April 19, 2022

How to use a faceplate on a wood lathe

What is a Wood lathe faceplate

A faceplate is a circular metal plate used for holding workpieces in a lathe. Before turning the lathe, clamp the workpiece to the lathe faceplate. You may bolt or screw it to a faceplate, and a flat disk mounts to the spindle (Collins dictionary).

A wood lathe faceplate uses screws to secure mechanical attachment between a lathe and a wood bowl blank. There are no moving parts within a wood lathe faceplate. There are two components of a wood lathe faceplate. A threaded neck attaches to the lathe headstock threads, and a vertical plate with screw holes to attach the wood bowl blank.

A wood lathe faceplate makes a good connection due to its straightforward and sturdy equipment. It comes in different sizes and configured faceplates. Faceplates are sized by headstock threads and the overall diameter of the faceplate itself.

How to use a wood lathe faceplate

  1. Turn the outside first. Start by turning the outside of your project, from the bottom of the project. It gives you a standard structure and shape. Work on the front, hollowing out your piece as needed. Prepare your wood stock piece or block to the size that you need. 
  2. Prepare the block as you make it compatible with the swing size of your lathe. Your blank needs to be less than your swing diameter to fit so you can turn it and shape it.
  3. You are allowed to attach your faceplate to the base of your item. That’s where you have to do it backward. That helps smoothen the process down so that turning your bowl and you can get underneath it as well if needed.
  4. As you start turning the outside, mount your blank with the bottom facing out. That mounts your blank to what will be the top of the inside of your item when done. Turn the outside, then the inside, and then finish the outside.
  5. Shape your item and get the detail in place. It is a rough start not meant to detail the project to perfection. 
  6. Sand the outside of your item and turn the foot or base of the item finished. You can make a glue block, which gives you additional stability. 
  7. Remove the glue block.
  8. Now turn inside. Use a sharp tool for your type of project. Grab a bowl gouge, and if making something else, use something appropriate.
  9. Start opening up the centre to hollow it out to the shape or design of your project. Make slight sweeping cut motions on the wood as you shape the interior of the item and get the thickness to the right size. That takes time. 
  10. Be careful to get the edges to be the same and consistent. That prevents you from over the wood and uneven bulges or too thin walls on the item. When your shape is filled, the walls become uniform, and the interior is hollowed out. Sand the interior like the exterior.
  11. Start your first layer if you wish to use any finish or coating. It doesn’t matter if you use a moisture barrier finish.
  12. If you used a glue block, separate that block or cut it off so that you can proceed to finish your bowl. Cut the glue block most of the way on the lathe and then tap it off. Plan to cut at least 2/3 or 3/4 of the way through to loosen the glue block. Be gentle to avoid cracks on the base of your item.
  13. Turn the outside to finish. Already you have established your concept, worked out the shape and design of the item, and got it shaped and sized. Now it is time to finish up and perfect the outside of the project. Remove mortise and any last roughness and smooth out the piece.
  14. Attach your piece to the faceplate and get a locked taper. Create a foot mount using a simple block and attach it to the faceplate. Round that blocks to make it similar to the base of your project.
  15. Finish any final touches while your item is attached to the lathe. Work at a slow speed and finish smoothing out any rough patches or creating any exterior detail.
  16. Use sandpaper and do a final sanding of the entire piece. Leave it smooth and sand everywhere. Apply your final layers of finish or paint.

Faceplate turning projects

The projects include bowls, platters, boxes, and end grain vessels. The objects are attached to the headstock with a four-jawed chuck, a screw chuck, or a faceplate. The headstock supports it. 

These take you from the most straightforward project to the more difficult one. Bowls are simple objects, whereas an end-grain hollow vessel is complicated. The process involves fun, confidence-building, and building skills.

How to attach wood to lathe faceplate

There are three easy, safe, and secure ways to attach wood to a lathe. Each method to attach wood has its strengths and advantages and some drawbacks. There are two attachment times a bowl goes through during production. The bowl blank must be attached to the lathe to access the base. It has to form a tenon and shape the outside of the bowl.

Reverse the bowl, following the creation of the tenon and outside shape. The bowl rotates and attaches to the lathe with a four jaw chuck with the tenon.

The spur chuck is an affordable and quick way to attach wood to a lathe. It is driven by the headstock and has a solid Morse taper shaft that fits inside the hollow center of the headstock spindle. A spur chuck does not spin freely on bearings.

The wood bowl blank is centered between the spur chuck and a live center, with bearings, which do spin, attached to the tailstock. The wood bowl blank is easy for loosening and repositioning on the headstock and tailstock sides independent of each other and during the turning process.

DIY lathe faceplate

  1. Re-enforce the threads with liquid superglue and re-tapped the thread.
  2. Take the corners off the threaded blank, then screw the blank onto the headstock.
  3. Shape the faceplate on the lathe.
  4. Use a disc to glue on the front and turn the disc on the router table by spinning it. 
  5. Glue the disc onto the turned part by pressing it on your tailstock.
  6. Cut a nut in half for clearance for the headstock, and then screw the finished faceplate on the lathe.

What is faceplate turning

A lathe faceplate is a work-holding accessory for a wood or metal turning lathe. It is a circular metal plate that fixes to the end of the lathe spindle. As it rotates, you will be turning the side grain, followed by the end grain, followed by the side grain, and then by the end grain. Turning is a material removal process (Engineeringchoice).

David D. Hughes
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