I can’t say turning wooden plates is something I love to do, but it is something I value, wooden plates are a part of our history once upon a time they were all we had to eat of. In times past when we truly understood the value of our labour pottery was expensive and for the rich but wood was readily available and relatively easy to work. Of course these old wooden plates were rough and with little design consideration invested in their making. The plates would have been made in green wood that is no seasoning would have taken place, the wood is easier to turn like that and it’s all done much quicker than it is today. Plates and bowls would have seasoned during use and taken on a shape more oval than round, but things are done a little differently these days.
I start plates from seasoned stock, that is 30mm planks which have been either air dried or kiln dried to around 12% humidity or lower, by this time the wood is relatively stable. I say relatively because the act of turning or simply cutting the wood will release stresses which grow in to the timber and are exaggerated by the drying process. Turning anything will release this stress and the item turned will change shape, in some items this is hardly discernable but in others it can be obvious and it can spoil the look of a piece which has received hours of a craftsman’s time. To avoid this issue or at least reduce its effect to the least possible impact I never turn bowls platters or plates from solid timer to finished item in one process. I usually rough turn everything first, this involves mounting blanks and turning it to a basic but over sized shape similar to that of the final shape required.
The photo below shows the back of a 305mm diameter walnut plate which has been rough turned,note the recess which is turned in the centre for later remounting.
The next photo shows the front of the plates, notice the round spigot in the centre this allows me to remount the plate so I can re-turn the back to the final shape and size.
Here the photo shows the stack of rough turned plates the gaps between the plates are over sized in this photo due to the spigot left in the centre of dished section, once finished the stack will be a little smaller.
The final plate will be 300mm in diameter and about 10mm thick they are presently about 12mm thick. The final shape will also be a little different the dish will be deeper and the wide rim will have a detail turned in to the final design. These plates will be left for at least a month in the house where it is warm and dry were they will change shape a little. Once re-turned and finished they will be more stable and durable and will give service to their owners for many years to come.
I will post another article next month when I finish turning the plates and apply an oil finish to protect the plates for daily use.