Carl’s Cactus Plate Bowl

Ric Rac Orchid Cactus Plate Bowl Photo: Ric Rac Orchid Cactus Plate Bowl

Last month, I found these old photos that I never got around to writing up. They are still relevant. Thus, here is my Ric Rac Cactus Plate Bowl.

I created this plate bowl back in 2013. Not long after taking a class with Al Stirt at The Center for Furniture Craftsmenship in Maine.

I used Al's pattern layout, and sgraffito process.

My inspiration for the pattern was my Ric Rac Orchid Cactus. See photo above.

Note: I call a plate with a small blow in the center a "Plate Bowl". Sgraffito definition "decoration by cutting away parts of a surface layer (as of plaster or clay) to expose a different colored ground".

Here is how I created the decoration on my plate bowl:

Photo: Inspiration Inspiration

My inspiration for the pattern was my Ric Rac Orchid Cactus.

Boy this cactus was small back in 2013. It is now a big boy. I have propagated it into numerous plants. See photo at end.

Photo: Trace the Pattern Trace the Pattern

Here I have traced the leaf (stalk?) pattern onto the plate bowl with a yellow water color pencil.

I am using a WATER COLOR pencil because I can easily remove it with a wet paper towel. Water color pencils are easy to find in art supply stores.

I turned the plate bowl out of maple wood. Then, I prepped it with (one or two coats, I don't remember) of black acrylic gesso paint. I thined the gesso a little with some water. The gesso dries flat. I like to use a good quality gesso. I use either Golden or Liquitex brand.

Later, I will top coat the finished piece with a semi gloss or gloss finish. For now, I just want a nice flat surface I can draw on.

After the gesso dried, I sprayed it with flat lacquer to toughen up the gesso and make it water proof. In 2013, I probably used Deft brand flat lacquer. Sprayed on from a rattle can. Today (in 2019) I would use 2 to 3 VERY LIGHT coats of Krylon brand "Matte Finish 1311". Matte is the name of the finish. It dries fast and makes a great surface to work on top of.

Photo: Transfer the Pattern to a Template Transfer the Pattern to a Template

After I create a pattern that I like, I need to replicate it over and over on the plate. I do this by creating a template.

I get some thin, yet rigid, see thru plastic sheet from local craft or fabric store. Quilters use this stuff. Low cost. You can get it with or with out a grid on the plastic. It looks like I had the grid stuff back in 2013. I now prefer it, with out the grid.

I trace the pattern I like onto the plastic with a run of the mill #2 pencil. Click on the photo for a better view.

Photo: Cut Out The Template Cut Out The Template

I cut out the template with an X-acto knife.

Note: Should I call it a Template or Stencil? I am going with template.

Photo: Test The Template Test The Template

Here I am testing out the template. It looks good.

Notice that I discarded the part in the middle. The part that most people would keep. I want the outline of the shape. Not the shape. Why, will become obvious in the next couple of photos.

Photo: Template Positioning Gizmo Template Positioning Gizmo

Now I need a way to rotate the template around the center of the bowl and position it at the same angle.

The photo shows the gizmo, I came up with. I cut a piece of plywood that fits in the center bowl. Then I attached the plywood to a chunk of scrap metal.

Then I taped the template to the metal with some masking tape. Now, I have a template that can be rotated to any position on the bowl.

This gizmo works on any outside shape plate (square, oval or round) with a round bowl in the center (or off center).

Photo: How Many? How Far Apart? How Many? How Far Apart?

Now I play around. I move the pattern around and decide what visually looks best. How close together, do I want the leaves? How many leaves fit nicely all the way around the plate?

I can use my yellow WATER COLOR pencil to temporarily draw things on and see how they look. Because I can easily erase the water color with a damp paper towel.

I decided, I wanted 7 leaves. 7 is an odd number. Things often occur in nature in odd numbers. 3, 5, 7, etc. Odd numbers often look best.

7 leaves allows the widest part of the leaves to almost touch. About 3/16" apart. The pattern will visually fill up most of the plate. But, not to much! See photos below.

