How to Make a Faceplate Centering Tool
by Curtis Turner
Round Rock, TX
This is another one of those "why did it take me so long" projects. This is such an obvious solution; I wish I could claim this as an original concept. Sadly, I do not recall where, but I saw a similar tool online. First, let's address what this tool is and why it is helpful.
are my favorite way to a hold a rough blank. They are inexpensive which allows me to justify owning multiples. While preparing for a class, I typically cut 5 blanks. Then I attach faceplates to each blank. Since these students are mostly first-time turners I want the blanks to turn as true as possible. I believe this gives a beginner a better first impression. First, I try to cut very accurate blanks. Next, I carefully center the faceplate before mounting on the blank. I have mounted the faceplate by eye for years. I can get very close to centering the faceplate, however, sometimes I miss or a screw pulls the plate off center. This results in a blank that is more out of round than necessary.
The tool simply uses a pointed rod to register in the divot left by the compass (or nail if you use a template). The "stopper" is inserted into the faceplate thus registering the faceplate on dead center. Then the stopper and plate are pressed against the blank while the screws are driven into the blank. I drive in two opposing screws to secure the plate. I then remove the centering tool and continue driving in the remaining screws. This creates a consistent way to quickly and accurately mount faceplates.
This project is so simple; you do not need to use many faceplates to find this a helpful tool. This can be made from a few simple items.
How It's Made
I chose to use a piece of scrap Delrin (plastic) as the "stopper." Any hardwood would also work. If you choose to use a wood blank, I would recommend you use a spindle orientation for the wood. This would allow any slight seasonal expansion and contraction in the wood to be equal in the diameter. I wanted to avoid this so I decided to use plastic.
Turning the Stopper
I used a chuck to hold the oversized blank and turned the spindle down to a size that matched the inside diameter of my 1"x 8tpi faceplates.
I spent some time thinking about how best to size the length of the stopper. I ultimately decided that the stopper would not need to touch the bottom (wood) if I turned a snug fitting shoulder on the blank. My thinking was this arrangement would allow me to apply hand pressure on the stopper and faceplate to better hold it on center while driving in the screws. Time will only tell if this was a viable strategy.
Once the stopper fit the faceplate, I
drilled a hole through the stopper
while it was still mounted on the lathe.
I happened to have a short piece of brass rod that was perfect for this project. One could use a dowel with equal success. The diameter of the dowel is not critical; just use your good judgment. I then ground a point on the end with my dry grinder.
So far, it's working as advertised.
I do wish that I had used a slightly undersized drill bit and sanded the rod to size. As it is now, the rod is just a touch too loose. This has not affected the accuracy of the tool.
Just go make one of these. It is so simple you can knock one out after work today.
Curtis is a former President of
Central Texas Woodturners
, a member of the
American Association of Woodturners
, and a member of
Fine Woodworkers of Austin
. Curtis teaches and demonstrates nationally for Lie-Nielsen Toolworks. He also teaches for TechShop. He owns a studio where he teaches and works. Curtis lives in Central Texas with his wife and four young children. Take a look at his website at