Turning a Platter
Popular Woodworking|June 2021
Push your skills and create a showstopper.
By Jimmy Clewes

PROJECT #2108_

Skill Level:


Time: 2 Days

Cost: $100

The platter is probably my most favorite subject to turn. The form is open and shows off the grain in the wood. On the outside, the beautiful double curve of the ogee and a rim that gently curves into the inside makes this piece aesthetically pleasing and ergonomic to hold. It’s also utilitarian.

Prepping the Blank

To start, I find the center of the blank using a pair of dividers or compass by scribing four arcs into the surface. Imagine a clock and scribe the arcs from 12, 3, 6, and 9 o’clock into the center of the blank, keeping the point of the compass on the outside points. When you make the four arcs, it will form a cross that indicates the middle.

Cutting the blank round on a band saw will make the initial balancing of the blank much quicker and easier. Even just cutting the corners off to make an octagon will be far faster to turn than from a square.

Mount the Blank

There are several ways that the blank could be mounted on the lathe. I use a screw chuck for diameters up to 12. For blanks larger than 12, I prefer to use a 6 faceplate. This gives me more support when turning towards the outside of the platter.

When the blank is mounted securely, make sure that the blank is tight against the face of the screw chuck. I start with a speed of approximately 1600 to 1800 rpm. The speed you can turn at depends on the blank being used. For example, if the blank has half sapwood and half heartwood, there will be a harmonic and vibration due to the different densities within the blank. As a guide to speed, I prefer to turn as fast as I feel safe, without any vibration.

First Cuts

Using a 1/2-long grind bowl gouge, I proceed to true up the outside edge of the platter using a push cut with the bevel “floating” behind the cut, but in contact with the wood. Then, I true up the face which will become the bottom of the platter. I do this with a draw cut—drawing the tip of the bottom wing of the long grind bowl gouge towards me. I do this until I have a clean, flat the face on the blank. With the blank now true on the edge and face I prepare a recess that will house dovetailed jaws in a chuck. This will hold the platter when turning the rim and hollowing out the platter.

I measure the diameter of the chuck jaws with dividers and transfer the measurement to the wood. To make the recess, I use a parting tool to make two or three plunge cuts into the blank, side-by-side. These are about 3/16 deep. This leaves enough room to get a bowl gouge in there and remove the rest of the waste. The inside of the recess needs to be slightly dovetailed, and I do this with a parting tool ground at 10° to match my dovetail jaws. Be sure this cut is clean and accurate, as it makes a huge difference to how true the platter will run when remounted.

1 Drill a centered hole in the blank, slightly deeper than your worm screw.

2 Mount the blank on the screw center.

3 Use a push cut to true up the rim of the blank.

4 A draw cut, from center to rim, trues the face of the blank.

5 Set a pair of dividers to your chunk jaws.

6 Transfer the jaw measurement to the blank, scribing with the left divider leg.

7 Use a parting tool to form the recess in the platter.

8 Define the outside edge of the foot, cutting half as deep as the recess.

9 A bowl gouge removes the rest of the waste in the recess.

10 Mark the rim thickness and divide the distance from the foot to the rim into thirds.

11 Connect the inner third mark to the rim by creating a large bevel.

12 Cutting from the rim to the foot, use a push cut to create the curve of the ogee.

13 Maker a mark halfway between the foot and the rim.

14 Use a draw cut to form the ogee and blend the two curves together.

15 Use denatured alcohol to raise the grain before sanding.

16 Power sand the back of the platter through 600-grit.

17 Apply sanding sealer and let it dry before applying a coat of Danish oil.

18 Mount your chuck on the lathe and expand the jaws into the platter recess.

19 Mark the finished thickness of the rim on the edge of the platter.

20 Mark out the rim and divide it into the thirds.

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