For most workshop owners using the faceplate is a last resort method and understandably
so, I fear, a project is even shelved rather than use this method, I know, I've done
it. On the lathe, holding the workpiece can be divided into four areas, using a chuck,
a mandrel, between centres or the faceplate, with the faceplate brought into service
when other methods cannot satisfactorily hold the part. In some cases this will just
be because, whilst it could be held in a chuck, there is not a chuck large enough,
in many cases though, it will be because the part is just the wrong shape for the
Deciding on whether to use a chuck or the faceplate is an infrequent decision as
in most cases a chuck will be the obvious choice. It is this infrequent use that
creates a lack of experience resulting in it being an operation faced with a certain
amount of trepidation by anyone other than the seasoned turner. I am therefore attempting
to give the viewer who is relatively new to its use some basic information. What
then are the problems when using the faceplate?
Faceplate, to use or not to use.
Choosing whether or not to use the faceplate is an easy one in most cases, since
if the workpiece cannot be held in a chuck then the faceplate is the only option.
Of course, at this point you may have to decide that the faceplate is also a non
starter and some other method must be sought to machine the part. If this cannot
be found then one must ask is the project outside the scope of my workshop. I will
add here that using the faceplate will be more common in the workshop that does not
possess a milling machine as the lathe will be pressed into use for surfacing some
items that would otherwise be machined on the mill.
Having decided to use the faceplate three processes have to be gone through before
turning can take place, these being, positioning, fixing and balancing, non of which
are easy, or quick, in most cases if compared to the simplicity of using a chuck.
The viewer will of course realise that the faceplate will be called upon to support
a multitude of shapes. Because of this, the article will be more about the methods
and these will mostly be illustrated using simple components as it is quite impossible
to consider every possible shape.