but the figure is exactly the right scale for instrument making. My first thought was  that it would make striking rosettes for guitars and I’ve been playing around with designs (using photocopies so as not to waste any of the material). Here’s one idea:


A few weeks ago, I mentioned that I had started making a classical guitar with slightly smaller dimensions than usual. I hadn’t got anything radical or particularly innovative in mind but I hoped that, by reducing the diameter of the lower bout, decreasing the depth of the ribs and using a scale length of 640mm, the instrument would be easier and more comfortable for a smaller person to play. The fingerboard and string spacing were also to be narrower by a few millimeters to suit someone with small hands, and the guitar was to be as light as reasonably possible.

The instrument is now finished. The top is cedar with lattice bracing. The ribs and back are of English walnut with an unusual ‘watermark’ figure and the rosette and headstock were made using spalted beech that Mark Bennett, who runs a funiture making business called the Woodlark, sold me a while ago. The fingerboard and bridge are of Rio rosewood and the tuning machines were made by Keith Robson. The final weight, with strings and tuning machines in place, was just over 1400 grammes, which is significantly lighter than the weight of most of my instruments.

It has only been strung up for a day or two and it has yet to be played by a proper guitarist but my first impressions of the sound are good and the volume doesn’t seem to be perceptibly less than that of larger instruments. I’ll try to add a recording sometime but, in the meantime, here are a few photographs of the completed guitar.



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