Wood Lathe Faceplate – Never Do This – 8 Things

Wood Lathe Faceplate Things Not To Do

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 Faceplates1-1/4″ x 8TPI Faceplates
2″ Diameter2.5″ Diameter
3″ Diameter3″ Diameter
4″ Diameter3.5″ Diameter
6″ Diameter4″ Diameter
4.5″ Diameter
6″ 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.

Faceplate Size Compared Wood Bowl Blank

Lock Headstock

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.

Wood Lathe Faceplate Mounting Procedure

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.

Wood Lathe Faceplate Seated Example
Wood Lathe Faceplate Washer Spacer Flush Mount

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.

Wood Lathe Faceplate Determining Screw Selection

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.

Wood Lathe Faceplate Screw Selection

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.

Wood Lathe Faceplate Attached Bark

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.

101 WoodBowl Turning Tips Display

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 Set Screw Reverse

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.

Wood Lathe Faceplate Never Do These 8 Things

For some time I used a faceplate that didn’t seat all the way to the headstock spindle shoulder.

Guess what?

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:

Happy Turning,

31 Responses

  1. Kent, do you have a rule of thumb on reusing screws for attaching faceplates? I have reused them in the past and have had some shear off when either attaching or detaching them. A pain digging the sheared screws out. thanks, jim

    1. Jim,
      Good question.
      Yes, if the become stripped or the head is damaged, they get tossed. Use good quality stainless, Robertson heads and they will last “forever.” 😉
      Also, use a battery impact driver instead of a drill. MAJOR game changer!!!
      Happy Turning!

  2. Kent, i use the easy wood faceplates as you have recommended, but i can’t find a good tool to remove them. there is the 5/16 inch hole, but i have not found a good spanner or tool to remove the faceplate and blank without boogering up the aluminum hole. any suggestions would be much appreciated. thx, jim

    1. oh, i have used a number of things, like a screwdriver, etc, but the soft aluminum gets boogered up around the hole.

  3. Kent, really useful information and easy to follow. I’m just starting out as turned a couple of bowls at school 40 odd years ago. Got myself a 2nd hand lathe here in Portugal. It’s on the large size, three phase motor, 4 speed pulley belt system and 1 & 1/2 ” 8tpi spindle. Goes very quick on slow speed! Also weighs over 200kgs! I’m struggling to find face plates here but hopefully One Way seems to have the size albeit expensive to purchase. Have tried making some with ply wood and cutting a thread into it but not perfect. Fortunately I have two chucks, one 3 jaws the other 4 jaws. I could use the back of these as a face plate but will need to drill a few more holes in them. They are 6″ & 7″ but I ideally need a 4″. Just one point to add to your safety tips is never hollow out a bowl that will catch the end of the screws. E.g. a 10mm face plate and 30mm screw only leaves you able to hollow out until 20mm thick. Don’t want to catch the tip of the screws with the gouge. Really helpful info and I will be following you for more tips. Cheers

    1. Mike,
      Thank you for writing and sharing!
      Try to get your lathe speed down and don’t turn a bowl over 1,000 rpm. Check out this article https://turnawoodbowl.com/safe-wood-lathe-speed-calculation/
      You might want to find a local machinist and see if they can fabricate a faceplate for your needs.
      Good point about avoiding screws! Thanks.
      All the best to you and Happy Turning!

    2. I used local machinist in Cabacous near Alvaiazere Portugal.
      He made perfect 6 copies of a ring, that came with my axminster chuck, to secure wood to my chuck via wood screws.
      He charged 6 euros each.

      1. David,

        That sounds like you found your solution. And it seems affordable too. Excellent.

        All the best to you and Happy Turning!

    3. Hi, Man in Portugal I believe I read. I have been getting some information from Kent as well and very knowledgeable guy, It sounds like you have got a problem with your speed of your lathe, I too had problems with mine about 20 years ago I purchased a Watkin RS8 I took the old three phase motor out and replaced it with a newer three phase motor with new pulleys on main shaft and on motor and it now runs off a inverter so I can variable the speed from a standing start to a maximum rpm I have two belt settings so I can vary the torque of the motor as well . If you go on the Internet you should better find companies that do a kit that can supply you with a new motor with a frequency drive to match it’s always best as well to go up in size on the frequency drive that is required you can buy a separate hand control unit, that can be wired in to the drive, You might need electrical engineer I hope this is some help to you.
      Phil from the moulin France.

