Technical Article: “Art, History, and Processes of Guilloché Engraving, part 2″ by G. Phil Poirier

April 22, 2016


Presenting part 2 of “Art, History, and Processes of Guilloché Engraving” by G. Phil Poirier of Bonny Doon Engineering. In this final part, learn how rose engines work and discover contemporary design applications for this mesmerizing and timeless process. — Victoria Lansford, Director of Technical Education

“Art, History, and Processes of Guilloché Engraving, part 2″ by G. Phil PoirierPoirier Studio and Bonny Doon Engineering

Taos, NM
Published with permission of the Santa Fe Symposium where it was first presented in 2015.

Part II: The Machines

Rose Engine


Figure 19 Rose engine built by the Swiss company Lang, 1880, Geneva, for the watch industry. It is clearly more compact and shows very low amplitude rosettes when compared with Ornamental lathes.


Figure 20 G. Plant & Sons Trade rose engine.

Figure 20 shows a guilloché machine made in 1950 by G. Plant and Sons, established 1857, Birmingham,UK. Note how this machine is even more compact, with smaller, and lower amplitude rosettes (Figure 21), and a more rigid casting for the bulk of the machine. Because of this, this machine can produce very bright engravings suitable for high end work. Most of these machines also came with an elliptical chuck and a double eccentric chuck to allow for many possible patterns and shapes to be cut.


Figure 21 Amplitude and its effect.

Figure 21 shows the effect of amplitude on the engraved pattern relative to the center of the work. Note how the line shape changes as the cuts get closer to the center while the amplitude of the rosette, and thereby the cut, remain the same.


Figure 22 Modern Rose Engine

Figure 22 shows the recent development of a modern Rose Engine capable of both ornamental turning and guilloché engraving. Built by David Lindow, a clockmaker from Lake Ariel, PA. These new machines are built after the pattern of the Chas Field machines but with many modern improvements. The rosettes are easily interchangeable with ones suitable for guilloché or OT work.

The Double Eccentric and Elliptical Chucks
Common with the rose engine is an accessory known as the double eccentric chuck, which allows for off-center work so a workpiece could have the engraving done off-center rather than centered on the piece. The adjusting slides are shown at Figure 23, 1 and 3. The same chuck also has rotational adjustment shown at Figure 23 #2. The elliptical chuck allows for ellipses to be made of varying short to long axis ratios. Long narrow ellipses or short and wide ellipses could be achieved by simply adjusting a slide (Figure 23 #4).

Figure 23 Various adjustments to the Double Eccentric and Elliptical Chucks.


Figure 24 shows the effect of off center turning and rotational adjustment. In this example the rotational adjustment was indexed 4 times each at 90 degrees.


Figure 25 Front View of Rose Engine.

Figure 25 is a graphic illustration of a Rose Engine in rocking mode, front view. In this illustration the headstock is spring loaded towards the left using the Rocking Spring, forcing the Rosette against the Touch, which is fixed, causing the entire Spindle assembly, which includes the Rosettes, Crossing Plate, Worm and Index lever, to rock gently left to right. As the spindle is rotated the rosette will Pivot to the right when the touch reaches a Rosette peak and conversely the Spindle will pivot back to the left when the Touch reaches a valley in the Rosette. The workpiece is held in a chuck which attaches to the Spindle Nose.


Figure 26 G. Plant & Sons Straightline Machine.

Figure 26 shows a modern straightline machine also made by G. Plant and Sons, about 1950. Note the leather cords used for counterbalancing the weight of the Cross Slide.


Figure 27 Front View of Straightline.

Figure 27 is a graphic illustration of the Straightline Engine, front view. It’s motion is as follows: As the Handwheel is turned the Main Motion Screw drives the Cross Slide up and down upon the Main Slide. This action coupled with the Leafspring which keeps the Touch sprung against the Pattern Bar makes the Cross Slide move left and right. The work is held by a chuck coupled to the Spindle Nose.

The Cutting Tool
The cutting forces acting upon the cutter are quite high when cutting gold or silver. Cutters must be hardened and tempered to avoid chipping of the tool edge. If the tool becomes chipped, worn, or damaged during cutting the workpiece is usually discarded due to the difficulties involved with re-indexing the tool to the cut.  Some guillochers prefer high speed steel for deep cuts because of its toughness, others prefer using carbide cutters because of its ability to keep a sharp edge and when making shallow cuts.

