The Plinth Saga

Dave Hoskins

Parker County, Texas
The plinth saga has started. Finish roughing a prototype out of white oak to see what they guy thinks. Still a little rough around the edges totally raw with no sealants or anything. Base diameter is 10" with a total height of 5 3/4". The top diameter is 7 1/4". From the base up the curves run up to the 2 1/2" mark. Most cracks were filled with clear glue with natural dust and coffee grounds. Now I gotta wait and see what refinements need to be made, etc. I know I'm gonna need to thin it down some as it still weighs in at 7 1/2 lbs. Though with white oak that is not beyond the norm.


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Dave, thanks for teaching me something new today. I had to google what a plinth was and this is what I found. "a heavy base supporting a statue or vase." (i.e. from So the weight is not only a non issue but probably preferred for stability I would assume.
One suggestion I'd make would be to consider incorporating some beads, coves, and/or classic Roman ogee shapes for more interesting and sharper detail.
That's a good idea, Vaughn. He did say he didn't want the plinth to take anything away from his sculptures, so I was trying to keep it simple. Though he may change his mind and want more done to it. Time will tell on that. Jon, I had to look the word up, too. When he asked me if I was interested in turning him some plinths, I was thinking to myself "WHAT???"
I agree you need to walk the fine line between too showy and not showy enough, Dave. :thumb: I do think some crisper details would help though, without taking away any of the thunder from the artwork it's supporting.

The base for this bowl I did years back would be too much, but it may give you some ideas to work with...

Bowl 110 03 - 800.jpg
If it were up to me, I would put more detail. I'm just following instructions at this point. If he wants more detail, he'll certainly get it. I'm actually at a quandary as to what to do at this point except wait on his response. We are doing this one more or less in steps until it is totally understood exactly what he wants and doesn't want on these. So, me gives him a basic one for starters that a lot can be done to embellish it.
Then instead of using up your oak, turn two or three examples of different looks and offer them to him to look over? Some people can't see the product before completion. Some can but can't explain it to the person doing the work until they have an example to say, "that's it" or "take out that bead or that cove or make the middle narrower and longer, etc". That might help create a concrete plan. ?.
Thanks for sharing your work.
I am not sure why you are using such a large solid piece of wood. I can't imagine the need for such a heavy piece of wood. I am guessing these plinths must be for a really large object.

If I were doing these I would turn the individual elements and then glue them together. It would certainly make the process more manageable. The upper cylindrical section could be drilled out and then quickly hollowed with a heavy scraper before gluing to the profiled lower sections. If you have jaws large enough the profile of the cylindrical section can be completed with the piece held in expansion mode.

Professional turners who do plinths do much of the shaping with scrapers ground to the profiles they want for the various coves and bead forms. Think of the profiles on molding bits and grind scrapers accordingly. Using profiled scrapers saves time and ensures repeat-ability of the shapes. Not only do the scrapers save time in the long run a sharp scraper makes for less sanding. Of course you may not be turning enough of these to make creating dedicated scrapers for the job.

Also, does the buyer want the plinths to be natural wood? If he is going to paint them I would turn them from poplar which would be much easier to turn, sand and finish.

Also, in the example you posted it appears that you included the pith. Doing so increases your chances of having to deal with cracking not just now but down the road.
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Thanks, Mike. From what he told me, the sculptures are fairly large and heavy. I picked the white oak as a prototype as it is a heavy wood and more or less "rustic in appearance". He looked at examples of my work and liked white oak. This white oak that I have I brought in about 4 years ago. It's been baking in the Texas sun for all that time. The cracks that are in it don't ever seem to go anywhere with my prior turnings. You got to remember I don't buy wood. I only use the wood I bring in, which generally is the whole tree. When I am in my "wood acquisition mode", it is literally a small logging operation. I do have a little bit of cedar elm on hand but not much. The hardwoods I have on hand are white oak and pecan. Softwoods are hackberry and cottonwood. Whether he wants the wood painted or dyed is up in the air. He is slow in responding back to me so it is still a waiting game right now. Mainly, I am wanting to know from him is the basic shape I have here what he wants.
Well, heard from the customer this afternoon. He said that he really liked the plain plinth. I had played with it some more on my own and sent him photos of that and he rejected them. Wanted the plain, simple plinth. Hmmmm. Well, so that means the one I was working on is no good for him, maybe. Anyway, I asked about the weight factor and I had it all wrong. Very lightweight stuff. So, I told him I was cutting some cottonwood in the morning and seeing how that works for him.