This is How to Make an Acoustic Guitar Series – Part Three – How to Make a Rosette. In this part of the series, you will see exactly who to use a Dremel tool to make an easy three ring rosette. You will also learn about the process, and how to remove the soundhole as well. Happy building.
The Rosette and Soundhole
It’s an expectation that there be some sort of dressing, so you don’t want to disappoint.
One of the things it can be a little bit frustrating for the beginner is that it seems very difficult to make a nice looking acoustic guitar rosette. Nothing can be further from the truth however, because the process itself is fairly straightforward.
In fact, by virtue of the fact that you are making an acoustic guitar, you are more than qualified to create a rosette. It might be very simple, but that’s okay. A simple rosette that’s crafted very well is going to look better than an elaborate rosette crafted poorly anyway.
On this mahogany guitar, I’m going to show you how to use a Dremel tool to make a very simple three ring rosette that is a staple look in acoustic guitar making. You can do this kind of rosette all day on every one of your guitars, and they will all look good.
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Designing the Ideal Rosette
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The specific design calls for three purfling strips, with a black white black configuration.
You can find purfling strips anywhere that acoustic guitar making products are sold. There are a few major manufacturers that sell online, and they are a good place to start. You can always make your own strips as well, so that’s a little bit more involved and time-consuming.
The best way to design a three ring rosette is to create three concentric circles that are about 1/4 inch apart. This is an eye pleasing distance, and it’s tight enough that the three rings almost have a solid look from a distance.
Of course, you can vary the distance between the rings, and you can go as wide as you want on your own design. Wider rings will obviously have a looser look, and tighter rings will obviously have a more compact look.
Don’t be afraid to experiment a little bit of you take this process and go to your own guitar. However, know that a distance of a quarter inch is damn near perfect as far as guitar rosettes go, and it’s a very good place to start if you are up in the air.
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Transferring the Design to the Guitar Top
At first, measure for the location of the sound hole, and then measure quarter inch up from the edge under where the fretboard will overhang.
Make a mark right there, then measure up another quarter inch, and another quarter inch, and make two more marks for a total of three. These are going to be the marks where your rosette rings will travel through, and it should give you a good idea of their distance between each other.
If you like this spacing, will with it. If you need to adjust it, then do so now. You don’t need to mark complete circles by the way, the Dremel circle cutting jig will take care of the circles all by themselves, you only need to set the distance.
Once you’re happy with the marks, the next step is to drill a hole in the center of the sound hole area, which is where the center pin of the circle cutting jig on the Dremel tool will go. For my Dremel tool, this is a 1/8 inch hole.
Drill the hole, and position the Dremel so that way the bit is directly over the first mark. Select a spiral cutting bit that is the same width as your purfling strips. This is the easiest way to make the cut, and you can do it in one pass.
Setting up the Dremel to Start Under the Fretboard
By making the marks on the soundboard where the fretboard will overhang, you’ve already created your starting point.
It’s important to be under the fretboard because as you start and stop this process, there can be small mistakes where the Dremel bit wanders a little. As the bit wanders, it enlarges the channel, and the purfling strip won’t fit quite the same way.
The best place for this to happen is somewhere they won’t be seen. Since you are starting and stopping underneath where the fretboard will overhang, you don’t have to worry about anybody seeing your little mistakes.
They’re not mistakes actually, it’s just how the process works. As you are trying to enter and exit the wood with the Dremel tool, it’s just difficult to go straight in and straight out. That’s okay though, doing this part under the fretboard will hide it all anyway.
Cutting the Rings With a Spiral Bit
These are perfect, because they remove material very efficiently, and they do so in a way that doesn’t disrupt the surrounding surface.
You can find these from any guitar making supplier, and though they are not cheap they tend to last nearly forever if you take care of them. I have several of these that I’ve accumulated over the years, all in different sizes, and I’ve had some of them for a very long time.
These little cutters are made of carbide, so they are meant for cutting metal. This means when they see a piece of wood they don’t even know what’s happening, and they barely notice that they’re working. It also helps them last longer, which is good for your wallet.
You don’t want to go much deeper than that, because you don’t want to risk punching through the other side.
Set the Dremel tool in place by positioning the center pin, and lining up the bit with your first line. Turn on the tool and pressed down so that the bit enters the wood. Next slowly rotate the circle cutting jig on the Dremel tool until you complete your first ring.
Don’t push hard, and don’t rush. Apply just enough pressure that the cutter can do its job and continue advancing without burning. Anything additional is unnecessary, and can actually cause the bit to bend slightly and mess up your channels.
Test Fitting the Purfling Strips
If you did everything you are supposed to, you should notice that it fits perfectly, and there are minimal gaps if any.
Tiny hairline gaps are fine, because they will be filled with glue anyway. Overly large gaps might need to be filled with another substance, but that’s a problem for later. If your opening is too narrow, you may need to make a very fine adjustment and make a second pass.
The strip should go in fairly easily, and stay in the channel when you leave it alone.
If everything worked out, then re-position your Dremel tool for the second ring, and cut that as well. Once you are done with that ring, repeat the same process to make sure that nothing has changed. As long as the purfling strip fits well, then proceed to the third.
