stephen frith guitar maker the official site
stephen frith guitar maker the official site

Inlay Making

The making of our own inlays including rosette, purflings and bindings, gives Frith classical guitars a unique one off appearance. It is also a chance to work with many exotic woods that I would not usually use. Timbers like pearwood, box, padouk, maple, mahogany, walnut, silkwood, snakewood, holly, olive, sycamore, ebony and others give a variety of colours and textures to work with; and this is added to by a small numberof dyed veneers.

making all the inlays allows me to match colours shades and grain types all around the guitar. This approach reflects my general method of making the guitar as a unified whole musical instrument. As a music player I listen to the emerging music and this modifies my next musical movements. The guitar making is similar as is the inlay development, I tend to improvise with combining elements.

Making the elements

Above is a slide show of my preparations to make the inlays. Beginning with knife cut veneers a variety of strips are cut to make either; line elements, rope diagonals, herringbone or chevron elements and mosaic tiles. These are all used in various combinations to make the rosettes. When it comes to assembling the rosette itself I will improvise as it feels or look right at the time, thus all the soundhole inlays are individual and different. When it comes to selecting line combinations for the guitar edge I tend to match patterns or colour textures from the rosette

Constructing the rosette

In this freestyle method of rosette making direct into the guitar front I am able to utilise the pre made elements in a flexible design set up. This is an inspirational way to work and suits my musical personality. It is a fixed form as is a written score I may play, yet is open to interpretation and addaption as the "tune" progresses. Of course we seek perfection but do not wish to lose the human creativity that is the soul of expression.

First is selected a central mosiac and this suggests a combination of line veneers and rope, herringbone or dot motifs. These are selected and assembled in a pattern of colour and texture to frame the mosaic, and held together loosely with a clip and rubber band to avoid tangles. I could be working with around 20 thin pieces of wood and inlay.

A pair of slots about 1.5 mm deep are prepared in the front and glue applied. The veneer bundles are inserted into the slots and pressed firmly into place forcing the glue up between the wood. Next day when the rings have set they are planed carefully down almost flush with the top and the gap between is recessed for the mosaic.

Tiles of wood mosaic are then fitted into this new slot with glue closely fitted and firmly pressed into place. When the full arc has been made it is set aside to set the glue. Throughout the process requires a high degree of accuracy at all stages with thought also given to possibilities for edge inlay later during the guitar construction. It has taken many years to develop this method of work and would not surprise me if it is close to tradition of the old spanish makers who inspired the designs.

Gallery of rosettes made summer 2015 for use in following years

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Stephen Frith English guitar maker, repair and restoration fretted and orchestral stringed instruments. classical guitar teacher lessons beginner to grade 8 advanced. Experienced teacher and repairs to some of the worlds most famous guitars. Experienced in repair and set up of all violin family and folk or popular fretted, including acoustic, electric guitars, banjo, mandolin, bouzouki, etc. Refinish using French polish and varnish repairs. Highest quality repairs and Frith built hand made guitars, Early music instrument considered with relevant researches, and cooperation with musician.