The Parts and Processes of a Rose Engine in the Modern Shop
By G. Phil Poirier
Editor’s Note: This is the second of a four-part series of articles from G. Phil Poirier, metalsmith, goldsmith and master gem cutter, which were originally presented at the annual Sante Fe Symposium in Santa Fe, New Mexico.
The many design possibilities of using a rose engine start with understanding the many techniques and processes available for the rose engine and to the modern designer and jeweler. Numerous accessories were originally designed and built for the rose engine during the 17th through 19th centuries. This paper will go into the details of how these tools and accessories are used in conjunction with the rose engine for making modern jewelry and objet d’arts, including details regarding the methods of cutting both the traditional metals and the modern metals, such as stainless steel, titanium, and niobium. Also discussed will be the future of guilloché or mechanical engraving.
In my 2015 paper I wrote about the history of the lathe, its evolution into the ornamental lathe, which was used for decorating wood and ivory beginning in the 16th century, and its further evolution into the rose engine designed for use on silver and gold in the late 18th century. This became known as the “trade rose engine.” We also covered its sister engraving machine, the straightline, and saw many examples of the engravings that each could perform. This present paper will concentrate only on the trade rose engine, how it works, and what it can do for the studio jewelry designer and the manufacturing jewelry designer. It is almost impossible to find anything written on this topic throughout history. Very little was ever written down as this knowledge was kept amongst only those craftspeople who practiced the art. It is my goal to start disseminating the information that I have learned about engine turning over the last 20 years for the benefit of all artists and craftspeople, with the hopes of the creation of new and intriguing designs.