Cut the third ring just like the second and the first, going slowly, and allowing the tool to do all of the work without any additional help. Be patient during this process, and resist the urge to slam the tool around the circle.
Once you are done cutting all three, brush away all of the sawdust and admire your handiwork. It’s nice to see three concentric circles right near each other that all came out really well. This is by far the most difficult part of the rosette, and it’s much easier from here.
Dry Run With All the Strips
First, you’ll know if all your strips fit well. Second, you’ll have them all cut to length so you don’t have to fumble later.
Another thing that this does is it helps you establish whether the gluing process is going to go well or not. Anything that might pop up during the gluing phase is sure to pop up during the dry run. Now, you have a chance to address the problem before it’s covered in glue. It’s much easier that way.
That being said, start with the first strip and feed it into the channel all the way around and back to the starting point. Trim the strip so that there is a gap of about 1/8 to 1/4 of an inch between the ends. Both ends will be under the fretboard anyway so don’t worry about the gap.
Take your next strip and do the same thing. Then take your third strip and repeat the process as well. If everything goes well, all of your strips will enter the channel and fit perfectly. Take a look around and make sure there are no big gaps or anything in your way, and you are ready to glue.
Gluing in the Rosette Strips
You’ll see from the pictures coming up that I made this mistake, and it’s a pain, I promise.
Think of the Rosette channels as having three surfaces. There are two walls, and a base. Those three areas all need to have glue on them in order to effectively hold the purfling strip. As you are applying your glue, keep that in mind.
You can get that tip down into the rosette channel, and squeeze the glue so that it coats both the walls and the floor the channel.
You can also use a very fine brush to do the same thing. The only cautionary tale I have for you is to not dawdle, and make sure that you apply the glue quick enough that you get to the end before it starts to dry. In order to work, the glue needs to be wet.
The way that I recommend doing this is to hammer your strips in with light taps, and work around one ring at a time. Apply the glue, and make sure you have good coverage. Then, tap the strip in, working it all the way around and back to the beginning.
For the other two strips, all you need to do is repeat the process of applying glue, and tapping the strip in place one at a time. Again, don’t waste time, and move with a purpose to get those strips into the channels before the glue has time to set up.
Cleaning the Squeeze Out
Cleaning the squeeze out after you install the strips is really helpful later on when you have to level the rosette strips to the surface. Have a wet rag handy, and wipe away as much excess glue as you possibly can. This will make everything easier in the later steps.
I wish I had done this better when I made this rosette. Unfortunately, I didn’t wipe away nearly as much is I should have, and the glue that was remaining on the surface was actually pretty difficult to remove. It added a lot of time to the leveling process.
Don’t let that happen to you. It might seem like you’re pulling away all the glue, but you’re not. You’re only pulling away the glue that has been squeezed out of the joint. This glue is completely unnecessary, and removing it while it’s wet is a lot easier than removing it while it’s dry.
See Also: Glue Covered Problems Are Harder to Fix
Holding the Strips Down
It’s also important that you don’t glue your clamps to the strips, because it’s pretty easy to do on a surface that large.
The easiest way to prevent this is to use waxed paper. Pull out some wax paper from the roll, which you can get from any grocery store, and cover the rosette. Then, lay a wooden caul over the top of the waxed paper to spread out the pressure.
You don’t need a lot of pressure to make this happen, your only goal is that the strips don’t pop out. In my case, I used a couple of flat gym weights.
The nice thing about these gym weights is that the one side is totally flat. That means I don’t need a caul in order to spread out the pressure, because the weight does it for me. 10 pounds is also a good amount, though adding a little bit more doesn’t hurt either.
Check the Glue Up
Wood glue dries through evaporation of liquids, so trapping those liquids does slow the process a bit.
That being said, allow the glue to dry completely overnight, and resist the urge to start the next steps before you know it’s completely dry. Besides, it isn’t worth having one of the strips come out because you rushed too quickly.
Sometimes you can get away with removing a portion of the strip, but many times that little joint is going to show in the final look.
It’s a complete waste of time to have to redo work that you already did once, and it’s even worse when you have to do that because you are impatient. Take your time, and allow the glue to dry before moving onto the next steps. It’s worth it, I promise.
Securing the Board to the Bench
Now that the Dremel tool is out of the way, you can use that hole to your advantage, and it will help you keep the board still while leveling the rosette.
Find a large head would screw that is kinda short, and drive that through the center hole and into the top of your bench. If you don’t want to drill into your bench, you can always put a sacrificial flat piece of wood underneath, but it needs to be at least the same size as your soundboard.
This little screw will keep your soundboard from moving around, and it makes the leveling process hundred times easier than doing it any other way. Add a couple of clamps to the corners, and you will have a very sturdy platform to do all of your planing and scraping.
Stability is very important when you are doing hand tool work. If you have to waste a lot of energy holding the piece still, and then lose some of that energy when it slides around, your strokes are a lot less efficient.
With hand tools, efficiency can be measured in fatigue, and soreness. The more you have to work for the same objective, the more tired and fatigued your body will become. Doing something simple like securing your piece increases your efficiency.