The geometry of the cutter varies according to the work and the desired outcome. A Cutting Tool for general use will typically have a 150 to 160 degree included angle with a 20 degree front rake as shown in Figure 28. The top edge of the cutter is given a slight deburring polish at its tip to prevent chipping.

The Guide is used to control depth, and to impart a burnished area ahead of the next cut. It is adjusted in relation to the cutter to achieve the correct depth of cut which also effects the width of the cut. Figure 29 and 30. Cutting starts on the outside of the design and works towards the center of the design. While cutting the operator is using hand-eye coordination while pushing on the tool carriage and observing the curl of removed metal and the quality of the cut to achieve the best optical reflection and the best quality of pattern. Figure 31 shows the curl coming out of a cut while cutting a circular border without the use of a rosette.


Figure 28 Graphic of Left side view of cutting tool and guide.


Figure 29 Graphic of Top view of cutting tool and guide.


Figure 30 Photo of Top view of cutting tool and guide.

Figure 31 Photo of Left side view of cutting tool and guide.


Figure 32 Initial cut


Figure 33 Secondary cut

Figure 32 shows the start of a cut during the first revolution of the part where the swarf (material produced by the cutting action) is primarily welded material, rather thick, with signs of orange peel on its surface. Note the burnished area under the guide.

Figure 33 shows the swarf after the first revolution and well into the second revolution of the part. It has a foil-like quality and the cut itself is now showing a bright, highly reflective surface.


Figure 34 Work completed from outside towards center.

Figure 34 Shows the finished part fully engraved with guilloché from the outside perimeter to the center. Note that the center is cut with a circular cut without the rocking of the rosettes. Near the very center of rose machine work the side to side motion of the part creates a very muddy pattern due to the amplitude of the pattern at center. Most guillochers will turn simple circular cuts at the center for this reason. It is less of a concern with watches as they have a hole for the hands of the watch at center.

Part III: Pattern Development, Rose Engine

Using only one rosette or one pattern bar hundreds, or even thousands, of patterns can be developed by using one or more adjustments on the machines.

The simplest of the Rose Engine patterns is the concentric pattern. A rosette is selected, and the cutting proceeds from the outside diameter to the center of the work. The first cut engraves a circular border, the cutter slide is then moved over one increment, the rosette is engaged, and the second cut is made, this continues to the center of the work. This creates the pattern shown in Figure 35.

One form of pattern development is with each cut the relationship between the spindle and the rosette is adjusted radially. This can be achieved by either using the Worm or the Crossing Plate (Figure 25). Figures 35 through 39 below all use the same 24 lobe Rosette. Figure 36 shows the effect of adjusting the Spindle/Rosette relationship  by 1/2 of the pitch of Rosette. In this case the 24 lobe Rosette is rotated 1/48th of a circle or 7.5 degrees. This is a common pattern referred to as “Barleycorn”. Similarly if a 96 lobed rosette is being used it would be rotated 1/192 of a circle, or 1.875 degrees, to create a Barleycorn pattern Figure 40.

guilloche-tech-article-fig-35  guilloche-tech-article-fig-36
Figure 35 Concentric Pattern                         Figure 36 Barleycorn Pattern

guilloche-tech-article-fig-37  guilloche-tech-article-fig-38
Figure 37 Pinwheel Pattern                            Figure 38 Lighting Pattern

Figure 37 shows the effect of changing the Spindle/Rosette relationship by 1 degree before each successive cut using the Worm. Figure 38 shows a 1 degree change after the initial cut for 5 successive cuts, then a 1 degree change in the opposite direction for another 5 cuts, continuing this way to the center. Figure 39 uses the worm to change the Spindle/Rosette relationship to create pattern where a “Sinewave” appears radiating from the outside towards the inside of the work. This pattern is sometimes referred to as “Moire”.


Figure 39 Sinewave Pattern

Shown below are examples of guilloché on metal. Figure 40 is a Barleycorn pattern. Figure 41 uses a rosette with 12 lobes consisting of a long lobe followed by 3 short lobes. The Spindle/Rosette relationship was altered by turning the worm approximately 1 degree between each cut.

guilloche-tech-article-fig-40  guilloche-tech-article-fig-41

Figure 40 Barleycorn Pattern                      Figure 41 Pinwheel Pattern

Figure 42 shows a typical Lightning pattern also known as “Escargot” or “ZigZag”. The worm is adjusted by a set increment for each of 10 cuts, it is then reversed and the worm is adjusted in the opposite direction for each of the next 10 cuts, and so on continuing towards the center of the piece.

