I was requested to make a 16 inch laser engraved platter for a 10th Anniversary for a friend. He selected the words that he wanted on the platter, but left the platter design and the engraved font up to me.
In this Instructable I'll describe how I made turned this platter and a bit on the laser engraving.
I wont detail too much about the laser engraving because I have a Chinese model and it is difficult to use. I hope to win the Epilog engraver so that I can own a quality unit and not have to jury rig and come up with unique processes to produce a quality engraving.
I've included pictures of some of my laser engraving at the end of this Instructalbe in hopes that I win the Epilog Zing. If you have any questions on the laser engraving or this platter feel free to comment either here or on my facebook page https://www.facebook.com/WelchWoodWorks and I'll respond
Step 1: Preparing the Wood
I selected maple as the wood for the platter. Maple, cherry and walnut also produce good quality engravings. Woods that have lots of grain patterns tend to not look as good. Woods such as pine and oak do not produce smooth engravings as the soft wood burns away more than the hard grain areas.
To make a 16 inch platter I needed to start with a board that was wider than that. Since I did not have a board that wide I jointed the edge of two maple boards matching the grain patterns on them as closely as I could. I used PVA wood glue to glue the edges together. In the first picture you can see the two boards clamped together and the "offset" required to get the match the grain.
Once the glue had dried I then set my compass for about 8 1/4" and marked a circle on the board. I would have normally used my bandsaw to cut the circle, however, with the offset of the two boards it was not possible. So I clamped the board to my bench and used a jig saw to cut the circular disk. The final dimension was about 16 1/2". I marked the center of the board as well -- where the point of the compass dented the wood when I marked the circle. This mark will be used to center the disk on the lathe.
Step 2: Turning the Platter
I mounted the maple disk between centers on my lathe. The center mark that I made is against the drive spur on the headstock side of the lathe. I moved the tailstock up against the other side of the disk and estimated the center. Spinning the disk by hand I adjusted where the tailstock contacted the disk until there was virtually no wobble. At this point I tightened the tailstock down on the disk securing it "between centers".
I lowered the speed of the lathe down to a very low speed before turning it on. Once the I was sure the disk was secure I increased the speed of the lathe. I used a bowl gouge (in picture 4 the bowl gouge is the left most tool) to true the edge of the disk up making it a perfect circle.
I then used a longworth chuck* (first and second picture) to hold the disk while I turned a mortise (recess) in the bottom of the platter. This mortise will be used to hold the platter without the longworth chuck so that I can turn the bottom of the platter.
To make the mortise I first had to measure the size of the chuck jaws. I closed the chuck fully and measured across the jaws, outside to outside since this will be expanding. I I then transferred that dimension plus 1/8" to the platter drawing circles on the platter. I removed the wood within that circle to about ad depth of 3/8". I then undercut the edge of the mortise slightly with a skew to match the dovetail profile on the top side of my chuck jaws. This face of the disk will become the top of the platter when it is finished.
Now that the mortise is completed I turned the disk around and mounted the platter on my expanding jaws of my chuck. I inspected that the platter was fully seated and secured before tuning the lathe back on. I left the tailstock in place for added safety. Having the platter mounted in this direction provided me full access to the bottom of the platter for me to start shaping. (see picture 3 above). . I cut an ogee curve on the bottom of the platter using a bowl gouge. I also created a tenon on the bottom so that I can hold the platter once I turn it around. This tenon is about 1/8" bigger than the inside diameter of my chuck jaws when they are fully closed which provides maximum holding power. I use a spindle gouge and skew to create a dovetail on the tenon to match the jaws on my chuck (in picture 4 the spindle gouge is the middle tool and the skew is the right most tool).
I sanded the bottom of the platter starting at 150 grit and working up to 600 grit not skipping any grits (150, 180, 240, 320, 400, 600). I then used EEE Ultra Shine Wax to polish the bottom of the platter. This wax has a very fine grit in it and makes the grain in the wood pop.
Once the bottom of the platter was waxed I turned the platter around and clamped the jaws of my chuck on the tenon. I removed the tailstock at this point as well. I again used the bowl gouge to remove the wood. I worked on the edge of the platter first. The platter thickness is 1/8" thick. So I worked from the outside towards the inside because the rim will start to vibrate or wobble making it difficult to cut and keep a constant thickness. Once I finished the rim of the platter I removed the wood at the center of the platter. When I was pleased with the shape and thickness I sanded the top of the platter as I did the bottom and waxed it as well. See picture 5.
