Weekend Projects – Dinner Plate

Monday 9 July 2018

I have been eating off wooden plates for more than a decade. No other material is more durable and beautiful for the purpose of serving our meals than wood. You can serve any matter of food on them. You can carve a juicy steak, and serve foods that stain wood without any ill effects. Now if you can't see your work with knife marks and stains on it, then wood is not for you. When I see this patina I see history and love, because if you are like me, most of the business of the house is done over the daily meal. The wear and tear are the details of our lives.

Making your own dinner plates is a relatively easy task for most woodturners. The key is to start with a quartersawn piece of wood. Since plates get thoroughly washed daily they will absorb water then shrink when they dry. Being quartersawn will keep them flat. This makes them easier to use. You will also want to use a wood that is durable for such use. Any soft hardwood will work – maple (Acer campestre), sycamore (Acer pseudoplatanus), walnut (Juglans regia), fruit wood, beech (Fagus sylvatica), birch (Betula pendula), etc.

I see a lot of sycamore in my town. I only use it for its quartersawn beauty, which makes it perfect for plates. Typically plates average 280 x 25mm in size.

For this particular project I previously cut out of the log 305 x 32mm slabs and sticker them to dry. After approximately 120 days of drying time, I cut the slabs circular and let them dry for another 120 days. They are then ready for you to turn.


The first step for this project is to mount the plate stock on a screw centre that has a spacer in front of it, which only lets the screw protrude 12mm


Next, you need to secure the stock with the tailstock of the lathe


Now you can true up the diameter, top and bottom of the blank with a 16mm bowl gouge


Remove the tailstock then remove wood to form the profile and base


The base diameter for plates should be no smaller than 75% of the total diameter. As the plate is now 267mm in diameter, you should mark a base diameter of 200mm


Cut a 5mm tenon with a 90° surface to use as a chucking device. You can also recess the base a few millimetres to add detail; this will also help stabilise the piece over time


Shear scrape the profile with a 12mm shear scraping bowl gouge


Test with a straight edge to make sure the base will sit flat


Sand to 400 grit then lightly mist the surface with water to raise the grain and let dry. Use a worn piece of 400 grit to cut any raised grain, pressing hard at the end to slightly burnish the wood


Remove the plate from the screw. Make a jam chuck from a 255 x 50mm piece of green wood and support with the screw chuck or any secure means. True it up and mark the base's diameter


Use a spindle gouge to recess the jam chuck to fit the plate base


Cut the recess snugly enough to securely hold the plate while you take cuts from the interior. Do not rely on an insecure fit


Secure the plate in the newly made chuck and support with the tailstock. Keep the thickness of the entire plate around 12mm. Address the rim with a 10mm bowl gouge to get the thickness and design a bead at the rim with a 10mm spindle gouge to add detail


Remove more material in the centre with the 16mm bowl gouge. Remove the tailstock to get full access to the interior surface of the plate


Make a smooth surface keeping a 12mm thickness throughout. Sand using the same process as before. Remove the plate by tapping the back of the jam chuck, then sign the piece, add the species of wood an