Spalted Beech Platter archive

Monday 30 January 2012

Peter Snowball makes this highly figured platter from a piece of spalted beech


Turning any platter is always a treat. The scale of the piece allows you to play with body shape, rim profile and foot design to work with the timber in the most sympathetic way. Because of the highly figured nature of this piece, I chose not to apply colour and left the timber natural.

I initially mounted the blank on a faceplate and rough-shaped the backside of the platter. At this point, I was able to see how deep and wide the fissures were, but they did not compromise the hold or my ability to turn the piece. I wanted to make sure the piece looked as though it floated above the surface of the table rather than sunk into it, so I cut a raised foot section at the centre followed by a recess on which to hold the piece when turning the inside. I adjusted the flow of the body curve to accommodate this.

Some areas were very soft - the rotting process had started to work a little too well - but I was able to achieve a clean cut with a sharp gouge by taking slow movements. This meant that I didn't have to harden any areas in order to get a clean cut but, I did have to be very careful when sanding and used sanding blocks so as not to create any hollows and dips in the surface.

Once sanded, I removed the faceplate, reversed the platter and mounted it on the chuck.

I first created the rim detail; I particularly liked the way some fissures broke the outer rim line. This section had a small roll over to soften it and make it stronger. I then undercut the rim section a little on the main internal body curve to create a bit of shadow. Once turned, I used a scraper to refine the internal shape.

The rim and inner curve were then sanded down to 400 grit. I removed the platter from the chuck, reversed it and mounted it between centres - a domed section of wood in the headstock and a revolving centre in the tailstock - turned away the recess, took the piece off the lathe, sanded the base section and applied oil.

Tools used: 3mm (1/8) parting tool, 10mm (3/8in) beading/parting tool, 12mm (1/2in) bowl gouge and negative-rake scraper

Rim detail

I wanted to maximise the inner space so opted for a relatively small rim section which is slightly higher on the outer edge than it is on the inside edge. If the outer edge was not softened by rounding it over very slightly, it would create a sharp edge which would be prone to cutting someone and fracturing. Rim designs are a very personal thing and change the look and feel of the piece quite dramatically. I know I wanted the internal space but given the fissures, natural figuring and colouring present, I think it complements the overall piece

Natural fissures

I was aware of the fissures in the wood before I started making this project, but I had no idea how deep or how wide they would become, and it was only when I had shaped the underside that I decided not to fill them.

If you choose to fill them, you can use epoxy resins, metal pastes and powder, etc. to add some form of contrast, but I liked the look of these and also thought that leaving them unfilled gave the piece a more naturalistic look. The dark, sometimes black colouring and markings, around the fissures and voids, highlights them nicely. I think I made the right decision by leaving the fissures alone in their natural state. I think adding a contrasting infill would detract from what is naturally occurring here

Foot detail

The foot detail is simple in as much as it is a raised section to create a visual and physical lift for the piece. There is a coved outer section to what is effectively a ring. This has an incised line where it meets the main body curve to create a visual break. The inner section is a simple curve which stops clean when it meets the inner raised foot detail, which in turn arcs from this point down and out to meet the outer cove. The resting point for the foot is a gentle curve, so there are no hard or sharp edges to mark a surface

Woodworkers Institute

Tagged In:

Platter , Peter Snowball , spalted beech

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About The Author

Peter worked as a builder for 25 years. He now works as a driving instructor, and as a result, finds that he has far more time on his hands.He discovered woodturning and finds it to be a relaxing and highly enjoyable hobby

Time Taken & Cost

Time taken: 2 hours
Cost: £20

Handy Hints

1. When turning any type of spalted wood, use shearing cuts with a slow traverse rate of cut, whenever this is possible. This will help to minimise grain tear out on the softer areas of the spalted timber
2. If you find that the grain is tearing out when cutting, a good tip is to harden the affected area with CA adhesive, cellulose-based or french polish- based sanding sealer, or indeed any proprietory off-the-shelf wood hardeners. Some of these darken the wood so you may have to coat the whole piece in order to achieve uniform colouration. The trick is to try it out on a scrap section of wood first, then you will know what you need to do
3. Do not be afraid to experiment. Not every piece of wood is as highly figured as this. Should you want to create a wow factor, do consider the use of colour, texture, carving, etc. to create the desired effect you are looking for

Diagrams Click an image to enlarge