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What Are Lathe Faceplates?

Lathe faceplates are essential tools in machining, serving as a mounting platform for irregularly shaped or large workpieces that can't be held by standard chucks. They provide stability and precision, allowing craftsmen to achieve intricate designs with confidence. Intrigued by how these devices enhance creativity and craftsmanship? Discover the art of turning with lathe faceplates in our comprehensive guide.
Lori Kilchermann

Lathe faceplates are flat, circular devices made of steel or aluminum which are used to fasten wooden blocks to a lathe motor. Commonly threaded to fit onto the threaded output shaft of the lathe motor, lathe faceplates allow the devices to be easily removed and replaced for the duration the workpiece is being turned and finished. They are often used when turning a large wooden block into a bowl or similar shaped object, which prevents the use of a tail stock and center point while turning. Faceplates are typically attached to the workpiece by placing screws through the plates and into a piece of scrap wood that has been affixed to the turning wood; upon completion, the scrap is removed from the turning and the faceplate and discarded.

By attaching large wooden blocks to lathe faceplates, the operator is able to turn the bulky squares into more manageable-sized round turnings. As the blocks spin on the lathe faceplates, the operator is able to create a perfectly round design and shape it inside and out as the single-sided holding device permits working on the inside of the turning. Once round and turned into the basic shape, the operator positions the tool rest opposite the end of the wood to allow work on the revolving inside surface of the turning.

Woman holding a book
Woman holding a book

Great care must be taken to ensure that excessive pressure from carving does not break the block away from the scrap wood affixed to the lathe faceplates. The operator must use skill and caution when gouging out the inside area of the turning to prevent any separation or cracking. There is customarily a piece of waxed paper placed between the scrap backing and the wood used for the turning project. The waxed paper allows the wood to be separated with a wood chisel at the seam without damaging the wood bottom of the turning.

The limiting factor of the size turnings that can be made on a lathe is directly related to the size of the lathe faceplates that will fit on the lathe. Twice the distance from the center of the motor output shaft and the top of the lathe bed is the maximum size that the lathe faceplates' diameter can be while still allowing use on the lathe. Any larger, and the lathe would not turn. It is possible to mount a large piece of wood to small diameter lathe faceplates, however, it is the custom to use the largest-sized plate that will fit on the wood and the lathe.

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