The wood lathe faceplate can be one of the most secure ways to attach wood to the lathe. However, there are some precautions, also that need to be incorporated with a wood lathe faceplate.
What is a wood lathe faceplate? A wood lathe faceplate makes a secure mechanical attachment between a lathe and a wood bowl blank using screws. There are no moving parts within a wood lathe faceplate. The two components of a wood lathe faceplate are a threaded neck that attaches to the lathe headstock threads and a vertical plate with screw holes to attach the wood bowl blank.
A wood lathe faceplate works well and makes a good connection because it is a straightforward and sturdy piece of equipment.
Wood Lathe Faceplates Available
There are a variety of different sized and configured faceplates available. Faceplates are sized by two measurements, the size of the headstock threads and the overall diameter of the faceplate itself.
Here are links to several different sized wood lathe faceplates.
|1″ x 8 TPI Faceplates||1-1/4″ x 8TPI Faceplates|
|2″ Diameter||2.5″ Diameter|
|3″ Diameter||3″ Diameter|
|4″ Diameter||3.5″ Diameter|
|6″ Diameter||4″ Diameter|
Wood Lathe Faceplate Not Failsafe
It might seem this simple device is foolproof and problem-free in its use, but that is not the case.
Seemingly simple errors or oversights when using a wood lathe faceplate can result in frustration, rough surfaces, and worse.
Never Do This With A Wood Lathe Faceplate
Undersize the wood lathe faceplate
An undersized wood lathe faceplate can be inadequate and not correctly support the wood bowl blank at hand.
A good rule of thumb for sizing a wood lathe faceplate is to use a faceplate about one third the diameter of the bowl blank.
If the faceplate is too small, the bowl blank may flex slightly or severely when the lathe is brought up to speed.
A vibrating surface makes smooth bowl gouge cuts next to impossible. Severe vibration can possibly cause the wood bowl blank to make an unscheduled departure from the lathe.
Here’s an article all about determining the proper lathe speed.
When in doubt, an oversized faceplate is a better way to go vs. one that is potentially too small.
Faceplates should be kept on hand to accommodate your specific wood bowl turning needs. Personally, I have many faceplates in various sizes from small to very large, with many in between.
I have a variety of faceplates to choose from in my recommended gear section, check out the various faceplate options.
It’s pretty common to want to thread the bowl blank with an attached wood lathe faceplate onto the headstock when it is locked in place.
I’m not sure why this happens. Perhaps because the headstock was previously locked when removing the faceplate or a chuck, we return to the headstock already locked.
It is not a good idea to manually turn the wood bowl blank when threading it to the lathe.
Instead, unlock the headstock, if it is locked, hold the bowl blank stationary and rotate the headstock with the hand wheel until the threads start on the faceplate. Continue turning the hand wheel to completely attach the faceplate.
The reason we don’t want to turn the wood is two-fold.
First, the weight and leverage of the bowl blank can quickly start a cross-threaded attachment. This is really what we’re trying to avoid, damaging the headstock and faceplate threads.
Secondly, by turning the sometimes cumbersome and awkward bowl blank, it’s hard to feel the threading. By using the hand wheel with the left hand, we can easily sense if the threads are turning smooth or hanging up.
Turn Without Seated Faceplate
Occasionally, a faceplate’s threaded neck is shorter than the headstock spindle threads. This can leave a gap between the end of the faceplate and the shoulder of the headstock spindle.
If this gap is left unchecked, the play in the threads will cause vibration in the turning bowl blank.
Think of it this way, the thread is not one-hundred percent attached to one another. If they were, it would be nearly impossible to thread them together.
While the threads feel snug, there is plenty of extra room around the threading to allow for movement. The threads do aid in making a secure connection, but the shoulder of the faceplate threads is the most critical aspect.
Once the wood lathe faceplate is advanced and seated flush to the shoulder of the headstock spindle, then any sideways movement is nearly impossible.
If the faceplate merely is not seated completely, take time to ensure it is seated properly.
If the faceplate won’t seat to the headstock spindle shoulder, use a special lathe washer to fill the gap.
A washer made of plastic or nylon can be placed between the faceplate and headstock before the faceplate is mounted. This spacer can fill the gap and firmly seat the faceplate to prevent any vibration while turning.