It’s a small step, but it’s a very important step. Not only will the process be easier, but you will also not spend needless time or wasted energy doing the same thing over and over. It’s definitely worth those extra few seconds to clamp down your piece, and fire screw through the center.
How to Level the Surface Quickly
Only go for the parts that are sticking above, and stop before hitting the surface.
Make sure that you set your hand plane to take a very fine shaving. Hand planes can be pretty aggressive, even on fine settings. You don’t want to grab a chunk of your soundboard and pull it out.
Once you’ve made enough passes, and you’ve removed all of the waste almost to the soundboard, then you can switch tools. Make sure that you do as much removal as you possibly can, because the more you remove at this stage, the easier it will be to scrape the purfling strips level or even sand them with a sanding block.
With any tool, it’s important to finish the job before moving onto the next finer instrument. This is true for sandpaper, files, and planes, and scrapers. Don’t be in a rush to move to the next step before you’re ready, because you’re just shuffling the time to a different tool.
This means jumping ahead five minutes early could add 50 minutes of extra work.
The way to put this into perspective is to try and sand a really rough piece of wood with 800 grit sandpaper instead of 80 grit. While the 800 grit will eventually get the job done, it is nowhere near as quick as starting with 80 grit.
Depending on how bad the wood was to start, you might end up spending an entire day with 800 grit sandpaper in order to do the same job that 80 grit would have done in five minutes. Make sure that you start with the right tool, and finish the process before moving onto the next one.
You will be glad that you did, and you will spend far less time on subsequent steps when you complete your early steps the right way.
See Also: 17 Important Tips on How to Sand Wood
Using the Cabinet Scraper to Flush the Rosette
Now that I’ve sufficiently scared you away from using the cabinet scraper, make sure that you finish with the hand plane before moving on.
Once you are done, the cabinet scraper makes short work of the last leveling process.
Use a good scraper burnisher sure to burnish all four edges of your scraper, technically two edges with both sides of them, and then start scraping. Once one of your burrs loses its edge, rotate your Cabinet scraper to use a fresh edge.
Work carefully and watch the grain of the wood so that way you don’t go across it too much. Sometimes this can tear out fibers, but sometimes it doesn’t. Just pay attention to what you’re doing and you’ll see the difference right away.
If you are not going to use a cabinet scraper, then wrap a piece of 100 grit sandpaper around a flat sanding block, and sand the remaining purfling strips flat to the surface. Take your time, and let the sandpaper do the work.
Once you get down to the level of the surface, switch to finer grit papers like 180 or 220, and as you bring the piece flush, you will also remove any of the more aggressive sanding scratches. This is a double win, because you would need to remove them anyway.
See Also: You Can Make an Acoustic Guitar
Cutting Out the Soundhole Opening
That is intentional, and it’s meant to increase the bass slightly.
Remove the screw that’s holding down your soundboard, but leave the clamps in place. Set the depth on your drill bit to go all the way through the soundboard. Make a mark for the outside edge where the hole needs to be, and then set the circle cutting jig to that distance.
Be extraordinarily careful when you enter the wood, because you don’t have the benefit of being covered by the end of the fretboard in some cases. Plunge in, and carefully make your cut all the way around, stopping with just a hair left.
If you complete the cut, hold very still and shut off the Dremel tool. Don’t remove it from the wood until bit fully stops. If you leave the hair of wood left, do the same process, and only lift up the tool after the bid has completely stopped turning.
With the tool removed, you can either use a razor knife to chop through the last hair and remove the center sound hole or simply pick it up if you cut all the way through. Either way, make sure that you stop very carefully in order to avoid damaging the area.
Remove the piece from the sound hole opening. Check the area, and sand to remove any rough spots and two break any sharp corners. Now the rosette and the sound hole opening are complete, and it definitely wasn’t as hard as it sometimes made out to be.
Rosette and Soundhole Wrap-Up
You can do the exact same thing on your guitar, and all you need to do is follow the steps.
You can also do different rosette designs with your Dremel tool, all you need to do is create channels of different widths if you have something larger or smaller to inlay. The process is the same no matter how many rings, or how wide or how narrow they are.
All you have to do is mark out your distances, and be very careful as you make your cuts. Allow the tool to do the work, and don’t press hard as you go through the motion. It does take a little bit of time to make a complete rotation, but it will be a clean channel and it will look better.
Coming Up Next Week
Next week on how to make a guitar, the series, I’m going to show you how to prepare the top for bracing. This part of the series goes over cutting the braces to length, and gluing the braces down to the top of the guitar.
There is a lot that goes into bracing and acoustic guitar. You can spend the rest of your life worrying about the process, and learning new idiosyncrasies about tone and how to set things up if you want to, but I promise you don’t have to.
If you follow some basics, and you get a few of the big things right, then you really don’t have to worry about any soundboard bracing boogey man coming out when you string up the guitar. It’s really not as elaborate as it sounds, and you can make a good guitar by following the basics.
I show you everything you need to know, and demonstrate it all on the mahogany guitar. Make sure you subscribe so that way you don’t miss out on any of the details of the project, and happy building.
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