At this point, I again turned the platter around. I used the longworth chuck to hold the platter securely and removed the small section of wood in the mortise that I could not access because it had been previously blocked because I was using the tailstock to hold the platter in place. I sanded the inside of the finished mortise and applied a coating of wax. This completed the turning process, and the platter was done.
* A longworth chuck (first photo) provides the ability to hold a round piece of wood continuously over the dimension of the chuck. Cole jaws have eight rubber stoppers that are threaded into the jaws, and you have to move those in order to hold different diameters. I have found diameters that the cole jaws would not clamp the wood tightly. I was teaching classes where students made a 6" bowl and I cant tell you the number of times that a student made a bowl that was "in-between" clamping sizes for the cole jaws. The longworth chuck is made of two disks that spin independently and the rubber stoppers ride along the groves hold the wood in place. It is much easier to set up and saves me time. I have retired my cole jaws since I purchased two sizes of the longworth chucks.
Step 3: Laser Engraving the Platter
As I said, I have a Chinese laser and the software leaves a lot to be desired! Scaling of the graphics to exact dimensions is not an easy task. This made me quite nervous because I was very happy with my platter and if I messed up engraving it I would have to start all over. The software that came with my laser engaver is...well...putting it nicely, not user friendly! So for graphics I use another program called Silhouette. In that software I selected a circle and the font style and created the graphics (text along the circle). Once I was happy with the placement of the words and the font I created a jpeg image, and imported that into my laser engraving software.
In the laser engraving software I started by drawing a circle that was 16". I located the laser head to a good spot on the bed of the laser that would enable me to produce the 16" circle. I then placed a piece of cardboard on the table and lightly engraved the circle on the cardboard -- multiple times to get the exact size! I then loaded the jpeg image into the software and sized it so that it fit in the 16" circle that I had created. In picture 1 you can see that I've used this pizza top for a while...might be time to buy another pizza soon! lol You can also see the three engraved circles I made when trying to size it exactly to the platter I had made (OH HOW I WISH I HAD THAT EPILOG ZING!)
Now that the graphics were loaded, I placed a scrap piece of the maple on the laser engaver and did a test to ensure that the power and speed settings were going to give me a the depth and color I desired while engraving. I locked these settings in
Then carefully placed the platter onto the cardboard aligning the edges it up with the circle I engraved on the cardboard. I adjusted the height of the laser to focus the beam on the platter and started the engraving. The engaving took about an hour to complete at the slow setting I had used for the speed.
Smoke/soot/resin from the burning adhered to the platter around the letters (look closely at the letters in the first picture). To remove this sticky residue I wet a cloth with some vinegar and wiped it away. I have tried sanding this sticky residue but greatly prefer the vinegar method. I could have used painters tape to keep that smoke/soot/resin from getting on the wood, however I was afraid that the overlapping of the tape might show up in the depth and color of the engraving.
To see more of my works, visit my facebook page https://www.facebook.com/WelchWoodWorks
I very much hope that you have enjoyed these instructions, and that I win the Epilog engraver...I really need to upgrade my system so that I can enjoy the features of a quality engraver. The next page shows some other laser engraving that I have created.
Step 4: What Could I Make With the Epilog Zing?
I'm including several pictures of things I have made with my current Chinese laser system. My current laser can be very difficult to use and is not a high quality system. I would love to upgrade to a higher quality laser system and improve my capabilities and become more efficient. I'm close to retirement and am planning on taking up woodworking full time as a business. I hope that laser engraving will produce a significant portion of my business.
The three pictures above were all gifts that I made.
The first one I made with my daughter as a Christmas gift for her mother, my wife. She had bought a similar one on Etsy, however the person that made it did a sloppy job stenciling the letters and my daughter sent it back. She created the graphics and I engraved it on rough wood from a pallet. My daughter then painted the letters white, and I then I then stained it to give it an antiqued look. My wife loved it!
The "Wife" plaque is made from curly maple (does not show well in the picture). I cut a small angle on the bottom of the plaque and mounted it on a piece of walnut. This was also a Christmas gift for my wife that year.
The Baltimore skyline was created for a silent auction for a coworker of my daughter who was shot early Christmas morning. He did not have insurance and was in the hospital for 3 weeks. My daughter came up with the design and I burned it on a pine board and stained it. This sign raised $100 at the auction!
So as you can see, I would put the Epilog Laser engraver to good use. I hope that you consider my Instructable for the grand prize.