Metal Leaf Platter


Metal Leaf Platter:
Leaves and woodturning combine to create Sue Harker’s metal leaf platter.

Leaves and woodturning combine to create Sue Harker’s metal leaf platter

You can open up a wide range of possibilities in decorating your turnings with the use of staining, carving, texturing, colouring and burning to name a few. For this project I have combined pyrography burning and metal leaf. There are various varieties of metal leaf available to purchase. The one I have chosen is a metal leaf that has been chemically treated to produce a variegated green pattern, which works well with the leaf design I wanted to use. The image, with two different size sycamore (Acer pseudoplatanus) leaves, is printed several times to produce the required number of leaves. The leaf outlines are then cut out and arranged into a collage, and stuck together with double-sided tape.
The completed collage is then placed on some graphite transfer paper so it can be traced onto the surface of the platter. I made several variations of metal leaf and pyrography burned platters, some with a scattering of leaf outlines decorated with a selection of coloured metal leaf, and others with a single leaf in the centre of the platter with a textured surround. For this project I have chosen to burn a collage of leaves and only apply metal leaf to the centre burned leaf.

Plans and equipment
• Sycamore bowl blank 305 x 50mm
Equipment used
• 3mm parting tool
• 12mm fingernail spindle gouge
• 10mm standard grind bowl gouge
• Flat-sided skew chisel
• Three point tool
• Pyrography machine
• Carbon extractor
• Variagated metal leaf
• 120, 180, 240, 320, 400 grit abrasives
• PPE respirator facemask
• Dust extraction
• Microclean

Drawings and how to resize them
To enlarge or reduce the size of drawings right click on the image to download it and then go HERE to watch a video on how to use paper with a grid to do exactly that.

Constructing the collage
If, like me, you are not artistic enough to draw a collage freehand, then simply type into your internet search engine ‘copyright free leaf images’. Print the shapes you want to use and cut them out. Using double-sided sticky tape, stick the leaves into the desired collage and when done attach to some carbon transfer paper. The collage is then ready to apply to your turned platter. Tape the collage in place using some low tack tape and use a pencil to trace the outlines.

Applying the metal leaf
Gold/metal leaf comes in a variety of colours: solid colours or chemically treated sheets which produce a variegated pattern. Proprietary size (adhesive) and lacquer are also available from your gold/metal leaf supplier. Before applying the size, always seal the surface of the wood and allow it to dry completely. The size will need to be evenly applied, making sure not to apply it to the burned lines. Then leave this to dry for approximately 10 minutes by which time it should be tacky. When applying gold/metal leaf to large areas lift the leaf using the backing sheet and apply to the tacky size. Leave the backing sheet in place to protect the leaf while smoothing down. The applied leaf will need to dry sufficiently before being handled. I usually leave it for a minimum of overnight to dry. Remove excess leaf by gently rubbing with a very soft brush. Using a cocktail stick, scrape away any leaf that has adhered to the burned lines. Some sections may require re-burning to tidy. When you are happy with the results, coat with shellac lacquer to avoid oxidisation of the metal leaf.


1. Mount a piece of sycamore 305 x 50mm on the lathe. Turn into the round and true up the front face

2. Mark the required size of a chucking spigot, in this instance I will be using 100mm jaws and cut the spigot depth. Using a 3mm parting tool cut a hole at centre point, this will help to centralise the bowl when reverse mounting to remove the spigot when the platter is finished

3. Using a standard grind bowl gauge shape the underneath into a shallow curve

4. With the shape formed, refine the foot. Use a 10mm fingernail profile spindle gauge to cut a groove around the foot

5. With a skew chisel laid on its side cut a dovetail the correct profile to fit your jaws (if your jaws are dovetailed). Sand the underside of the bowl using a rotary sander, starting with 120 grit and working through 180, 240, 320 and finish with 400 grit

6. Remount the platter on the lathe using the chucking spigot cut earlier, and true up the front face

7. Now, start shaping the inside profile of the platter and cut a shallow cove around the edge

8. With the edge shaped, remove the remainder of the timber to an even wall thickness. Using the same grits as for the outside, sand to a finish before removing from the lathe

9. Next, reverse-mount the platter; here I am using a vacuum chuck. The taildrive is located in the centre hole cut earlier, ensuring the platter is centralised on the vacuum cup. Once the vacuum pump has  been turned on, the taildrive can be removed allowing full access to the foot

10. Remove the spigot and cut a groove or two for added detail and proof that you have ‘been there’ with turning tools. Sand using the same grits as before

Burning the outlines
When the collage design has been traced onto the platter surface, a pyrography machine with a fine tip attached to the pen can be used to burn the leaf shapes. It is advisable to use a carbon filter extractor positioned as close to your work as possible to protect your lungs from the harmful fumes created.   

11. Arrange your chosen leaves into a collage and stick some carbon transfer paper to the underside. Position the collage centrally, tape in place with low tack tape and using a pencil trace the outlines onto the platter

12. Using a pyrography pen burn the outlines of the leaf collage. It is advisable to use a carbon filter extractor placed near the burning, which draws the smoke away from you

13. Sand the surface with 1000 grit abrasive to remove any over-burn. Use a tack cloth to remove the dust created

14. Use a small brush to seal the surface of the centre leaf with an acrylic sealer

Top tip
• Other methods of reverse mounting can be used. Mount the platter into Jumbo Jaws fitted to your chuck. Centralise using the taildrive and once the jaws are firmly holding the platter the taildrive can be removed. Another method is to turn a domed piece of wood and lay some non-slip router matting between the dome and platter. The taildrive will need to be left in place and locked tightly. Remove as much of the underneath as possible, leaving a sizeable pip where the taildrive is.

15. When the sealer is completely dry, evenly apply metal leaf size. Here I am using a small brush to apply the size, avoiding the burned lines

16. Leave the size to dry for approximately 10 minutes then lay a sheet of gold leaf over the size: here I have left the backing sheet on the metal leaf. This helps you to position the leaf accurately without breaking into pieces

17. With the backing paper left in place rub the gold leaf sheet, ensuring the surface is smooth

18. Remove the backing sheet and leave to dry completely before removing the excess leaf. This can be done initially with a very soft brush and then using a cocktail stick or similar remove the excess from
the burned sections

19. With the excess gold leaf removed tidy up the shape by re-burning any areas that require it

20. Coat the gold leaf with shellac lacquer to prevent the leaf from oxidising

21. When the shellac lacquer has completely dried your desired finish can be applied. I have chosen to finish this platter by applying several coats of oil to the remainder platter

Top tip
• When applying the metal leaf to your turnings you can either use full sheets as I have, or select sections of leaf, for example if you wanted to apply more of the green section then tear sections of green and apply them individually, ensuring the pieces are overlapping and cover the entire leaf. Cover with a backing sheet and rub firmly to press the leaf into the size. Allow to dry before removing the excess. This excess can be put into a container for use on other projects. Another method is to use gold leaf flakes. The flakes are pressed into the tacky size. Once dried the excess flakes are removed and put back into the container

• When finishing an item with several coats of oil make sure you are in a dust-free environment and in between applications. If the surface feels rough, sand flat with approximately 1000 grit abrasive and remove the dust created with a tack cloth. When the oil is totally dry gently buff the surface using a buffing
mop with Tripoli compound applied. Take care not to buff too heavily as this could remove the gold leaf


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