Skip to content

5th June – John Plater

8 June, 2017

Welcome to the summer. The evening of our June meeting was rather wet and with problems on the local roads as well as major hold ups on the M3 around Winchester it was fantastic to see 61 members attending along with two visitors and a returning member in Harry Butler, who was straight into the groove of active member with an entry on the members gallery. The gallery certainly has stepped up a gear in the past month or two, possibly with the introduction of the Len Osborne trophy. There has been an increase in the number and quality of the entries from the novice corner as well as from the more established members. (Photos of which are available on the website)


The meeting was kicked off by Chairman Dave Gibbard with a review of the usual notices, one very sad one regarding the ongoing monthly pilfering from the club shop, which has now led to Derek having to protect the stock with a re-arranged display.


Notices done Dave introduced our guest demonstrator for the evening whom he had identified as a guest a couple of years ago at “Art in Action”. John Plater, who was going to turn a side grain natural edge branchwood bowl, started his talk from the front of the lathe giving us a bit of his background. Woodturning dovetailed very nicely with John’s work in full time education as a senior teacher, lecturer, author and “A” level examiner of Design and Technology. It is now developing as a second career after John retired from teaching. John has demonstrated to a number of woodturning clubs across the South East of England, focussing on natural edged work in the main.


Hollowed form makes up the bulk of John’s work. Many of the more decorative pieces are left with the natural edge of the timber and will feature small defects, sapwood and bark. John quoted a professional woodturner’s description of this as being “repurposed firewood”.


John is a regular exhibitor with the Society of Designer Craftsmen (formerly the Arts and Crafts Exhibition Society founded by Willliam Morris and Walter Crane in 1887) and is an active member of the Sussex Guild. Much of his work is produced to commission and often from the customer’s own timber.

Moving to the more traditional position of behind the lathe, he showed us a piece of branchwood of unknown species, probably fruit and possibly Cherry which drew a few disagreeing facial responses from some of our senior members. That said nobody offered an alternative. John had already prepared the blank on his bandsaw earlier in the day. He had drilled the hole for the steb centre using a Forstner bit. This was then secured between the steb centre in the headstock and a standard centre in the tailstock. Starting with a 3/8th bowl gouge with a swept back edge he proceeded to turn the outer shape of the bowl, regularly checking that it was sitting true simply using his thumb across the tool rest to measure clearances, this paid off quickly as it needed a small adjustment between the centres and then the outer shape re-turned, before cutting a spigot into the base and finishing off the surface with a large scraper and a shear scraper. At this point John remarked that not every turner would agree with his choice of tools but these are the ones best suited to him, a point that few of us would disagree with. The piece was then removed from the centres and turned around for the spigot to be mounted in the newly fitted Axminster chuck fitted with O’Donnell jaws. He recommended winding the tailstock centre into the piece with the lathe running as this gives a truer centre. John then performed a shear scrape to the outside of the bowl before concentrating on the inside. Another snippet of advice is to place something white on the lathe bed to help to see the outside shape of the bowl.

Rather than just hollowing out he was going to “Core” out the centre in the hope of producing a smaller bowl from the same piece using a straight cutter from the medium set of the McNaughton centre saver system. Sadly before completing this process the core snapped at the base and the external spigot also broke in the chuck.


Not to be deterred John reversed the bowl over the chuck and quickly repaired the spigot. Now back on track he set the tool rest at an angle that allowed him to work at 90 degrees to the rest and achieve maximum control of the cut and also retain a clearer view of tip of his gouge as he hollowed out the remainder of the core.

The inside shape was turned with the bevel of the gouge parallel to the outside shape. The cut was started slowly with the gouge closed. Once the cut was established it was continued by opening the gouge and then rolling the wrist as the curve swept across the bottom of the bowl. This was then finished off with a scraper. With the demonstration coming to a close John then discussed his finishing methods covering PPE (personal protective equipment – particularly dust control), sanding and finishing with Osmo polyx oil, which produces a nice smooth finish but not shiny, as is his preference.

John fielded questions from the floor including one from John Davis about the use of the long grind gouge. This could have turned into a debate too long for the time available. We hope to return to this subject in the columns of Your Turn.


Following a hearty round of applause he then gave a brief critique of a small selection from the very healthy members’ gallery.

No comments yet

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.