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Thread: Progressive Thread: Making Collection Plates - Pt 1

  1. #1
    Join Date
    May 2011
    Frisco TX

    Progressive Thread: Making Collection Plates - Pt 1

    Back story: In the fall of 2005, my church, Grace Avenue United Methodist Church in Frisco TX, was opening its first sanctuary on Christmas Eve. A church friend who manufactured doors approached me about turning bowls for the church to use for collections. He would supply the wood in the form of 10 laminated African mahogany blanks: 9 ¾ x 4 ½. At this point, I had only been turning about 5 months and had turned all of 4 small bowls on my Jet Mini lathe which has a maximum swing of 10”. But I took on the project anyway and turned the outside profile of 3 on my Jet mini (barely). Out of frustration, I went and bought a Jet 1442 to finish the rest. I delivered 6 bowls for the Christmas Eve service and they continue to be used today. However, I was never satisfied with them, Here's what these looked like from 2005.
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    On January 25, 2013, GAUMC was opening a new sanctuary but they had never ordered any new collection plates for the new sanctuary. With almost 7 years of turning experience, I was confident I could do a much better job. So I approached the church in late November 2012 to make some new ones having lucked out on 4 figured maple blanks 14” wide at Rockler. However, the church’s request was for 8 plates. Yikes. Unfortunately, I could not find any more figured maple blanks to match. So I contacted Clay Johnson at Choice Woods ( and he made me a deal for 6 maple blanks (14”x14”x3”). The picture shows the 6 square and 4 round curly blanks. The prototype bowl designed in 2008 sit atop the blanks. The blanks arrived and weighed a ton. In my haste, I had forgotten to ask if they were wet or dry. Yep, they were wet…>22% moisture using my 2 prong moisture meter and most certainly wetter in the center. Delivery was 7 weeks away at this point. So now I had to include roughing and drying time.
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    The first step is to make them un-square so I knocked off the corners on my mitre saw to create octagonal shapes for approx 13” blanks using a circle gauge. I could have used my band saw to cut them round but I've already had a bandsaw accident so I took the safer route. The corners were taken to my woodturning club meeting for folks that like to make bottlestoppers.
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    For roughing out, I used a worm screw in 2 Nova chucks (1 SuperNova2, 1 G3) with 100mm jaws. With the chuck mounted on the lathe, I screwed the blank onto the worm screw in a pre-drilled whole until the blank was snug against the 100mm jaws. I also used Oneway revolving centers in the tailstock with different sized cones to provide additional support. For these blanks, I roughed them out between 600-700 rpm. It was a beating but no ER visit was required.
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    Once mounted on the lathe, my plan was to: turn it round then turn the largest tenon the 100mm jaws would hold. This isn’t the proper way to size a tenon; smaller is better. But these are wet wood blanks so I was anticipating having to re-turn the tenons once the drying/warping occurred.Plus I was designing/planning for a wide foot for each platter.
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    Last edited by Chip Sutherland; 03-01-2013 at 12:17 AM.

