Let's Turn Salt and Pepper Mills

  • Advertise with us
Blog entry by Bob Simmons posted 08-07-2010 06:05 PM 7327 reads 9 times favorited 14 comments Add to Favorites Watch

There is something special about wood turning. It is easy to spend hours at this wood craft while working with the various woodturning tools. This particular project features salt and pepper mills of black walnut with a food-safe finish of Tried and True oil varnish. This finish leaves a soft and warm patina with a nice hand rubbed look and feel.

The material on hand in the shop happened to be 3/4” black walnut that was left over from another project. In this case the (4) pieces were glued together to create each turning blank by using Titebond II yellow glue. The finished salt and pepper mills are 2-1/2” x 8”.

You will notice in the video that a shop-made woodworking plan was drawn to full scale and was also used as an aid to layout the turning blanks while the wood lathe was spinning. One of the challenges with this wood project is turning two identical mills. It is a good exercise as it causes one to refer to the plan and also to use the wood turning calipers to measure the necessary diameters. One’s eyes will soon become trained to notice similarities and differences as well when comparing the two mills.

While there is a freedom in the craft of wood turning there is also a need for strategy. It is a bit like playing a game of chess in that one will benefit by planning ahead for your next move. It seems like the more one turns the more comfortable one becomes with the process.

When you decide to turn a set of salt and pepper mills you will be glad that you did as there is a world of difference with freshly ground salt and pepper available for your meals. Your taste buds will celebrate. Also, keep in mind that salt and pepper mills make for wonderful gifts for loved ones on special occasions. Enjoy the process!

Enjoy more videos from the Let’s Build Series:

Let's Build a Drill Press Table

Let's Build a Miter Sled for the Tablesaw

Let's Make Bandings for Wood Inlay

Let's Turn a Segmented Vase

.......visit…The Apprentice and The Journeyman

…...................Learn more, Experience more!

-- Bob Simmons, Las Vegas, NV,

14 comments so far

View Joe Lyddon's profile

Joe Lyddon

10097 posts in 4051 days

#1 posted 08-07-2010 06:29 PM

Nice video tutorial!

Except for one thing… A dinner for two would have been a little more romantic and fitting the use of those brand new mills! :) :)


Thank you.

-- Have Fun! Joe Lyddon - Alta Loma, CA USA - Home: ... My Small Gallery:"

View Bob Simmons's profile

Bob Simmons

505 posts in 3012 days

#2 posted 08-07-2010 06:50 PM

Joe…Good point! ....This one’s for you!

-- Bob Simmons, Las Vegas, NV,

View davidroberts's profile


1027 posts in 3484 days

#3 posted 08-08-2010 03:46 AM

You could video the construction of a trash can and I’d be front row to watch. IMHO, your videos are some of the best out there in blog land. I love that you let the camera and woodworking do the talking for you. Very unique. You have good technique and are all business. Thank you for sharing with us.

-- Better woodworking through old hand tools.

View RonPeters's profile


713 posts in 2879 days

#4 posted 08-08-2010 06:02 AM

Very informative! I didn’t know you could polish with shavings like that!

-- “Once more unto the breach, dear friends...” Henry V - Act III, Scene I

View Bob Simmons's profile

Bob Simmons

505 posts in 3012 days

#5 posted 08-08-2010 06:04 AM

David…Thank you for the kind words and acknowledgment. They are very encouraging and also greatly appreciated!

-- Bob Simmons, Las Vegas, NV,

View Bob Simmons's profile

Bob Simmons

505 posts in 3012 days

#6 posted 08-08-2010 06:20 AM

Ron…Thank you. The shavings are said to “burnish” the wood. While the lathe was turning various sand papers were used up to 400. However, the shavings made a huge difference in the clarity of the walnut’s grain. Give it a try sometime after you finish your final grit of sanding. Chances are you will be pleasantly surprised to see the difference.

-- Bob Simmons, Las Vegas, NV,

View Diggerjacks's profile


2246 posts in 3137 days

#7 posted 08-09-2010 07:57 PM

Hello Bob

Another very good vidéo ( Very intructive)

I like all your videos

I ve done a mitre sled for my table saw with one of your video
Thanks a lot for sharing

I’m waiting for the next

Have a nice day

-- Diggerjack-France ---The only limit is the limit of the mind and the mind has no limit

View Bob Simmons's profile

Bob Simmons

505 posts in 3012 days

#8 posted 08-09-2010 10:24 PM

DJ…Thank you for the kind words and it is great to see that you are enjoying the videos. Thank you for sharing the pictures of your mitre sled as you made a sled that you will appreciate for a long time.

