Disposable Faceplates - for the Lathe




About: I've built houses, decks, custom cabinets, furniture of all types. Ive done furniture repair and restoration, residential and commercial remodels, restaurant seating and tables and hotel furniture. Ive been ...

All wood lathes come with a face-plate to get you turning right away. I use mine quite a bit for large projects, but oftentimes the face-plate is too large for a project. Or there is not a lot of extra wood available for screws to bite into without ruining the project. And sometimes, I have a project in finishing stage still attached to the faceplate. Even with a decent chuck for my lathe, I still find these to be very handy to have on hand.

I don’t have a second faceplate right now, nor do I need one often enough to justify buying another. So I got one of those metal taps that fit the thread size/pitch of my lathe spindle. Most specialty woodworkers supply stores carry the common sizes for your lathe, and most are flat bottoming taps. I will say that they are a bit overpriced for my taste (I’m cheap) and there are cheaper ways to get this done. I don’t think you need a flat bottoming tap, as the hole goes through the full thickness of the block of wood.

You can buy individual taps from tool supply companies. You do not have to buy a full set of. Ask your auto parts store clerk if they carry them. They do not have to be expensive name brand taps, they can be cheap ones. You are only cutting wood and these are made to cut metal..

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Step 1: Gather Material and Scrap-wood

I have had great luck using construction grade material for these face-plates. Hardwood works better and  if you are working on a larger project I strongly suggest using hardwoods only.
In this instructable, I am using scrap 2X4 material. Start by cutting square blocks. I used a miter saw for this along with a stop block for repetitive accuracy.
I usually make a few at a time so I have many on hand.

Step 2: Mark Centers and Drill the Holes

Using a square, I marked centers on all blocks from corner to corner. Next, using a spring punch or scratch awl, make a divot in the center for the drill bit to bite into. I then went back to the miter saw with the blocks and chopped the corners off to make them lees prone to tear-out on the lathe.
It is important you know your proper spindle size before drilling the hole. My lathe spindle is 1"-8TPI. I need the same sized tap.
The spindle is 1", I use a 7/8" bit for the hole. If your tap is a bottoming tap you will be able to use thinner stock for your faceplate, But I wouldn't use anything under 1" thick material for these face plates. I drill all the way through the block. and have a scrap wood block under the face-plate block to prevent tear-out.
Once you have all the holes drilled, it's time to tap them.

Step 3: Time to Tap

Tapping any hole can be challenging. The most important thing to do is to, and this is crucial, is to START STRAIGHT. If you have a drill press, use it here. Chuck the tap in the drill press and bring it down too the faceplate hole and turn the chuck with your hand as you pull the swing arm down gently. The threads should take over after about 1/4". So once you get it deep enough and straight you can do the rest by hand. Leave the tap in the hole and loosen the chuck to remove the face-plate and tap. Clamp the face-plate in a vice and attach the tap handle and finish the threads. Back it out often to clear the wood-chips.

Moving on...

Step 4: How to Use Them

At this point I store mine until I need one. They aren't ready for use just yet, but only require a little work before they are ready.
2X4 material is 1-1/2" thick. This thick of material will seat on the spindle without a washer behind it, but there are cases where I will put a washer behind the block so that I can use thinner material for a face-plate.
Once you have the face-plate tight on the spindle and seated nice and solid, set-up your tool-rest and round the block of wood.
Then re-adjust the face-plate to the face and flatten and square the bottom.
Now your face-plate is ready to be glued to a project. I keep it on the lathe and use the tail-stock as a clamp. you may have to get creative.
These really are handy in a pinch and are cheap and easy to make.
Thanks for looking.



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    12 Discussions


    5 years ago on Introduction

    I use "semidisposable" wood chucks. They have a 3/4 inches nut welded to a thick big washer. The nut enters into a hole in a piece of plywood, and the washer has three holes, each to allocate a 1/2 " screw. The outer faceplate is turned cup shaped, in order to be easy to remove the finished piece. When the cup shape is too shallow I stick a new piece of wood to renew it.

    3 replies

    Reply 4 years ago on Introduction


    Really appreciated your presentation.

    I do have one caution. It is a safety issue.

    Using softwood or, horror of horrors, plywood for the chucks you make is just asking for a catastrophic failure. The forces involved when you experience a catch (Let's be honest, it happens even to the best of us) are beyond what most of us would imagine. Having had a few softwood homemade chucks disintegrate or crack through the years, I finally listened to some of my expert friends and will only use hardwood for what you suggest. Even for small projects, especially at faster speeds, the risks are just not worth it!


    Reply 4 years ago on Introduction

    Maybe I am using too slow speed, because although I have many catches during each work, never had a broken chuck. I make them in pine and phenolic plywood.


    4 years ago on Introduction

    interesting idea but for the cost of a threading kit you could buy 5 small faceplates.

    I have 3 x 75mm faceplates and attach a sacrificial block of pine with tec screws then PVA glue the work piece to that.

    Clamp between centers while glue sets and after 20 minutes you are ready to go.

    If i need a quick stick thats not going to be under too much load I'll use a hot glue gun to stick wood together.

    Also learning to make tight fitting 'Jam' chuck, it will be usefull in many other applications.

    Bill WW

    5 years ago on Introduction

    Your disposable faceplates also eliminate the real risk (in my case anyway) of hitting a screw with a tool.

    1 reply
    SlickSqueegieBill WW

    Reply 5 years ago on Introduction

    Do you have any buddies with the same thread? Split the cost with them. Its not something that gets used all the time and if its taken care of properly, it will probably be the only one you ever need to buy.


    5 years ago

    I like both ideas. All wood disposable & the metal fabricated faceplate for a disposable block.

    1 reply