I found a set of five Maple platter blanks, all 17″ x 2″ and since I have found that I enjoy working with larger pieces best of all, I made a project of it. I’ve done a lot of work with Maple and often I quite enjoy it but this project tested my limits of tolerance for soft and sometimes weak wood. However, in the end I am overall pleased with the results.
All five of the blanks were purchased from Got Wood? of South Carolina. I’ve done a good deal of business with this company and I am never disappointed by the quality of the materials they sell. One of the advantages of their website is that you can choose blanks based on size as first sort priority and then by species.
Three of the blanks obtained this way were what the guys at Got Wood? call Select Maple which they describe as: “These pieces are produced as a by-product of cutting other types of maple, and will contain one or more of the following: ambrosia streaking, mineral stain, spalting, and/or miscellaneous figure.” In my purchase this meant that the blanks all features a fair degree of curl throughout as well as light ambrosia streaking and holes.
The final two blanks were sold as Ambrosia Maple although I was hard pressed to see that the degree of Ambrosia was that much greater in those labeled as such versus those labeled as “select.”
In terms of Maple figure I have a huge spot in my heart for Bird’s Eye and usually that figure occurs in the hard maple species. Ambrosia and curl usually occur in soft maple species and that was the case with these blanks. Soft maple species, and there are several, cut easily because they are soft but they also don’t cut cleanly because they are soft. And in a large platter than is turned fairly thin the edges of a 17″ blank when turning the interior will actively move due to the thinness and the weakness of the soft wood. This causes terrible chatter and rough gouging on the outer edges that can be extremely difficult to remove. In the case of the smallest diameters the edge damage was too severe to sand out and the edges because so thin that they broke, leading to smaller diameters. I’m sure some of the fault lies in my inexperience with the species and the process but I have turned larger platters with denser and harder woods and have not had these problems so the nature of the material also plays into the outcome. Due to those difficulties I don’t think I would seek out softer maple species for large pieces but I am happy to work with it in smaller sizes, say perhaps not more than 10″ diameter.
Each piece is subtly different although in general the appearance is uniform.
The finished sizes are:
Platter #1: 15″
Platter #2: 15+” Platter number 2 has an interesting bark inclusion in the center of the finished piece which couldn’t be seen from either side of the rough blank.
Platter #3: 16″
Platter #4: 16+”
Platter #5: 16+”
All platters are about 2 inches high. The most striking difference is between platters number 4 and number 5, which are essentially of identical size. Platter 4 weighs about 11 ounces whereas platter number 5 weighs 1 pound 12 ounces, or a pound heavier than number 4. The difference is the thickness. Platter number 4, actually the last one I turned so I didn’t have anything to lose, measures, at is thickest, 0.10″. I was surprised that the soft maple was able to stay steady at that thinness and even now that it is finished I am very careful with how I handle what is a very delicate piece of wood work.