What the Heck is a Dishing Stump?

The title is the question I envisioned people asking if I had just written my original title idea "Dishing the Stump" The answer is that this is a dishing stump.

What the hell do you do with it? Another excellent question. As I have written here before, I have two hobbies in my life. One is woodworking, which I am slowly working on turning into a second career. The other is Medieval Reenactment, where I am a member of a group that spends several weekends a year dressed in medieval clothing, cooking and living in a medieval way, and sometimes dressing and fighting in medieval arms and armor. (I know some of you may have heard of this as the SCA or Society for Creative Anachronism, for several very good reasons we are not associated with this organization, we are a group of our own forging and identity, We cal ourselves "Tribe Woden Thor" if you want to see that side of my life you can check out our group's website by clicking this link) The reason many of you may not know what a dishing stump is or what it is used for is because it has little purpose in a woodworking world. It is used by a blacksmith or armorer to form sheets of metal into bowl like shapes. Specifically this is going to be used to make shield bosses. A round, dished metal plate that goes in the center of a shield. It provides both protection and a place to hold your shield. Here's some pics of my shield and the cheep boss I bought many years ago.

Another member of the group and I were talking about bosses about a month ago. This was during one of our groups monthly combat practices. (yes I really dress in armor and beat the hell out of my best friends with steel and sticks) I was saying it would be great if we could make some bosses ourselves to use on some of the combat shields. He said he could get the steel to do it and would do the sweat work but he had no idea how to make the dishing stump. I volunteered to figure it out. The house we were at had cut down a maple last fall and the logs were still lying in the yard. I asked if we could have one, No problem. and I took the stump home. Telling my buddy I'd have it to him by the time we met again in a month.

Well that month will be up tomorrow, I realized today I had played a bit with the stump, but hadn't accomplished much. Time to get off my ass I figured. I know I have been on a hand tool kick lately but in reality I am a hybrid woodworker, I just think that I shouldn't limit myself based on a bias against electron utilization. Honestly tonight the choice was try to work with several gouges to make a circular depression, or plug something in. I went to the plug. I hadn't used my router since before we left Maine, that would be almost a year, but that old friend was sitting there patiently waiting, Happy to be hooked up with a dishing bit and put to work.

First I took a wire brush to the stump, to clean off as much dirt and crap as I could. Then doing my best to flatten the beast out I went back and forth between my belt sander and a #5 plane. I didn't need to, want to, make it perfect, that wasn't necessary, but taking out some of the chainsaw scratches and giving it a close level makes me feel a little better at least.
 Then I scribed a ring to one side of the stump with a pair of dividers and darkened the line with a pencil. I moved to one side to find the heaviest and most stable wood. The core of the tree is definitely not that, so by moving to the more stable outer radius I found a better home for the dish. This actually worked out well because the core of this log was way off to one side. This must have been a sizable branch because there was for sure some reaction wood there.
I drew some concentric circles inside the outer ring. Then I set the router to the deepest it could reach and cored out the center.
 I then worked my way out to the outer ring in three stages of raising the dishing bit. I worked from the center out so the router would be supported the whole time.

Once that was done I got out another old friend, the rotary tool. I chucked up the biggest and most aggressive burr style I have in my arsenal and went to work forming and smoothing the actual dish.Here it is about half way done.
Then I used a scraper and some sand paper to smooth it. Again I'm just going for even, not perfect glass. I then took the heavy blacksmithing hammer I own and pounded on the inside of the dish, giving some compression to the freshly exposed wood fibers, spreading them and smoothing them before they could dry out.
Over all not bad for a quickie project and an evening of making some serious sawdust. It always amazes me how I can forget how much dust and chips the router makes. My wife came down and said she hadn;t seen me so covered in a long while. Still, if you have to be covered, you could shoose something much worse than saw dust, don't you think?



  1. I just came across this. Nice little step-by-step! I have a stump that I'm setting up for classroom metal forming use, and wanted to add a small dishing depression. Thanks for posting this!


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