Baked Goods Pedestal

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This article is from Issue 64 of Woodcraft Magazine.

A turning that’s guaranteed to take the cake

Dimensions: 12" dia. × 7" high

Any artist who premiers his or her work in public will tell you that it’s all about the presentation. A magnificent painting mounted in a crummy frame is going to lose some allure; that’s just the way it is. And we all know that a birthday gift somehow seems more valuable when it’s wrapped with a bow.

Likewise, any chef knows that presentation is as important as taste, which is where this lovely pedestal comes in. It elevates your baked goods to high style while keeping them fresh under a classy glass dome. When you set this piece on the dessert table, woodworking aficionados in the vicinity are likely to start salivating over the shapely turning as much as they may drool over the edible offerings it presents.

Part of the beauty of this project is that it’s easy to make, doesn’t cost a lot in the way of materials, and offers a great exercise in both spindle turning and faceplate turning. 

I made this from cherry, but any other close-pored hardwood like maple, birch, or beech will finish up as nicely. That said, an open-pored wood will work, but you may want to use grain filler to ensure a smooth finished surface. 

Note: I bought my 111⁄4"-diameter glass dome from (item #2579332) for $39.95. If you choose something different, get it before starting work, so you can modify the plate to suit, adding about 3⁄4" to the dome diameter.

Turn the base and plate

1 Make a jam chuck, as described in the sidebar on page 33.

2 Lay out the blanks for the plate and base on 11⁄2"-thick stock. Using a compass, lay out the center and 12" diameter on what will be the top of the plate. Similarly, mark out the center and 6"-diameter on what will be the bottom face of the base. Then bandsaw the blanks to shape, cutting slightly outside your lines.

3 Draw a circle about 23⁄4" in diameter on the bottom of the base and the top of the plate to establish the tenon shoulders, and then another circle at about 31⁄2" in diameter to designate the width of the groove that will create the tenon.

4 Mount the plate blank between the chuck you made in Step 1 and a live center in the tailstock, with the top face of the plate towards the tailstock. Working at about 800 rpm, turn a 1⁄4"-long tenon using a parting tool (Photo A). 

Repeat for the base, turning the tenon in the bottom face.

5 Mount the base tenon in your four jaw chuck. True up the edge at about 800 rpm using a 1⁄2" bowl gouge. Put a mark on the edge at 11⁄4" from the top of the base and another at 7⁄8". Mark out a 23⁄4"-diameter circle, which defines the contact area with the bottom of the post. Then, at 400 rpm, drill a 11⁄2"-diameter hole 3⁄4" deep (Photo B).

6 Using a bowl gouge, shape the top of the base at about 1,100 rpm, cutting from the 23⁄4"-diameter circle out to the 7⁄8" mark on the edge (Photo C). If it helps you, create a template as shown in Figure 1, and use it to check your progress. Sand the cut area through 220 grit, and ease the sharp edge where the inner flat meets the cove. Avoid the blank perimeter in order to retain the pencil line. Apply grain filler if desired.

7 Mount the plate tenon in your four jaw chuck, and true up the edge with a bowl gouge at about 600 rpm. Put a mark on the edge at 11⁄4" from the bottom of the plate and another at 3⁄4". Mark out a 23⁄4"-diameter circle on the bottom of the plate, which defines the contact area with the top of the post. Then drill a 11⁄2"-diameter hole 3⁄4" deep at the center of the underside of the plate, again at about 400 rpm. 

8 At about 900 rpm, shape the plate in the same manner as the base, cutting from the 23⁄4" circle out to the 3⁄4" mark on the edge. Sand as before, and apply grain filler if desired.

9 Mount the base on a chuck with #1 jaws, spreading them inside the hole drilled in the top of the base. Now, at about 1,100 rpm, turn down to the 11⁄4" mark, creating a 1⁄8" or so deep recess across the bottom of the base at the same time (Photo D). Sand and fill the grain if desired.

10 Similarly mount the plate onto the #1 jaws, but leave the chuck just shy of tight for the moment. Next, to minimize wobble, align the tip of your tool rest with the pencil line on the edge, and rotate the plate by hand to inspect for alignment, tapping it where necessary to adjust it (Photo E). Now, tighten the chuck, adjust your lathe speed to about 900 rpm, and turn the surface down to the 11⁄4" mark using a bowl gouge. No need to fuss the flatness at this point; just make sure it’s not bellied outward.

11 Measure the outside diameter of your glass dome, add 1⁄8", and mark half of that as the radius of your plate recess.

12 Using a parting tool at about 900 rpm, cut three depth-reference grooves, insetting the outermost groove about 1⁄4" from your recess line. Aim for a groove depth that’s just shy of 1⁄8", as measured from a straightedge spanning the top (Photo F).

13 Working at 900 rpm, use a 1⁄2" bowl gouge to cut the 1⁄8"-deep recess, swooping inward toward the center in short, ever-increasing diameters (Photo G). 