Figure 43 is a Moire pattern which exhibits the classic sinewave effect which radiates from the center outward. The worm adjustments that are made between each cut resemble the Fibonacci sequence, 1,2,3,5,8,13,8,5,3,2,1, and then they are repeated in the opposite direction.

guilloche-tech-article-fig-42  guilloche-tech-article-fig-43

Figure 42 Lightning Pattern                        Figure 43 Sinewave Pattern

Pattern Development, Straightline Engine
Straightline patterns are developed in a similar way as Rose patterns. The simplest being consecutive cuts at a given distance with no change to the adjustments of the machine, Figure 44.

By moving the Crossing Slide by 1/2 of the pitch* of the Pattern Bar the Barleycorn pattern is produced, Figure 45.

By adjusting the Crossing Slide by a small increment before each cut the Diagonal pattern in Figure 46 is produced. Figure 47 shows the effect of moving the Crossing Slide a small increment and repeating 9 times then moving the Crossing Slide by the same increment but in the opposite direction and repeating 9 times creating the Lightning pattern.

*Pitch is the distance between the peaks of the rosette.

guilloche-tech-article-fig-44  guilloche-tech-article-fig-45

Figure 44 Consecutive Cut Pattern              Figure 45 Barleycorn Pattern

guilloche-tech-article-fig-46  guilloche-tech-article-fig-47

Figure 46 Diagonal Pattern                       Figure 47 Lighting Pattern

Many other adjustments to the machines are available to multiply the number of patterns that any given Rosette can make. One of the many variables is the radius of the Touch in relation to the radius of the lobe on the Rosette. Most Rosettes consist of a series of shallow concave scallops around the periphery of the Rosette. If the radius of the Touch is ½ of the radius of the Rosette lobe then the resulting cut is in the form of a sinewave (Figure 48). If the radius of the Touch is less than ½ the radius of the lobe the result will be a series of concave scallops similar to the Rosette itself. Whereas, if the radius of the Touch is greater than 1/2 of the radius of the lobe the result will be a series of convex shapes, in effect opposite the shape of the Rosette or mirror image of the Rosette. (Figure 49)

Another variable which again multiplies the number of patterns per rosette is the location of the Touch. Most machines have Touch tool mounts on either side of the spindle. By placing the Touch in the opposite tool mount the mirror image of the Rosette is created in the cut.

Cutting typically proceeds on the left side of the spindle axis starting the circular cuts from the outside of a round piece and working with progressive cuts towards the center of the work. By cutting on the right side of the spindle the cut will be a mirror image of the Rosette. In other words, when using a standard rosette with concave scallops, and a touch with a radius less than ½ the radius of the lobe, cutting on the left of center creates convex scallops whereas cutting on the right side of center creates concave scallops.


Figure 48 Relationship of Touch radius to Rosette radius


Figure 49 Different Touch/Rosette relationships yield different results

Part IV: Modern Work Examples

Guilloché is realizing a new rebirth in its use in modern jewelry and sculpture.

Figures 50 and 51 shows modern and innovative work by German Designer Frieda Doerfer. Her work is unique and shows a textile-like quality in the metal.

Figure 50 Frieda Doerfer Pendant and chain


Figure 51 Frieda Doerfer brooch

Figures 52 shows Straightline work on the inside of a locket in 18K. The work was first engine turned and then formed using polyurethane and an acrylic die. By using polyurethane as a die material the engraving is left unmarred when formed.

Figure 53 also shows Straightline ET use along with ornamental turning on Titanium. Guilloché on Titanium, Niobium, and Stainless Steel is a new direction in the art made available by new materials.

guilloche tech article fig 21

Figure 52 “Timeless Locket Watch”, 18K, by G. Phil Poirier


Figure 53 Titanium Buckle by G. Phil Poirier utilizing both OT and ET

Rich Littlestone of Colorado engraves his hand-made fountain pens using a Straightline machine. He has invented many new patterns and tools for use with his designs. Figures 54 and 55


Figure 54 Sterling silver pen by Rich Littlestone


Figure 55 Sterling silver pen by Rich Littlestone

Roland G. Murphy of Lancaster, Pennsylvania uses guilloché on many of his watches. Figure 56 shows one of his watch faceplates chucked on his Rose engine. Note the multiple patterns which differentiate the “seconds” and Label areas of the watch. The periphery of the “seconds” area and the dial both show the results of pumping the spindle of the Rose engine. Figure 57 shows a beautifully finished watch demonstrating multiple patterns on its face.