  4. Thank you very much sir with your very informative article. I learned a lot of tips. Very appreciated your effort here. I actually interested on woodworking especially on the set up of lathe and actually wishes to have my own-design of wood lathe soon. Unfortunately, due to lack of budget, this is not yet started . Once again thank you and congratulation.

    1. Michael,
      Thank you. Check out this video for some ideas of how to start out turning.
      All the best to you, you can do it!

      Happy Turning,

  5. Thanks for a great video about what not to do. But I have a faceplate that is stuck and I cannot get the faceplate off the lathe. It does not have a bevel for me to use a wrench? Any tips?

    1. Perhaps try a specialized wrench, like an oil filter wrench, or a strap lever/wrench. Is there a bowl blank attached to the faceplate? Also, look for any holes along the edge of the faceplate that you could use a tool to pry the faceplate loose.

  6. Thanks for thinking of us who need this valuable information. Your time and intention are greatly appreciated! Kudos sir!

  7. I’m trying to recall my high school shop days (47 year ago!) & a technique our teacher used to attach the faceplate to a walnut bowl I made. As I recall…we screwed the plate to a piece of scrap wood… then covered the scrap with white Elmer’s type glue. Next we applied a thicker paper towel to the glue and made sure it was saturated. Next, we applied glue to the bowl blank. Once these were glued, we clamped these together for two days.

    I then turned the bowl, finished, etc…. (and I still have it) Once finished, we gently used a thin blade to pry/break the bowl from the scrap wood.. similar to opening a can of paint. The paper towel separated into two.

    I just received a mid-90’s Sears lathe and ready to relive my shop days..

    Is this method still used? do I have it about right? your opinion? thoughts?

    1. Hello Steven,

      I think you have the whole description correct. However, four-jaw chucks are the way to go now. Of course, you can still use a glue block if you’d like, but mounting to a chuck is very quick and easy.

      Happy Turning,

      1. Hi Kent,

        I believe that the process Steven described was to conserve the bulk of the bowl blank so as to form the thickest bowl possible from the available material. The process Steven described would allow the full thickness (or very nearly so) of the bowl blank to be transformed into a bowl. Using a 4 jaw chuck would have worked in holding the bowl blank very well indeed. However, the formation of a tenon (or a mortise) would mean that the final bowl thickness would be reduced.

  8. I’ve been trying to find a chuck for an old sear model large. It’s probably an 82 or 83 model. Lost it or it got thrown awsy in a wood scrap box. Where can I find one or is there a alternative to this situation. Would like to get back to doing small projects. Email me@ markwedgeworth@ yahoo.com. thanks

    1. Mark,

      Thanks for writing. Man, I hate when I lose things. I feel your frustration.

      Most chuck sizes are universal. You should be able to buy a current chuck for your lathe.

      Do you know the headstock size and thread count? It might be a 1-inch by 8 TPI count.

      One way to check is to purchase a 1-inch by 8 TPI faceplate and confirm that it fits. If it does fit, then try this chuck for your lathe.

      I hope you get this issue resolved. Let me know.

      Happy Turning,


    1. Vern,

      Thanks for commenting. Are the spacers on the surface between the faceplate and the wood?

  10. First informative article I’ve found on faceplates. Where did you get your technical data, i.e. 7 threads exposed for screws?
    Thank you.

    1. Hello El,

      The seven thread count being substantial depth for a good hold is knowledge I’ve collected from a couple different experienced turners. And, knock on wood, the practice has not failed me yet.

      Thanks for the comment!

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Kent Weakley-Turn A Wood Bowl-About
Hi, I’m Kent

Hi! I’m Kent, a husband, dad, papa, graphic designer, photographer, artist, traveler, birder, dark chocolate lover and I’m addicted to turning wood bowls! Learn more about me, see the online courses I made for you, and join our group on Facebook. Ready for your wood bowl adventure? Click here to Get Started

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