Tag: woodturning

Making Platters 1: Selecting wood

I often get asked the question how long does it take to make one of my pieces?  I’m always tempted to give Picasso’s response to how long it took him to draw a quick sketch of someone on a napkin – 40 years.  Except I’m not Picasso, and I haven’t been at this for 40 years.

Still, the question is hard to answer because the making of any given piece involves multiple steps or stages from sourcing the wood to designing to turning, carving, sanding, woodburning, airbrushing and finishing.   Some of the steps – like drying a piece after roughturning – can take 6 months or more.  Others, like finishing, require application of multiple layers or lacquer.  Each layer can be applied quickly but then you need to wait for it to cure before sanding it or applying the next layers, a process that can take days.

So, I will describe the general process for making a platter in the next few blog posts. I will include pictures to illustrate the steps and to give some sense of the equipment and supplies that I use.  There are many online woodturning tutorials to make platters or pretty much any other thing you might want to make on the lathe.  These posts are not meant to be a tutorial.  I won’t go into detail for all the steps.  Rather, my focus will be more on the decisionmaking at each stage.  Every stage involves choices that play into the final outcome.

The first step is to decide what type of wood you are going to use.  I generally prefer dark red, highly figured exotic woods, which require little embellishing; or lighter colored big leaf maple, which is very good for carving and inlaying Chinese characters, woodburning and airbrushing or dying.


But I have also used other woods such as eucalyptus, olive, walnut etc.


As you can see, eucalyptus is a tricky wood to use for platters because it tends to warp a lot. In this case, I thought I could use the warping to give the butterfly a sense of motion.  Not quite the result I hoped but I learned the next time to dry it out a bit more first so it wouldn’t warp quite as much.

The olive is a lovely piece of wood with a lot of character, including bark inclusions, cracks, rough edges and nice color variation.  The quick iPhone pic here doesn’t really do the piece justice but is good enough to illustrate the general point that different woods have different traits which need to be considered in the design process.

You can check out more platters at https://www.etsy.com/shop/zenWoodArtCreations.

Next blog – sourcing wood – now that you have decided what kind of wood you want to use, where do you get it?