Canadian Woodworking

A marriage of textures

Author: Paul Ross
Published: December January 2002

There are many skills and techniques involved in woodturning: skill with the tools and an eye for design are the first two that come to mind.


In addition to acquiring these skills and techniques, there is often a quest for the most “extravagant” piece of wood. However, there are other ways of embellishing pieces; whether it be filling voids or cracks in a contrasting manner, or deliberately adding colour and texture. The methods are as varied as your imagination.

A new way of achieving stunning results is by using colored sand. Sand used for this purpose, comes in four colours, as shown in the platters, two colours per platter. To achieve this effect we turned the platter and then cut grooves in the rim to accept the sand. First let’s look at the turning and then the technique of applying the sand.

The platter is a piece of maple, 1 1/2” thick by 16” in diameter. There is a flat face on the piece, making it easy to use a screw chuck. I have a 1/2” worm screw, so I drilled a 3/8” pilot hole and fed the piece onto the chuck as shown in photo #1. The outside cut is shown in photo #2. I used a 3/8” bowl gouge.

Note: Use your body behind the gouge to push – this will give you more control of the gouge in addition to absorbing vibration into your body. You will also note on this particular project that it is turned on the outboard side of the lathe. This allows you to push with your body behind the gouge at all times. Not everybody will have outboard capacity, so there could be cuts where you will have to pull the gouge in towards you.

The next cut is across the face. Use the same gouge and remember to continue to push with your body, but change hands (photo #3). The piece is now ready to prepare the spigot so you can eventually grab it in the chuck as in photo #4. Do this with a 1/4” parting tool. You’ll be using a vacuum chuck later in the project to turn the spigot off, so reference your true center so that you can line it up with the tail stock when the piece is in the vacuum chuck. I do this with the point of a ‘9 in 1’ tool. (photo #5) (This particular tool has many uses, however, we’re just using it like an awl to establish a center).

Now you will be shaping the bottom. I chose a fairly simple, pleasant curve for this platter. Do this with the same bowl gouge and then finish with a 1 1/4” square end scraper. The scraper takes off the high spots or ridges that the gouge has left. All you are doing with the scraper is refining the shape. Now power or hand sand, whichever is your preference. I power sand, starting with 120 grit and work my way up to 400. Then for this particular project, I hand sanded from 600 to 1500.

Take the piece off the screw chuck. In the same chuck, remove the screw and grab the spigot on the bottom. Take a facing cut across the face and determine the width of the rim. I chose about a 1 1/4” rim. Start with an entry cut on the inside of the rim. This is simply a matter of establishing the point of the gouge into the wood until you have a groove in which the bevel can rub. Once the bevel is rubbing, then the cutting edge of the gouge is supported and you can proceed with your cut into the center of the platter. I didn’t hollow out the entire center of the platter until I had finished cutting the grooves in the rim, applying the sand and abrasing the sand. Cut the grooves with a thin parting tool, as in photo #6. Take the piece, chuck and all, off the lathe, and sit it horizontally, to apply the sand. The reason for taking it off with the chuck attached is so that you can maintain true centre. If you take the piece off the chuck, you might not be able to re-chuck it true centre.

Photo #7 shows pouring the sand in the groove. Do one groove at a time. Apply the sand so the groove is a little fuller than the wood. After applying the glue, as shown in photo #8, wait for it to harden. Then blow out the next groove to remove any sand that has fallen in from the first colour applied. As for glue, because I wanted to complete this project quickly, I used the ‘water consistency’ Cyanoacrylate. You could also use epoxy, which take 24 hours to cure, or for that matter, any adhesive that will dry clear.

Now, with the piece back on the lathe, as shown in photo #9, abrase the sand. As this is actually sand, you can’t cut it with a tool, no matter what type of metal it is made of. You must shape wherever you are applying the sand, first. Then after applying the sand, you can abrase the sand down to the wood, as shown in photo #9. You have to start with fairly coarse grit – 80 grit does work, however, I found that 60 in a power-sanding pad is a little more efficient. Work on small sections at a time. Take the grits through to 400 power sanding.

Shape the inside of the platter with the bowl gouge (photo #10) and then scrape to achieve a smooth flow, as shown in photo #11. Power sand. Finally, I chose to hand sand to 1500 grit.

Photo #12 shows the platter flipped onto the vacuum chuck with the tailstock in place and I turn most of the spigot off. In photo #13 the vacuum chuck is on holding the piece. Remove the tailstock and cut off the pip. Scrape that little spigot section, sand and finish. I chose a ‘Liberon’ finishing oil, which gave it a satin finish.

Note: You can’t cut sand – you have to abrase it. Although sand requires a different approach, there are many different ways of using sand to produce very unusual and stunning effects.

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