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Making a Presentation Plaque

presentation plaqueEveryone likes to get recognition for things they have done a good job on. These recognitions can come in a variety of ways. Sometimes they are formal, as in someone is presented with some sort of a trophy, plaque or other form of recognition, while in other cases someone is recognized for their talents simply by being asked to do something.

What I mean by that, is that sometimes woodworkers are asked to make special presentation pieces that will be presented to others, but the fact that one woodworker is singled out is also another form of recognition. It means that someone thinks enough of their work that they are even asked to make something for others. Along the way, the woodworkers are very often recognized during the ceremony for their hard works and efforts.

Making Trophies, plaques, presentation boxes, pens and many other forms of giftware is a very common part of being a woodworker. What's fun about it is that you get to work on something and add your own artistic flare to it ... well, usually you are, and even if you aren't, we do anyway don't we. I my case I was given some very beautiful and detailed solid silver, miniature pick and shovel ornaments that were to be mounted on some sort of a background.

My first thought was to make something like a "shield" style of plaque ... then on further thought, I wondered if a square plaque with some semi circles cut in the 4 corners would look better - and then, my mind went wild, wow, there are tons of things I could do with this. A chance to let the artist in me come out and do something really unique.

The first thing I did was gather together a few different pieces of wood, I even went to a friend woodworker and went through his wood pile and brought home something from him. The next step would be to line them up, place the little pick and shovel on them and just see which one jumped out at me as being the best combination.  This is an excellent way to help make selections ... when you can actually see what things are going to look like.

My favorite piece was a cutaway of some outside wood or a log with all the bark removed, maple I think, but it's is highly figure, knobby and is such an awesome piece of wood, it was easily my favorite. As I place the silver tools on each piece of wood, to my dismay my favorite soon became my no-go wood. I tried others ... back and forth, and in the end, a very dark piece of wood I just happened to have (and it even happened to be the perfect size) ... it was the piece that won  out. For me, it was a pretty easy pick when I could see all the woods together and try the tools on each.

I decided to go back to my earlier thought and make the semi circle cutaways in the four corners to help give the wood a bit more interest that just a rectangular piece of wood. Again, I tried some different sizes using quarter cutaways in each corner until I found a size that I liked, that seemed to give a nice balance to the wood and the tools.

I drew these out and cut them off on the scroll saw, then did some detail sanding with my orbital sander. It's important to make sure all the edges are smooth with not bumps and that the semi circles are perfectly sanded because I am going to want to use my router to put an edge on the the wood. If there are ANY bumps or imperfections, the bearing on the bottom of the router bit will telegraph that defect into the wood and the cut will be an obvious flaw. The only way to fix these is sand the edge flat and re-route.

after the routing, I drilled a hole in slightly upper half of the plaque, a sixteenth of an inch, just to accommodate the wire that would have to go through the hole to hold the tools to the plaque. I also made a forstner bit cut in back behind that hole that I could use to tighten down the wire.

Next was finishing and this would determine if the wood I picked would really be the best choice. As usual, I picked my favorite finishing Osmo, and applied 3 coats over 3 days .. the result was an outstanding plaque in very dark wood with just the right sheen on it. No wonder I love Osmo.

Before attaching the tools with the fine wire I had picked up, I also drilled a small hole in the back of the plaque that would allow it to be hung on the wall. After fidgeting around with the wire and the tools for a bit, I finally got them on, and tightened down ... wow, they looked awesome. Just what they should be, the wood does not take away from the detail of the small tools, but augments them, just what it should be doing. A great presentation piece .. simple but elegant.

Copyright - Colin Knecht