  2. #2
    Join Date
    May 2011
    Frisco TX

    Progressive Thread: Making Collection Plates - Pt 2

    I rough turned the outside profile then re-mounted on the tenon on the chuck jaws pulling the tailstock for support. The cone tip is actually in the worm screw hole. Then I proceeded to rough turn the inside profile. In order to maintain a similar shape across the 6 plates, I bought 2 large 10” profiling gauges typically used by flooring installers. I set the profiles for the inside and outside curves based on the prototype plate. The targeted finished size was 12” and the prototype was only 9” so I only eye-balled the profiles since this was a rough turning.
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    The general rule is to leave 10% extra wood when rough turning wet wood to compensate for warpage. My gut said to leave more so I broke from convention and left 20% in case I needed to do double DNA soaking and re-turning. I also left the rim and bead details thicker since these are areas prone to cracking during drying. You can see my rim lines where the inner 2 lines show the expected finish location and thickness. The really unconventional thing was I decided to leave the center chunk of wood. If I needed to re-mount on the worm screw, I would still need that extra large flat surface for the jaws. Yes I could have switched to smaller jaws but there is my laziness factor to consider, too.
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    Finally, I soaked the blank in a DNA solution then started the process with the next blank. I could only soak 2 blanks at a time so I rough turned pairs of blanks. So the above steps were done for a pair of blanks at a time allowing for soaking time to end before starting another pair.
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    DNA Soaking: These plates were larger than my current HD orange DNA bucket could handle so I went to the Container Store and bought a large water tight container. However, I only had 3 gallons of DNA on hand and that would only cover one blank in such a large container. So I emptied the DNA cans then refilled each can with water and placed it in the solution plus a couple of bricks. This displaced enough DNA to raise the level high enough so I could safely soak 2 blanks at a time. This is why I worked in pairs of blanks during the roughing out stage. I also placed a bucket lid with rocks on it atop the blanks to ensure they stayed submerged in the DNA. Blank soaking time varied from 18 hrs to 4 days due to work and finals in graduate school. As blanks came out of the DNA, I let them air dry for an hour then coated the end grain with Anchorseal and wrapped them in heavy brown paper. I managed to have all the blanks out and drying by Christmas. Delivery was about 30 days away. I checked them periodically; two developed cracks which eventually closed up during air drying but I also reinforced them with black CA glue periodically during subsequent turning steps. FYI….DNA becomes brown from tanines in the wood that leach out.

    Two weeks shelf drying turned into 3 weeks as a result of the death of my mom and my daughter burning our kitchen. So with 10 days (2 weekends) to delivery, I started doing the final turning or so I thought. Each blank had warped significantly but they were all registering around 12% surface moisture which is okay but not great. Since the blanks were left thicker than normal, I knew the moisture content was still higher deeper in the wood.

    Every blank warped during drying. There are ways to help minimize this but I lacked the time, materials and shelf space at the time. All the tenons warped such that they could not be re-mounted in the chuck jaws safely. So I remounted them on the worm screws pulling the tailstock up for additional support and re-turned each tenon, as well as, re-turning the outside profile. One by one, I remounted each blank on its tenon and re-turned the rim & inside profile back to round to remove the warpage. On a hunch, I decided to not do the final turning but instead left the 10% rule. The bowl center was removed at this time, too.
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  3. #3
    Join Date
    May 2011
    Frisco TX

    Progressive Thread: Making Collection Plates - Pt 3

    Two blanks were significantly warped generating excess vibration over 300 RPM so I tried something unorthodox. While still mounted on the tenon & chuck, I remounted the worm screw & chuck on the tailstock side of the blank then pulled up a revolving center sandwiching the blank between 2 chucks. The end result was that I could spin the warped blanks at 600 rpm with little vibration which allowed me to re-turn them back round and balanced.
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    From the first blanks to the last 2 unbalanced blanks, several days past allowing the lot to air dry and warp a little more. So, I started finishing …thankful for the 10% I left. This final turning removed the new warpage and completed the rim and bead details. Finish turning was done at 700-800rpm. I also sanded each blank thru 120-400 grit mostly using power-sanding on the lathe. I swapped forward & reverse directions between grits, too. As with every maple, I had some tearout to deal with by hand sanding and some careful power sanding. Lastly, I cut a 7” recess inside the plate for a felt insert. Delivery time is less than a week at this point.
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    My expectation was to use my Holdfast vacuum pump to finish turn the bottoms. One plate bottom is all my venturi style vacuum lasted before it died. I put out an SOS to members of my woodturning club to borrow a vacuum pump setup. Two friends stepped up but I only needed one but I lost 2 days. Two hours after setting up the vacuum pump, the bottoms were finished turned.
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ID:	74155 I'm currently making one of these pumps and will post it upon completion
    With delivery time 30 hrs away, I started to apply what became 3 coats of wipe-on poly (WOP). I placed the plates on stands on our kitchen counter with a fan blowing on them to speed up the drying process between each coat. The last coat went on at 1 am the day of delivery.
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  4. #4
    Join Date
    May 2011
    Frisco TX