Wrong Screw Shape
Most wood lathe faceplates have recessed screw holes to accept tapered head screws. It is essential to use a screw type with an angled head that will fit snuggly in the faceplate holes.
For example, a cap head screw does not take advantage of the recessed space on the faceplate and can allow sideways movement to occur while turning.
Incorrect Screw Size
The screws used for securing a wood bowl blank to the faceplate need to be the proper size for both the faceplate and the bowl blank.
An easy way to check the proper size of a given screw is to drop one in a screw hole on the faceplate and hold it up for inspection.
The screw should seat in and fill the recessed screw hole area of the faceplate surface. It should not be too small and able to slide around much. The screw should not also be too large and stand out of the recessed area.
Also, the diameter of the screw shaft, usually between a #8 – #12 should be able to fit in the faceplate screw hole with just a little extra room, not excessive free space.
Looking under the faceplate, the screw should protrude approximately seven threads beyond the faceplate.
If you count less than seven threads, you may want to use a longer screw size.
More than seven threads are not necessary in most cases and can potentially make damaging holes into the space that will become the wood bowl.
Use Inferior Screws
This is a big one. Do not use drywall screws under any circumstances with a wood lathe faceplate.
Drywall screws are made cheaply and designed to hold drywall in place, period. Dry walls screws do not have the strength to handle the side shearing pressures of a bowl blank on a lathe and will be especially tested if a catch occurs.
Use good quality wood screws when attaching a faceplate to the wood bowl blank.
I try to always use stainless screws with a square driver tip. The screws last longer especially when used with high tannin woods and the square tips making driving or extracting a breeze with my very efficient cordless impact driver.
Attach To Bark
Attaching a wood lathe faceplate over medium to thick bark is not advised.
As you may have heard me say in other articles, every wood species is different, and each has its own specific characteristics.
Many factors play into whether or not bark will hold on a wood bowl blank. Older bowl blanks or more delicate tree species may release bark easily.
Not enough screw contact in the wood portion of the bowl blank can result in the faceplate screws losing grip on the bowl blank.
If you need to attach a faceplate to the bark side of a wood bowl blank, remove the bark from the area where the faceplate will be connected.
I use a four-inch circular cutting wheel on an electric angle grinder to shave away the bark to make a space wide enough for the faceplate.
With the bark removed, the faceplate screws will make a more secure connection to the wood bowl blank.
Reverse Without Set Screw
If you’ve done everything correctly to this point and your wood bowl blank is attached to the lathe, you may still have an issue if you accidentally reverse the lathe direction.
This happened to me once. Once, is all I needed to remember to be sure to always turn on the lathe with the direction forward.
When an unsecured wood lathe faceplate is on the lathe, and the lathe is reversed, the faceplate may rapidly unthread itself, and the bowl blank will drop to the bed rails below.
Some faceplates have a set screw in the threaded neck of the faceplate that is designed to combat this very issue. The set screw can be tightened with an Allen wrench before turning on the lathe.
If you have trouble remembering which lathe direction is which or you need to reverse the lathe deliberating, perhaps for sanding, be sure to use a set screw secured wood lathe faceplate.
Wood Lathe Faceplate Conclusion
I can tell you that most of the things on this list I’ve done incorrectly at one point or another.
The wood lathe faceplate is probably one of the easiest and best-performing accessories for a wood lathe.
However, the little things matter.
For some time I used a faceplate that didn’t seat all the way to the headstock spindle shoulder.
My bowl surface finishes were filled with tool marks from the subtle vibrations starting at the faceplate attachment.
Vibration is a major issue when it comes to making clean cuts while turning a wood bowl. Check out this article that further details vibrations sources and how to mitigate them.
Using a faceplate is one of several ways to attach a wooden bowl blank to the lathe. For additional knowledge, here are three ways to attach wood to a lathe.
I hope these tips of what not to do with a wood lathe faceplate help you in your wood bowl turning and make it easier for you to get to the final wood bowl you both envision and are very capable of creating.
Attaching a bowl to the lathe? Read these articles also:
• 5 WORST TENON SHAPE WOOD BOWL
• WOOD BOWL MORTISE OR TENON – WHICH IS BEST?
• BOWL TURNING GRAIN ORIENTATION – WOOD BLANK DIRECTION