Prepare Woodturning Blank - Find Center - Make Screw Block - Brown Paper Bag

Woodturning-Classic Bowl Turning
for Beginners

Begin learning to turn the classic way with Prepare Woodturning Blank - Lesson-1a. If you are new to wood turning, learning to turn Classic and Laminated bowls will help to prepare you for progressing to other forms of woodturning, including segmented bowls and hollow forms.


Prepare Woodturning Blank - Lesson 1 - takes you through the steps to get the blank ready for mounting on the lathe. The lesson is broken down into two parts to speed up the process of loading the pictures.

Finding the center of wood blank by using a center head

Part I - 1

This is the first step to prepare a blank for turning. You will begin with a square piece of material. It may be a solid blank or, as I am preparing, a laminated blank. I made this blank by gluing a band of cherry between two blocks of walnut.

The first thing you have to do is find the center of the square. I use a center head to find the middle. If you do not have one, simply use a straight edge to draw a line from corner to corner on both diagonals. Where the lines cross will be the center. If the block is not square, the point where the lines cross will still be your reference point for the following procedures. You will see why as you continue with Lesson-1a.

Note: A center head is normally used to find the center of a circle; however, I find it just as useful to find the center of a square.

Picture of making an indent using a carpentry awl.

Part I - 2

After you have found the center, put a small indent in it to mark the spot. I use a carpentry awl to do this. If you do not have an awl, simply use any pointed or beveled object that will make a dent.

NOTE: A carpentry awl is a small pointed tool that is used to make pilot holes in wood.

Picture of using a compass to draw a large circle on a wood turning blank.

Part I - 3

Using a compass, place the compass point firmly in the indent you have just made, then draw a circle as large as you can on the turning blank. You need this circle so that you can center the face plate on the turning blank. It also establishes the diameter of the bowl.

The reason it does not matter too much if your blank is not perfectly square is that you are going to draw your circle on the blank with the point of the compass at the spot where your lines intersect.

Picture of scres block for woodturning lathe face plate.

Prepare Woodturning Blank - Make the Screw Block

Part I - 4

Set the turning blank aside for now. You will not need it to prepare the screw block.

Next, you are going to cut a block to screw the face plate to. The screw block should be at least 3/4" thick. This piece will be discarded later, so use a piece of scrap wood. I prefer to use plywood because it is easy to remove when the block is no longer needed.

Picture of drawing circle with compass for screw block for wood lathe face plate.

Part I - 5

Set the face plate aside and, using a compass, draw a circle on the wood the same size as your face plate. I normally use a 4" face plate, so the circle I am drawing will be that size.

wood, drill, finishing nail

Part I - 6

Before cutting the block out of the scrap wood, prepare it by drilling a hole in the center of it. The purpose of the center hole is to allow for the head of a finishing nail to go through the block. This is important to be able to align the screw block and the face plate.

Pictureof cutting screw block out of plywood with a band saw.

Part I - 7

Cut the screw block out of the piece of scrap wood. Because I have it, I use a band saw. If you do not have a band saw, cut the block out by the means available to you. To cut your screw block with a hand saw, make your cuts so that you have a square, then cut the four corners of the square off as close to the circle as you can.

Prepare Woodturning Blank - Use a Piece of Plain Brown Paper Bag

Picture of using brown paper from bag in wood turning.

Part I - 8

Next, cut a round piece (the same size as your screw block) out of brown paper - just a plain brown paper bag. Punch a hole in the the center of the paper circle.

Picture of finishing nail in wood turning blank.

Part I - 9

Put a 1 1/2" finishing nail in the center of the base of your turning blank. Do not go deeper than 1/8" or the nail will protrude into the bottom of the bowl.

This is the last step of Prepare Woodturning Blank -

So far, to prepare for turning your blank, you have found the center, determined the diameter of your bowl, cut out a screw block the size of your face plate, cut out a round piece of brown paper the size of your screw block, and put a nail in the center of the base of your woodturning blank.

This concludes Lesson - 1a
When you are ready
Proceed to Lesson - 1b

Go to Lesson - 1b

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