Types of Faceplates
Philip Greenwood looks at the pros and cons of different types of faceplates
Faceplates still have a place in every wood turner’s workshop. I remember this was once the main way for holding a bowl for the whole of the turning process. Look at the base of any old bowls and you will most likely see the tell tale signs of screw holes, unless a glue block was used as an interface between the faceplate and the timber. Now we have chucks but we still have to mount the piece on the lathe to form a spigot. This is the initial method I use for holding very large logs or bowl blanks, especially if no tailstock support is available as in outboard turning.
Faceplates come in all sizes and different materials from steel to aluminium, with holes for the screws. Be careful with the type of screws you use; some modern style screws which save you drilling a pilot hole have a counter boring head. This can damage your faceplate holes. Try to use the correct diameter screw as well to reduce any vibration. If you are turning a thin piece of timber then the screws may penetrate too deep, so use shorter screws or use a packing piece between the faceplate and timber. If using a timber that contains tannin acid, steel screws will turn the timber black around the holes. One point to watch is when you screw the faceplate onto your lathe: support the weight or you may damage your threads on the lathe spindle as well as the faceplate threads.
Chuck face plate ring
This type is used in conjunction with your chuck. It is great for smaller items that need a faceplate to attach the timber to the lathe. The advantage with this type of faceplate is you can buy a ring to fit your chuck jaws which is not as heavy as a full faceplate. I find it easier to fit on a chuck than trying to hold a large piece of timber and screwing it on to the lathe spindle; you feel like you need three hands in this case. The disadvantage is that the item you are turning is further away from the headstock bearing, which could cause more vibration.
Faceplate type with drive spikes
Is this a faceplate or a drive centre? Well, I have used a faceplate to make this. After grinding a point on three small bolts which have locking nuts, place these in three of the holes. This is good for turning large logs where a standard drive may be too small. Also if the wood is still wet, a standard drive may lose its grip.
You do need tailstock support to use this. This method is also good for natural edge items due to the three spikes on uneven surfaces. Use a mallet to drive this into the end grain.
You need to centre your faceplate on your piece of timber, or it will be out of balance and could catch the lathe bed. I use two different methods. The first is to draw a circle the same size as your plate, find the centre of the timber and then set a pair of compasses to the radius of the faceplate. You then need to draw a circle and use this circle to position your faceplate. The second way is to use a centring jig. You need to turn a piece of timber to fit the threaded hole in the faceplate. Then drill a small hole in the end to take a piece of 3mm metal rod and glue in. To use this jig, drill a 3mm hole in the centre of the timber, place the jig in this hole and slide the faceplate over this, then screw the faceplate to the timber and remove the centring jig.
How to fit a plate to parallel grain timber
If you need to fix a faceplate to parallel grain timber, one way is to drive the screws in at an angle which will give a better grip. If screwed in straight, the screws could pull out of the grain with dangerous consequences. You can buy deep-threaded screws that will grip better, more like the thread on a screw chuck.
Plugs to hold screws
In this method, a hole is drilled into the side of the log. This hole must be at least 30mm from the log end, to make sure the screws don’t pull out. A piece of dowel is then glued into the hole. This must be in line with the screw from the faceplate. When you screw the face plate on, you will be screwing into the dowel, which is in effect across the grain. This method is more time-consuming than others and you do have to make sure you mark the side of the log carefully, but it does give you a good grip.