Figure 56 Roland G. Murphy watch face on rose engine


Figure 57 Watch by Roland G. Murphy

Celia Kudro of Colorado uses both Ornamental Turning and Guilloché on her rings in Figure 58. In Figure 59 you can see the effects of guilloché underneath the transparent stone, also a new direction in the use of guilloché.


Figure 58 Sterling silver Rings by Celia Kudro utilizing both OT and ET


Figure 59 Necklace by Celia Kudro with guilloché under transparent stone.

The possibilities are endless when it comes to patterning metal for jewelry purposes. There is a growing renewed interest in Guilloché, Engine Turning, and Ornamental Turning which is finding ready buyers for produced works. Big name fashion designers are utilizing the art of guilloché in their new designs as can be seen in a recent promotion featuring a new watch line. In it is showcased a rose engine from the mid-19th century. Unfortunately, in an effort to create a sense of rarity, their claim of only 4 guillochers practicing the art of guilloché in Switzerland is far from true. It is well known that many watchmakers in Switzerland have complete guilloché workshops with many employees practicing the art. Cartier, Tag Heuer, Patek Phillippe, Oris, and Vacheron Constantin are just a few of the watch companies currently reintroducing guilloché. Of these, Vacheron Constantin has lead the way by innovating many new ways to use guilloché coupled with enameling. Apart from the watchmakers many up and coming young designers are rediscovering the art and utilizing it in new innovative ways for their jewelry.

Many thanks to all those that helped with this collection of information. I’d like to personally thank Gorst Duplessis, Fred Armbruster, and Jon Magill for their advice and info on the topic of ornamental turning. Thanks to John Edwards for his info regarding ornamental turning and guilloché with regards to history, and for his grand addition to the Holtzapffel set of volumes on the subject titled “Holtzapffel Volume VI”. To David Lindow for his input on guilloché, and for manufacturing a modern rose engine. Thanks to Peter DiCristofaro for sharing his knowledge about American guilloché and the history of the Field engine turning machines, and Gorham’s use of their machines.

Many thanks to Celia Kudro, Roland Murphy, Rich Littlestone, and Frieda Doerfer for their willingness to contribute images of their work.

Many thanks to Kevin Rebholtz for his professional photographic services.

I’m also very grateful and quite proud of my protégé Calina Shevlin, who, through lots of hard work and perseverance, became an accomplished guillocheuse and went on to guilloché for the Breguet watch company, Switzerland. Her samples can be seen in Figures 40-43.

And last but certainly not least is a big thank-you to Eddie Bell, Rio Grande, and all of the Santa Fe Symposium sponsors.

Published with permission of the Santa Fe Symposium where it was first presented in 2015.


1. Encyclopedia Britannica, 1911
2. Robert S. Woodbury, History of the Lathe, (Society for the History of Technology, 1961)
3. Jacques Besson, Theatrum Machinarium, (Lyon 1578)
4. L’Abbe Plumier, L’Art de Tourner en Perfection, 1701
5. Diderot & D’Alembert, Art du Tourneur, 1772
6. Dr. Klaus Maurice, Sovereigns as Turners, (Verlag Ineichen, Zurich,1985)
7. Jean-Yves Godechoux & Sophie de Bernis, Boites, 1880-1930, (Les editions de l’Amateur, 2001, Paris)
8. H. Bergeron, Manuel du Tourneur, 1816
9. Holtzapffel, Turning and Mechanical Manipulation on the Lathe, (Dover 1973 reprint of the original Volume 5 of 1894)
10. John Edwards, Holtzapffel Volume VI, (John Edwards Publisher, Kent, 2012) available directly from the author at, and his website:

For more reading:

George Daniels, Watchmaking, (Philip Wilson Publishers, London)
John Traina, The Faberge Case, (Harry N. Abrams, New York)
Clare le Corbeiller, European and American Snuff Boxes, 1730-1830 (Chancelor Press, London)
T.D. Walshaw, Ornamental Turning, (Dorset, Argus Books, 1990)
Calina Shevlin, Guilloché – A History and Practical Manual, Schiffer Publishing, to be released late 2015
David Lindow’s Rose Engines can be found at
RGM Watches can be seen at
Rich Littlestone’s work can be seen at
Frieda Doerfer’s work can be seen at

PDF of this article

Part one of this article can be found here.

SNAG would like to take this opportunity to recognize our Corporate Members for their support: Aaron Faber Gallery, Halstead, NextFab, and Pocosin Arts.

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