Louis XVI Rosette


Louis XVI Rosette:
Johan Roudy shows two different ways to carve the same pattern.

Johan Roudy shows two different ways to carve the same pattern

To illustrate Louis XVI style, I propose to carve a rosette in two different ways from the same design. The first one can be carved directly on a piece of furniture or woodwork, while the second can be freely glued as an appliqué. It is interesting to see the similarities and differences of the work from one technique to another. That will also give you more versatility to use this pattern at your convenience. In order to help you, the drawing includes a sectional view of a median and diagonal cut of both rosettes.
The rosette is a very usual motif under Louis XVI. There are countless different patterns, from the simplest to the most sophisticated, most of the time inscribed in a circle or a square. They can be found on a lot of panels or furniture, and are very likely found on the legs of tables or seats.
I had to use cherry (Prunus avium) for this project as it was part of a commission to decorate a bookcase. If you have several rosettes to carve, I’d advise to set them all on the bench and to carve them all together. You will more easily get good regularity by repeating each step on each rosette than to carve them separately. Oak (Quercus spp.), lime (Tilia spp.) or walnut (Juglans spp.) could suit well for this project, and might even be easier to carve, as cherry can be really reluctant to be carved against the grain, even when you’re just carving a groove with a deep gouge. 

Things you will need
• No.3, 16mm
• No.4, 6mm
• No.5, 6 & 8mm
• No.6, 12 & 16mm
• No.11, 2mm & 10mm
• 5mm V-tool
• Skew chisel
• Fretsaw
• 1st rosette 100 x 100 x 12mm or thicker
• 2nd rosette 80 x 80 x 12mm

Drawings and how to resize them
To enlarge or reduce the size of drawings right click on the image to download it and then go HERE to watch a video on how to use paper with a grid to do exactly that.

1. Report/transfer the design on to the wood with carbon paper. Use the No.5, 6mm, No.5, 8mm and No.6, 16mm to set in the outlines of the leaves. The cut on the side of the overlapping leaves, drawn in red on the pattern, are stabbed deeper on the outside, fading out towards the middle. You don’t need to set in the ‘eyes’ of the leaves at the moment. Set in the central bud using a No.6, 12mm

2. Starting from the eyes towards the centre, carve away the wood all around the bud with a No.6, 12mm. Deepen the stab cuts until you reach 4mm or 5mm deep. Using a No.11, 10mm, carve a groove along the cut of the overlapping leaves and aiming at the bud, deeper towards the bud. Don’t worry about a little tear in the middle, it will be cleaned at a later stage

Did you know
A carved rosette is typically a round carving or a panel, which incorporates a central carving of a rose or a flower design. Rosettes are usually created as separate items which are applied to work to add detail.

3. At the bottom of the grooves, set in the cut again using No.6, 16mm and use the same tool to give an angle to the secondary lobes of the corner leaves. Follow the sweep of the gouge to let the cuts meet on the centreline near the bud. Make sure to stop at the end of the stab cut

4. Use No.3, 16mm to round the overlapping leaves’ area on the sides and towards the bud, all around the eyes of the leaves. Follow the drawing of the main lobes to get a smooth shape. The grooves made in step 2 should completely disappear. Hold your gouge firmly and make slicing cuts to avoid damaging the bud or the corner leaves

5. Use a No.6, 12mm to clean the stem area towards the bud and let the leaves connect all together. Then, set in the eyes of the middle leaves with the veiner

6. Clear around the upper leaf using No.5, 8mm and swap to a No.8, 10mm to carve a groove on the main and small lobes in the middle. Pay attention to the grain direction. The wood won’t react the same way along or across the grain. Remove the waste progressively to avoid some parts breaking or splitting

7. Carve the groove of the lower leaf using a No.5, 8mm. Follow the course of the eye to let the base of the leaf run under the upper leaf and enlarge the groove to give the lobe a smooth curve. Set in the remaining cut of the eye using the No.5, 5mm gouge. The waste should pop out easily

8. From the birth of the lobes, use a No.4, 6mm gouge to give the stem of the corner leaves a sweep curve towards the bud. That will also give a better shape to the cut of the secondary lobes

9. Using a No.6, 16mm gouge, make a stab cut fading out towards the stem along the groove of the secondary lobes and carve a 45° angle on both sides of the cut to create an edge that will catch the light and separate them from the main lobe in the corner. You might use a gouge a little flatter If you feel like the curve of the tool is too marked