Switch to a 1⁄4" bowl gouge to round the transition from the inner edge of the rim to the flat section of the recess. Keep the tool bevel oriented parallel to the outer edge of the plate throughout the cut (Photo H). (Note: In the photo, I’m gently pressing the tip of the gouge against the raised lip using my thumb. This prevents the tool from being pushed backward and affords great control for the cut.) Check your results with a wooden straightedge, mark any high spots, and then use a flat scraper with slightly rounded corners to finesse the surface (Photo I).

14 Sand with 80-, and then 100-grit paper attached to a straight board that’s about 1⁄2" shorter than the width of the recess (Photo J), working the sanding stick side-to-side. (Note that the sanding stick in the photo is being held away from the piece simply for better visibility. In use, the stick rides on the tool rest.) Finish-sand using a power sander with a 3" disc. Hand-sand the radius at the lip, and then the plate edge. Apply grain filler if desired.

Using Grain Filler

If you choose to use an open-grained wood like walnut, oak, ash, or mahogany, you may want to fill the pores before applying a finish to ensure a mirror smoothness. Wood grain filler is available in “clear,” “natural,” and colored forms. (I prefer Old Masters brand, available at many hardware stores or online). Natural is typically used on lighter colored woods, but can also be tinted with colorants to suit your chosen wood.

For turnings, first use a paper towel to scrub filler into the surface, working in the direction of the grain with the lathe turned off. While the filler is still damp, turn on the lathe (at 400-600 rpm for smaller diameter pieces, and 200-300 rpm for larger pieces), and use a soft cotton cloth to wipe off all the excess. Follow up with a thorough wiping with a clean cloth with the lathe still running. Let the filler dry overnight, and then sand along the grain with the finest previous grit used. After wiping the surface clean, you’re ready to apply finish.

A Simple Jam Chuck for Flat Work

I did the initial turning of this plate and base using a shop-made flat jam chuck, which can be employed for any flat workpiece. The chuck is simply a 6"-diameter MDF disc with a facing of 1⁄8"-thick neoprene rubber, which provides the necessary friction. In use, the workpiece is pressed between the chuck in the headstock and a live center in the tailstock.

To make one, begin by bandsawing a disc of 3⁄4" (or thicker) MDF to an appropriate diameter; the bigger the disk, the better the grip. Then use spray adhesive to attach 1⁄8"-thick neoprene rubber to the disc. Computer mouse pads with only one slick face are a good source of neoprene; just make sure to glue the slick face to the disk. Alternatively, you can use nonslip pad (Woodcraft item #123633), although it’s not as durable as neoprene. Screw the disc to a lathe faceplate, and turn the edges for balanced concentricity. Now you’re ready to work.

Turn the post

1 Mount a 3 × 3 × 6"-long post blank between a cup center in the headstock and a live cup center in the tailstock. Set your lathe speed to about 1,500 rpm, and use a bowl gouge to turn the square blank to a rough cylinder. Next, use a parting tool to cut a few 23⁄4"-diameter reference grooves, and then use a spindle roughing gouge to create a 23⁄4"-diameter cylinder.

2 Mark off a 3⁄4"-long tenon on each end of the post blank. Use a parting tool to cut the tenons, slightly undercutting each shoulder to ensure intimate contact with the base and plate (Photo K). I finesse the fit of one tenon before moving on to the other, removing the piece to test the fit in the mortise to ensure that it’s snug.

3 Mark off the post details, where shown in Figure 1. On each end, use a parting tool to cut a 21⁄2"-diameter depth-reference groove on the centermost side of the bead and a 21⁄2"-diameter flat between the raised point and bead (Photo L).

4 Shape the raised points with a 3⁄8" spindle gouge (Photo M), and then round over the beads with the same gouge (Photo N).

5 Mark the center of the cove, and use a parting tool to cut a 13⁄8"-diameter depth-reference groove. Then use a 1⁄2" spindle gouge to shape the cove to a final diameter of 11⁄4" (Photo O).

6 Sand the piece through 220 grit, and fill the grain if desired.

Assemble and finish

1 Glue up the pedestal. If the post tenons fit their mortises as they should, just tap the parts together; there’s no need for clamps. If the fit is wobbly, I suggest gluing them together with epoxy mixed with some sanding dust to serve as filler.

2 Apply the finish of your choice. I wiped on one coat of Watco Danish Oil, reapplying it over the course of 15 minutes to make sure it stayed wet. I then let it stand for 15 more minutes before wiping off the excess. After it cured for a couple of days, I vigorously buffed it to a shine.

3 Have your cake and eat it too.  

About Our Author

Michael Kehs has been carving and turning wood for 30 years. In addition to creating award-winning designs for commission and exhibition, he teaches woodcarving and turning at his studio in Bucks County, Pennsylvania, and at the local Woodcraft store in Allentown, Pennsylvania.


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