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How to Turn a Wood Platter

turning a wood platter
Platters are a beautiful, useful, and enjoyable project for turners. They make great gifts, they sell well, and they can be made from scrap wood. With all these desirable attributes platters should be found much more often in art galleries and internet galleries.

If you get tired of having his platters warp but can not bring yourself to paying for kiln dried platter blanks the solution is to saw the wood scraps into strips, then glue the strips into turning blanks that are beautiful and do not warp.

Gluing Up Turning Blanks

Using off cuts that are usually about 1 ½ inches wide, cut these up to make 12 to 17 inch squares, and glue up with yellow glue. Glue is applied to both sides of the strip and the strips are held together in clamps for at least an hour. The glue must cure for a full day. Short changing the glue set up time can result in a dangerous glue failure.

Mounting The Blank On The Lathe

Make diagonal lines, corner to corner to mark the center. Then cut the blanks round using a band saw. Since glue up is a bit of work, do several at one time.

To turn the glue blank flat use a woodworm screw on your 4 jaw chuck. Drill a 3/8 inch hole into the center of the bottom of the blank 3/8 inch deep. The wood worm screw from the 4 jaw chuck will fit into this hole. Make a plywood spacer to fit over the woodworm screw so that the turning blank will screw up tight against the spacer and the 4 jaw chuck. Mount the blank on the 4 jaw chuck using the wood worm screw. Put a spacer between the wood worm screw and the bottom of the blank. The turning blank should be flat against the spacer and 4 jaw chuck and be held quite snugly.  Then bring the live center forward and lock it into place, so that the blank is supported on both sides.

NOTE:  For you safety always turn with the tail-stock in place.

Turn a flat surface for gluing on a circular 1/2 inch thick plywood blank. The plywood blank must be larger than the faceplate that are going to be used. This allows screwing the faceplate to the blank with out giving up any thickness of the turning blank. Cut a 7 1/2 inch round plywood circle on the band saw to fit the 7 1/2 inch faceplate of the eccentric chuck. Draw a 7 ½ inch circle on the turning blank to help center the plywood . The plywood circle has it’s center marked from the compass. Glue is applied to the turning blank and the plywood circle. Placed the plywood against the turning blank and applied pressure with the tail-stock. The tail-stock centers the plywood circle and applies pressure.

This will leave an indent in the plywood. After the glue has an initial set, replace the pointed live center with a thick piece of wood and applied even pressure on the plywood using the tail-stock. Let the tail-stock remain in place overnight. This gluing technique, while slow, has the advantage of making sure that everything is centered, and that there is a center mark in the plywood for later when you need to reverse turn the platter. If you are in a hurry to turn you can use 10 minute epoxy cement. Allow the 10 minute epoxy cement to harden for 45 minutes or more.  More is better.  Less risk ruining your project.

Note:  Whenever possible make and keep center indents.  They will come in handy to solve all kinds of problems.

Mounting To The Faceplate

If you have not already drilled a hole into the center of your faceplate, do it now. Use a 5/8 inch wood screw in the center of the faceplate to find the center mark of the turning blank. This is easy to find since the live-center made an indent. Screw this into place, then screw in the remaining six to eight screws. The screws need to be wide enough and have large enough threads so that they can hold timber securely. Uses a #8 metal screw because of it’s large holding ability.

The faceplate and turning blank are now ready to be mounted onto the lathe. Hand rotate the turning to check that it does not hit anything. Bring the tail-stock up and lock into place.  Set the late to low speed. Start roughing out at about 150RPM, set the tool-rest so that you can work the back side of the plate. Use a Kelton bowl gouge to turn the back side of the plate smooth. The Kelton gouge gives five different gouges for the price of one bowl gouge. The different gouge tips will allow you to cut different curves easily with one tool.

Round the bottom of the plate toward the tail-stock. Work to create a pleasing profile like an ogee curve. Cut a square rebate in the bottom of the plate so that your 4-jaw chuck will fit into it. This rebate will securely hold the plate when you reverse the plate and cut the top of the plate. The rebate needs to be about 3/16 of an inch deep if you have good square jaws and a good 4-jaw chuck. If you are a heavy handed cutter, then make your rebate deeper.

Sand and finish the bottom of the plate,a power sander saves a lot of time.  Notice that the rebate for the 4 jaw chuck has been cut into the base.

Turning the Front Of The Plate

use a bowl gouge to turn the top of the plate flat. Start on the outside and work his way in. It is important that your gouge is sharp and that it makes a fine cuts. Work from the outside of the platter toward the inside. Finish the outside of the rim and start working on the middle section. Once you have worked your way toward the inside with finished cuts, you can not go back toward the outside rim without risk of destroying the plate. Use your small round skew to do fine detail work on the top of the plate.

Thickness Gauge


It is necessary to be very conservative with you cuts. If you remove too much wood the front of the plate will meet the back of the plate.  Stop often and check the thickness of the platter with a set of calipers. The McNaughton thickness calipers are very nice for this type work. They allow you to quickly check the thickness with accuracy.

Decorative Details

Once the plate is flat, start defining the edge of the plate. Use a bowl gouge to cut a gentle curve into the rim about an inch wide. Use a round skew to cut several beads into the plate.  Take time to make an attractive bead pattern on the plate. That is what will set your platters apart from the rest.  Flatten  out the center of the plate with a bowl gouge or skew. A McNaughton scrapper work well for this procedure, it leaves an excellent surface. Now sand the front of the plate.

Turning The Bottom


Puts the final finishes on the bottom of large plates by using a vacuum face plate, then sand and finish the plate. 

Conclusion

Turning a platter is a pleasant turning experience. This project will help you develop a lot of turning skills. Your platters will be treasured and you will enjoy doing learning new skills.


Turing a Wood Platter


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