10. Make the same angled cut on the edge of the overlapping leaves. Use the No.5, 8mm gouge for the main lobes and a No.5, 6mm for the secondary lobes. In the centre, on the main lobe of the upper leaf, the cut will melt into the shape of the groove creating a slight curve

11. Redraw the stem and carve it with the 5mm V-tool. Optionally, use the No.5, 6mm to carefully remove the outer edge of the cut. That will give more delicacy to the design and more roundness to the base of the overlapping leaves. The grain direction shouldn’t be much of a problem for this step

12. Round slightly the edges of the corner leaves with a flat gouge and use the No.9, 6mm to carve a groove on each side. Carve the groove a little deeper towards the curly side of the leaf to give more movement

13. Round carefully the bud using a No.5, 8mm on the sides and the No.6, 16mm on the top. You can start to remove some wood along the grain, then across the grain, and get rid of the remaining angles using No.5, 8mm. Hold your tool firmly to avoid biting the leaves around. Once done, set in the opening of the bud with the No7, 6mm gouge or No5, 6mm if you want it more open. Take care to centre it well. You can draw it first if it helps. The waste should pop out easily

14. Use a No.3, 16mm and No.4, 6mm to remove the waste all around the design. You may have to deepen the stab cuts, especially in the tight corners. A skew chisel is useful to clean the deepest and tightest areas

Second rosette

15. Report/transfer the design on the wood and cut it with the fretsaw. To clamp it easily on the bench, glue it on a scrap wood with a sheet of paper placed between. Set in and clear the bud as in step two. Draw a line 15mm from the edges and use a No.3, 16mm to round them down from the line to 5mm thick at the tip of the leaves

16. Using a No.11, 10mm, carve a groove along the overlapping leaves, but this time start from the centre down towards the edges. This will mean you are cutting with the grain so minimising the risk of experiencing grain tear out. On the corner leaves, remove the waste between the grooves with flatter gouges

17. Set in the overlapping leaves area using a No.6, 16mm. Clear the outer side of the cut on the corner leaves and round the overlapping leaves on the sides and towards the bud with the No.3, 16mm to create a smooth dome shape. The eye areas are left at the original height

18. As in step four, clean the corners towards the bud using a No.6, 12mm. Then, hollow the corner leaves with a No.6, 16mm gouge to give them an ogee curve

Top tip
Especially on cherry, you will avoid tearing the wood by reversing the course of your tool and cut each side of a groove in the grain direction when using a deep gouge. 

19. Keep the same tool to carve the secondary lobes of the corner leaves along the cut previously made. To avoid problems with the grain direction, start from the top and enlarge your cut progressively towards the tip of the lobe. Deepen the slab cuts if necessary

20. Redraw the overlapping leaves and set them in using No.5, 6mm and 8mm gouges, and the veiner for the eyes. On the upper leaf, set in the back of the secondary lobe. Be sure to hold your tool vertical. If you hold it perpendicular to the surface of the wood, you would end up with some undercutting, which is not wanted here. Clear around the upper leaf with a No.5, 8mm

21. Carve the grooves of the leaves using a No.8,10mm as in step five. Even more than in the first rosette, pay specific attention to the grain direction for this step. Remove the wood progressively and avoid going against the grain

22. On the corner leaves, the secondary lobes are shaped basically the same way as the first rosette in step seven, using a No.6, 16mm, though the stab cut can be made slightly deeper at the bottom to take advantage of the thickness of the wood. The angled cut on the edge of the leaves is also carved the same way. However, on the overlapping leaves, it is only made on the secondary lobe, which is next to the eye

Top tip
Wherever possible when shaping work, try to slice with a carving edge rather than attack the wood square on with the cutting edge. This can be achieved by rolling a cutting edge as you move it forward to present the cutting edge at an oblique angle to the work.

23. The main lobes are rounded a bit more than the first rosette. Instead of carving the stem from the outside towards the centre, run the V-tool near the bud to end towards the corner. Then you can carve the grooves at the tip and carve the bud as in step 12-13

24. Use a large chisel to gently separate the carving from the background. Insert your tool along the grain in several places, and the paper should break and liberate the rosette. Clean the underside using a scraper. You can add a little undercutting on the overlapping leaves. Hold your carving on a piece of cloth and use the V-tool to remove some waste between the lobes. Then use a flat gouge to give a clean angle to the leaves

Top tip:
At the end of the carving, you can enhance the shadows in the eyes of the leaves by using a punch in the shape of a drop. Such a tool can be easily made by shaping a nail or a bolt using a file.


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