Photo: Make Reference Marks Make Reference Marks

Now it is time to make some reference marks that will allow me to evenly space the pattern.

360 degrees / 7 leaves = 51.43 degrees. Thus, I need a reference line every 51 degrees and then fudge the last one a little if needed to make it look good.

I used my protractor to mark the first 51 degree spot. Then, I just attached the protractor to my gizmo and rotated it, to make a mark every 51 degrees.

I made all the marks with a WATER COLOR pencil so I can easily erase them later with a damp paper towel.

Updated: 3/9/2023. If I was doing this today then I would use my “Index Wheels” rather than a protractor. They are easier to use and faster. My “28 Spokes – By 7” index wheel does by 7 in a flash. NO Math! See my “Carl’s Index Wheels – How To Use” blog entry.

Photo: 7 Reference Marks 7 Reference Marks

This photo shows the 7 reference marks.

Why didn't I use the index in the lathe? Well, I find indexes built into lathes, are generally, completely and totally useless in my not so humble opinion! They are way to hard to use. They are often buried inside and/or hard to see. They have way to many holes. I only need like 12! Counting every fifth hole or what ever is for the birds! It never comes out right! Are they zero or one origin? Err……

In this case, there is no doubt, any lathe index is completely and totally useless! I want 7, an odd number. Lathe indexes are always even numbers!

Photo: Replicate the Pattern Replicate the Pattern

Here I have taped the template to my gizmo. I am rotating the gizmo. Lining it up on my reference marks. Drawing on the pattern with a WATER COLOR pencil.

Photo: Read To Go Read To Go

This photo shows the pattern all drawn on and ready to go.

Photo: Circle T-Square Circle T-Square

This photos shows my circle T-Square. I got this from Al Stirt. The t-square has been adapted to ride on the outside edge of a circle.

In this case, my outside bowl is circular (rather than square or oval) and my inside bowl is in the center, thus I could have used this rather than my gizmo.

I could have just taped my template to the t-square and then rotated the t-square.

Photo: Outline the Pattern Outline the Pattern

Here I have started carving in the pattern with a 1/8" ball cutter (burr) in a rotatory tool.

Note: You can only sort of see the shaft of the tool in the photo. The cutter is not visible.

It looks like, I was using my Foredom Flex Tool back in 2013. Today, I would just use a Dremel style tool. It's the pattern and operator that matters. Not the tool!

Photo: Fill In the Pattern Fill In the Pattern

Here I have RANDOMLY filled in most of the pattern.

Photo: Carving All Done Carving All Done

Here the carving is all done. I used a 3M Radial Bristle disk to clean up any carving fuzz.

Ready for a finish. Hum? Well, I don't really known. It may already have a semi gloss lacquer finish on it.

Photo: The Finished Piece with Inspiration The Finished Piece with Inspiration

Can you see the resemblance?

Photo: Finished Piece Finished Piece

Here is the finished piece.

My Ric Rac Cactus Plate Blow. 8-1/4" diameter, 1-1/4" tall. Cherry wood. Power carved pattern. Semi gloss lacquer finish.

My Ric Rac Orchid Cactus in 2018 Photo: Ric Rac Orchid Cactus in 2018

Here is a picture of my Ric Rac Orchid Cactus. Out on my deck in 2018. It's a big boy now. Click on the photo for a better view.

The Ric Rac Cactus is on the right. Pointed to by magenta arrow. There is another Orchid Cactus on the left in full bloom. I love the red one. I don't known the name. It was a cutting from a mother plant with fantastic flowers.

I love Orchid Cactus because they have fantastic flowers. They are really tough. Easy to grow. But, they can be a bit ugly when not in bloom.

I love the shape of the Ric Rac Cactus leaves (stalks?) and the flowers look great. The flowers are white and orange. However, the Ric Rac flowers do not smell good. They have sort of an industrial smell. Not really foul, but not sweet and pleasant.

The red one in photo smells good. But the smell is faint.

Carl’s Cactus Plate Bowl Photo Collage Photo: Carl's Cactus Plate Bowl Photo Collage

I made this photo collage for the “About Section” on my “Carl Ford Woodturner” Etsy page.

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