by Steve Shanesy
From the December 20013 issue, #208
Large turnings can be daunting. A large bowl, for example, requires gluing up a blank or sourcing part of a tree trunk. When first mounted on the lathe, such stock can be off balance and result in so much vibration that the lathe may start to walk across the shop floor.
Platters are a great alternative to bowls. They can be made as large as your lathe capacity allows so their size can look impressive, plus you can use kiln-dried lumber so your turning blank can be laid out and machined to keep it in better balance when you turn on the lathe. And chances are you already have leftover wide lumber on hand from past projects.
The skills required to turn platters range from beginner to advanced; the difference is the shape and the level of detail you add to your turning.
The walnut platter I made is about 14″ in diameter and the blank was about 11⁄2″ thick. As for the turning skills required, this piece falls in the relatively easy range. I used only four turning tools to make it: a round-nosed scraper, a 1⁄16″ parting tool, a small spindle gouge and a 1⁄2″ bowl gouge with a swept back “fingernail” grind on the cutting edge. This last one did nearly all the material removal and final shaping.
When turning spindles, holding the work is straightforward. The blank is mounted between the drive center on the headstock and live center on the tailstock. With platters (and bowls), you need a different workholding strategy because at least once during the turning process the work is removed then remounted with it flipped in the opposite direction.
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