Hollowed or faceplate turning

Faceplate turning has an inherent problem associated with it in connection with grain direction. This trouble is at the edge of the turning rather than the face. Because of the combination of grain direction and rotation of the wood, two opposite quarters are inevitably cut against the grain. There are techniques to minimise the effects but the problem cannot be eliminated. When a piece of faceplate turning such as a bowl is examined it will invariably be found to have two areas opposite one another which are darker than the rest. This is because they are cut across the grain, exposing open pores which are more absorbent of light, reflect less, absorb more polish and so on, and are of a different general structure to the smoother, more reflective parts cut with the grain. This does, however, add to the character of good turnery and highly decorative wood.

Many turners prefer to have a piece of plywood sandwiched between the work and faceplate, and this is really essential when the wood being turned is smaller than the faceplate. In practice the ply is fixed to the work, then both pieces are screwed to the faceplate. Small screws may be used to fix the ply to the block but it can be brushed with a white resin type glue then covered with a piece of thick, rather soft, paper. The paper is then similarly glued to the block and the whole allowed to dry. The plywood is, of course, screwed to the faceplate. A recess is formed in the centre in order to take a brass or glass dish. For this the diameter of the sinking is marked out with compasses or dividers.

This can be done with the scraper or, more properly, with the gouge. The gouge is used well over on its side and pointing upwards so that the bevel is tangential to the surface.

This operation is best done by working from the flat surfaces towards the centre, so eUminating the chances of slight splitting at edges.

A square-end scraper is used for forming the recess indicated at C. This tool, however, needs ‘relieving’ on the grindstone on the left-hand edge, near the end. There are two reasons for this: without the edge the scraper will not clear properly when cutting the outer edge of the sulking; the smaller the diameter of the recess the greater the need for this edge grinding. The second reason for the edge treatment of the scraper is that it creates a sharp edge, therefore the recess can be enlarged by moving the tool sideways and allowing the edge of the tool to do the cutting.

One faceplate job which is always a favourite is a bowl. This is made about 3 mm deep or slightly more, after which the surface B is skimmed and also made very slightly concave. The curve to the lower part of the bowl is tackled next, preferably with a small gouge. The tool is kept over on its side and is pointed sideways and upwards so that the bevel is kept rubbing on the surface. This is illustrated at C, which also shows the movement of the gouge.

With the outside shaping completed, the bowl is reversed on the faceplate, making sure that it is concentric. Lengths of screws being used have to be watched carefully to make sure they do not penetrate into what will be the inside of the bowl.

The outside is completed with the gouge so that the curve blends in with the initial shaping. A gouge is preferred for the hollowing out process, or at least for the bulk of it. This is to reduce the overhang of the tool, and also explains why long-and-strong gouges are recommended for this type of work.

Depending on the exact shape of the bowl, it is sometimes difficult for even the experienced turner to make proper use of the gouge at the bottom of the bowl, near the sides. Here a scraper often has to be employed.