How often have you dined at a restaurant and the waiter or waitress asked you “Would you would like some cracked peppers with your meal?” Probably more than once, right? If you’re like me I answer “Sure. I’d love some.” There’s just something nice about having a good meal with freshly ground salt and pepper.
For a long time I have browsed through my various woodworking catalogs and noticed mechanisms for salt and peppermills. Then one day I decided to order the mechanisms and make a set for our dinner table. I’m glad I did too. Probably even more important is the fact that my wife, Jackie loves them. We now use them with each and every one of our meals. The addition of the freshly ground salt and pepper makes a huge difference to the taste of the dish.
Here’s what I did when the mechanisms arrived at the house. I chose some very black walnut that I had in the shop. The plan that came with the mechanisms specified that the finished turning diameter be 2 1/2″. It also called for an overall rough length of 9 1/8″. The black walnut board that I had in the shop was left over from another project and was 3/4″ thick by 3′ wide. To account for the thickness I decided to laminate four 10″ lengths to give me a new thickness of 3″. I used Titebond 2 yellow glue. I had a blank for the saltmill and a blank for the peppermill.
The next day when the glue was dry on the blanks I cut the long corners off at the bandsaw. Now it was time to mount a blank on the lathe and begin the layout for mills’ design. I chose the same design you see in the picture above with a turning knob on top, sweeping cove in the middle, and a double cove design just above the base. Keep in mind that the turning knob fits into the bottom section with a 1′ tenon. This needs to be laid out at this time. (Overall finished length of my mills are 8 1/8″.)
After the layout is performed it is time for turning and here is where the fun begins. Now it’s time to create the image that you have in your mind. What’s the finished product going to look like? Since I had already sketched out a full size design on paper it was now time to duplicate this design.
The first mill turned out like I wanted. So now it was time to make an identical copy. While turning the second mill I referred to the first mill often. It’s interesting how the eye will pick up similarities and yes of course, the differences. It’s a good exercise though.
When I was happy with a comparison match it was time for sanding. I took the walnut to 400 grit sandpaper and then burnished each mill with sawdust as the lathe was turning. Both mills were now nice and smooth. From this point I then fit the mechanisms for each mill. Just simply follow the directions that comes with the hardware. It only takes a few minutes to adjust the hardware.
Once the hardware was attached and I was satisfied with the fit and function I then removed the hardware. It was now time to apply a food-safe finish. I used a product called Tried and True. It gives a nice hand rubbed feel to the mills.
So, you’re probably wondering why I displayed three sets of salt and peppermills of mahogany while I am writing about mills of walnut. Good question! After turning the walnut mills I was quite pleased with the result and then decided to make a few more sets for family and friends.
Creating these mills are fun. So, give them a try. You just may enjoy your meals a bit more.
-- Bob Simmons, Las Vegas, NV, http://TheApprenticeandTheJourneyman.com