Platter With Segmented Inlay Rim

Monday 9 July 2018

Mike Haselden turns a sycamore platter and then applies decoration to the rim using segmenting and inlaying techniques to create a natural effect

After acquiring a few basic skills and producing some reasonable items of turnery, I started looking for ways of artistically enhancing and embellishing my work. Colouring, texturing and other systems have not appealed to me so far, although I do very much like and appreciate this kind of work produced by other turners.

I enjoy the raw quality of wood without altering it beyond beautiful shapes and a fine polished or burnished finish. Adding different woods together in fairly simple and sympathetic ways has an appeal which I wanted to explore. Circular inlay work is something I had not seen before which made this an even more attractive proposition to me. The technical challenge was to achieve a perfect fit, and after various trials, I developed the pin gauge system locked into the lathe tailstock to transfer identical setting out lines in the two joining items. Even with this marking out system and some practice, it is not always easy to achieve a perfect fit, which makes this work all the more of a challenge. But when it works well and with a good choice of timber inserts, the results can be quite stunning. It works particularly well on platter rims, but other forms can also benefit from this technique, as I hope the following article will demonstrate.

Tools used: 10mm (3/8in) long-ground bowl gouge, 6mm (1/4in) bowl gouge, 20mm (3/4in) oval skew and 2mm (5/64in) parting tool

Step 1

Select a 280 x 50mm (11 x 2in) blank, a 200 x 50 x 50mm (8 x 2 x 2in) block and a 280mm (11in) sacrificial MDF disc for this project. I used sycamore (Acer pseudoplatanus) for the platter and bubinga (Gulbourtia demeusei) for the inlay. But, the beauty of this project is that you can choose whichever timber you prefer to use

Step 2

The marking gauge consists of a wooden Morse taper – beech – with a bolt drilled through the centre for the clamping nut. The slotted bar is made from 260 x 30 x 3mm (10 1/4 x 1 1/4 x 1/8in) aluminium with a 6mm (1/4in) centre slot cut through, leaving 30mm (1 1/4in) solid at one end. For the marking pins I used sewing machine needles captive in two wooden blocks which are shaped to slide in the bar slots and may be locked in place along the bar with screws. The Morse pin is also adjustable along the slotted bar, all providing infinite adjustment within the size of the slotted bar. A similar and simpler gauge could be made with a wooden strip, panel pins and a wood knob to engage with the tailstock

Step 3

Mount the blank on the lathe with a compression spigot on the base and an expansion dovetail in the top. The wood is skimmed off to assess grain orientation and soundness suitable for the intended design. Within the waste area at the base of the platter part off a ring of wood and put aside for possible use (on another project)

Step 4

Here is the saved sycamore ring that was removed in the previous step

Step 5

At this stage leave a solid section at the base of the platter, so that clamping the insert will not damage an otherwise delicate rim – see step 18

Step 6

Here is the MDF disc which is of equal size to the platter mounted on the chuck with an expansion dovetail. Use an indexing facility to mark out 12 pairs of segments, each one passing through the centre. This will produce 24 equal setting out segments

Step 7

Clamp two straight edged wooden strips on the MDF disc precisely on a pair of radial segment lines. This will be a shaping gauge for the bubinga segments

Step 8

Cut the bubinga into 8mm (5/16in) strips and with a template mark out 24 segment shapes. One or two spares may be useful. Sand each segment, using dust extraction, to achieve a perfect fit in the gauge. Once the shaped segments are ready, assemble and number for best grain pattern

Step 9

Here, use PVA glue to fix the alternate segments to the MDF disc in the exact marked out lines

Step 10

Check each alternate segment into its designated place – they may need a little adjustment for a perfect fit – then glue each in turn. Finger pressure is enough but if in doubt light cramping is OK. When the glue is set mount the fully segmented disc on the lathe and clean up the face

Step 11

The next step is to mount the platter on the lathe and the gauge in the tailstock, mark pencil guide-lines on the platter rim then set and lock the gauge ready for marking out. Then remove the gauge with care so as not to disturb the setting

Step 12

When the glue is set on the segmented disc mount it on the lathe, and with the 6mm round skew – or your choice of tool – cut out just on the waste side of the marked lines

Step 13

The segmented ring on the MDF backing is almost cut through

Step 14

Here is the inset segment ring once it has been parted off

Step 15

Use the marking gauge to transfer the setting lines onto the rim of the platter. Make sure the lathe is set to a slow speed for this. The marking gauge is best supported on the toolrest during the marking process. Trench out an approximately 5mm (3/16in) deep groove for the insert

Step 16

Fit the segment ring into the groove and check for fit. There will be hardly any opportunity for adjustment other than cleaning up the edges. Everything depends on accurate marking and cutting. When a good fit is confirmed, thoroughly clean the work and prepare for gluing. I use the same PVA applied with an old toothbrush, working quickly to allow firm cramping before the glue grabs. The base of the platter is left square and solid up to this stage to allow for cramping without damage

Step 17

Here is the work which is now ready for gluing and cramping

Step 18

The segments glued and cramped. When the glue is set, remount the platter then shape and sand the base

Step 19

Reverse the work on the chuck and shape the bowl, rim and edge then sand to perfection. Take some finishing cuts before sanding the bowl

Step 20

Reverse the platter on a backing MDF disc or your preferred method and shape the foot, removing any evidence of chucking. I usually apply a finish off the lathe. My favoured finish is several coats of Chestnut finishing oil burnished after a week of curing to produce a lovely sheen

Step 21

Apply your choice of finish to the platter, as mentioned above. I used several coats of Chestnut finishing oil for this. The platter is now complete