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I wonder if anybody can direct me to a source of punches for making the tiny holes in the parchment of a guitar rose?

All the commercial punches I have found so far go no smaller than 2mm and I'd really like to go down a step from that.



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I've seen brass tubing of less than 1mm external diameter. Could you make punches from that?

I have made my own, using nails (oldish) which had sufficient carbon content to be temperable. (Is this a word?). 

But for the smallest sizes, a blind punch - without a hole in it - works perfectly, and is fairly easily procured in a limited number of sizes.  I use it on old linoleum.  End-grain boxwood is recommended by others.  Experiment will no doubt find plenty of in-between alternatives!

Design-wise; the largest convenient holes will produce a more exciting and 'impossible' effect.

Dictum tools do a drill-punch for leather-working, which is sharp and makes nice clean holes in 0.7mm pear veneer that I was intending to use to have a go at making a baroque guitar rose.  The smallest punch is 1.5mm and I expect it would be fine on parchment for circular holes.


I tried brass tubing, but it wouldn't stay sharp enough, not sure what I was doing wrong as that is the method Larry Brown uses


(nice website)

Thanks for the tips, guys!  Old nails sound right up my street.  I'll have a go at filing them flat and do some tests.  I've also got a nail pinch of about 1.5mm diameter, and I'll give that a go, too, and see if I can put a good edge on the end.

Sounds good to me.  I have been making harpsichord roses for a builder as well as guitar, cittern and bandora roses, etc for myself, all with quite crude home-made punches.  So a quick diy summary.  If you can't find suitable nails you may be able to find a supplier of carbon-steel rod - not as esoteric as it sounds - Norwich is surely not more industrial than Dundee!

Test for carbon steel is to apply it to a grindstone.  Other steels will give sparks.  Carbon steel will give sparks that split into a bunch of smaller sparks - rather like the sparklers which was all that the smaller kids were allowed on Bonfire Night.  Quite unmistakable when you've found some.

Heat your nail(s?) to cherry red and allow to cool slowly to soften them.  File a flat on the business end.  Use any lathe or drill press to drill a hole the size that you want for the punch.  Easy if you do have a metal-turning lathe (I don't) or use a file to form a chamfer down to a sharpish edge around the hole.  You will need to clear the punch of parchment/paper regularly so also drill a hole through the nail to coincide with the punch-hole.  Larger holes could merely meet it.

Heat to cherry red and plunge into water.  Brine and other media are often recommended.  This will make the steel very hard - and brittle.  To temper it, first clean and polish it so that you can see what is happening.  Now heat slowly from some distance away from the business end.  Colours will proceed from the heat source.  When the straw or brown colour reaches the working end, cool again.  Try it out.  I am not a metal-worker but some of my punches have been going strong for twenty years and more, others needed replacing quite often.  Besides circles, part-circles can be useful, but there is no need for anything complex.

Even solid punches can work very well. All of those that I made are of the solid type, most are to form the odd triangular type shapes.  For small round holes a solid punch will work well. It helps to have nicely polished edges and the striking face concave. If you look at one of those hole punches for A4 paper you will find that they do not have a hole in the centre but the faces are highly concave.  Odd though it may seem but the way you strike the punch has an effect on the final outcome, you should aim for a quick confident strike. I found that MDF worked OK as a backing.

Japanese Screw Punch (AITOH) works well up to medium weight parchment.  Comes with tips from 1.0m to 5.0m in .5 m increments. Easy to buy at ebay.  Works well. Cheap.  Sometimes you can buy extra tips at even cheaper prices.  Hard to sharpen at the small sizes, but each works for hundreds of holes.

Thanks Blair.  I'll give them a try - nice and cheap too!


I would like to have an attempt at this. What is a good material to practice on? Ane where do you buy parchment?

I'm practicing on artificial parchment from an art shop.  When I've got things mastered I'll be on the search for the real thing.  One possibility is vellum banjo heads, though I've not actually tried them yet.  Stationers to the legal profession in the City of London used to sell sheets of fine parchment, but I don't know if they still do.


Parchment - after playing with animal parchment from www.pergamena.net (he supplies great material), I have moved to "Vegetable" parchment ( a high quality cold press watercolor paper ~60lb weight)  I tried this after following the advice of Luthier Larry Brown.  Glue is very doable with a archival quality white glue, no matter what you use to glue animal parchment, buzzing is a risk.  The texture of cold press watercolor paper is a great match to animal parchment, color can be added with watercolors.  And you can design/layout on a computer, print design on the back side or paper, and cut and glue up.  I have CAD designs for about a dozen roses, I just print up when I need one.  Archival quality paper and glue will last close to forever.

I used an archival grade vegetable parchment, only to discover "foxing" (browning) after about 2 years... Not sure why it is, but the animal parchment has ended up working better. I'm wondering if anyone else has had this issue?


FWIW, I attached it using regular ol' hide glue - the super clear lutherie grade stuff.


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