    Progressive Thread: Making Collection Plates - Pt 4 & Conclusion

    With 6 hrs to delivery, the next step was to burn a selected scripture, chapter & verse, in the bottom of each plate. Using a Burnmaster pyrography tool with a 1/32” writing tip, I practiced each then wrote them on the plates bottoms in the center circle detail.
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    The next step was to buff and wax. I setup the Beall bowl buffers on my Jet 1442 for the plate inside and the 3 wheel Beall buffer on my 3520b for the outside and rim buffing. I used both buffing compounds and ended with carnuba wax.
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    With delivery time in 2 hrs, the final step was to cut and glue the felt insert into the recesses which was finished with 45 minutes left.
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    I took a shower and made the delivery with these finished collection plates
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    Conclusion: The 6 collection plates are all maple but of 3 different varieties. 2 were ambrosia maple but only slightly. 3 were spalted and 1 was plain but had a large mineral stain. Final size was 12” wide by 2 ½-2 ¾” high with a 1 3/8” rim and 3/8” bead. As it turns out, the new sanctuary only uses 4 collection plates so I am not planning to deliver the last 2 for a few months. Total time for each collection plate was approximately 6.5 hrs:
    o Prep & roughing out 1.5 hrs
    o Re-turning 1.0 hrs
    o Finish turning 1.0 hrs
    o Sanding .75 hrs
    o Finishing .75 hrs
    o Buffing .50 hrs
    o Pyro .25 hrs
    o Felt center .25 hrs
    o Misc – DNA, wrapping, etc. .50 hrs

  5. #5
    Join Date
    Dec 2006
    Yorktown, Virginia
    In addition to a showing us great set of collection plates, I think you have set a new standard for 'how I did it' posts. Your narrative and photos are superb. Thanks so much for taking us along on your journey. I know it took a lot of work to make the plates and take the photos, but it turned out great. Thanks for sharing.... and my condolences on the loss of your mom.

  6. #6
    Join Date
    Oct 2006
    ABQ NM
    Excellent walkthrough, Chip. However, in your time listing, you left out:

    • Photography .50 hrs (at least)

    Your finished product came out looking great. Thanks for sharing the process.
    When the going gets weird, the weird turn pro. - Hunter S. Thompson
    When the weird get going, they start their own forum. - Vaughn McMillan

  7. #7
    Join Date
    Dec 2007
    Tellico Plains, Tennessee
    Those are really nice looking... great job.

    I recently did a couple of oak chalice and paten sets for the pastor at my church... he collects them, so I made a set for his collection, then he ordered a set for the church for Christmas... I decided to just donate them after they were finished rather than charge the church (may need the credits someday)

    BTW, I know where the leaves from your trees landed when they landed in the fall.... in my pool over in The Colony... lived there in '92
    Tellico Plains, TN
    My parents taught me to respect my elders, but it's getting harder and harder to find any.
    If you go looking for trouble, it will usually find you.

  8. #8
    Join Date
    May 2011
    Frisco TX
    You have over-estimated the size of my one trees. This is Texas afterall. My big tree came down last year in 60mph winds. Now pieces of it are stacked in the garage awaiting my gouges.

  9. #9
    Join Date
    Jul 2007
    DSM, IA
    Very nicely done Chip, thanks for taking the time to show how you did it!
    A man is rich in proportion to the number of things he can afford to let alone. -Henry David Thoreau
    My Website

  10. #10
    Join Date
    Aug 2008
    Reno, Nv
    I always feel better putting my tithe in a well made bowl...big high five Chip! Super tutorial, that is some dedication.
    Your Respiratory Therapist wears Combat boots

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