-- Bob Simmons, Las Vegas, NV,

View helluvawreck's profile


31082 posts in 2865 days

#9 posted 08-10-2010 02:10 PM

Bob, I’m a newbie here. I just noticed this ‘salt and pepper’ post and have taken a look at it. It was very interesting to say the least. I have put your site in my firefox favorites folder. You might could get me hooked on turning if I’m not careful. I have a little JET mini lathe. I know that’s probably not the best. I also have a Powermatic at my plant but it’s not practical because it’s at my plant and not at home. All I’ve ever done with my lathes is turn some spindles or simple legs and maybe some handles for tools.

Is my little JET lathe practical for turning something like these salt and pepper shakers? I watched the video a couple of times and I tried to make a note of all of the tools that you used. I know that you had a chuck, and some boring drills, a couple or three turning tools, maybe a tap to thread the piece of wood onto the threads of the headstock. Do you have a post with the list of tools to do something like this? What sort of equipment do you need to do this sort of thing? What’s the best book to lead you into this? And would it be better to start with maybe some other projects before attempting this?

One of the main things that I’ve done in my work is work in our machine shop at the plant building jigs, fixtures, machine parts, and even building machines so I’ve used metal lathes. I know that they aren’t the same thing but this might be right up my alley. I’m 60 years old, now. Most of the time when I get home from the plant I’m too tired to goto the shop especially in the heat of the summer so I just sit outside and unwind a little. However, I often think about my shop and what I might do in it during the coming weekend. But this sort of turning might be a good thing to help me unwind in my shop on the weekdays. Hey, it might even add a few years to my life if it would take away some of the stress of life. I don’t know when I’ll ever be able to retire now because of the way the economy has crashed. We still have a business to tend to.

What would you or some of you fellas recommend that I do to look into this in a serious way? As I say all I have ever done is turn a few spindles , legs, and handles.

-- helluvawreck aka Charles,

View helluvawreck's profile


31082 posts in 2865 days

#10 posted 08-10-2010 03:04 PM

OK, I just did a search and found this turning website that led me to a woodcraft article about making a salt and peppermil set.

They list the following tools:
roughing gouge – I assume that this is in a standard turning set which I have
spindle master or skew – I assume that I also have this
parting tool – I think I have this
peppermil kit – I assume that this is the peppermil mechanical components
four-jawed chuck and cone center – ok, this is where I might need some guidance; I obviously assume that the chuck is for the headstock and is used with the cone center in tailstock after the internal boring.
What chuck and center do you recommend for the JET?

Jacobs Chuck and morse taper chuck holdershank – is a 3/8 chuck ok or should it be 1/2?
thin blade saw – - would already have
forstner bits – probably already have
salad bowl finish – don’t know what I need here.

My turning tools are just a medium priced set of tools and I have a variable speed grinder. Would this be ok to test the waters? Or do I need to get some special tools? What speed is best to grind the lathe turning tools?

The woodcraft article, , mentioned a book by Barry Gross named ‘Leran to Turn’ where the article about making the salt and peppermil came from.

Would this be a good book to get my feet wet. As I say I have turned a few things already – spindles, legs, handles. I just picked up my tools when I got my tools and played around with them with a little common sense and did ok. However, my total time here and there would be scattered – probably not over 10 hours running time.

OK, it looks like it mostly comes down to some advice on chuck, cone center, and maybe the finish unless you think a special tool or two might be needed.

I know that this post might seem strange but time is important to people and I figured if I might touch some bases for myself on this it might actually save some time for all of you in advising me. I appreciate any advice I can get. Thanks

-- helluvawreck aka Charles,

View Bob Simmons's profile

Bob Simmons

505 posts in 3012 days

#11 posted 08-10-2010 09:54 PM


You’ve asked some great questions for someone just getting started in wood turning. Many woodworkers may have these same questions as you do so my reply is placed in this new posting. ....Thanks for asking!

-- Bob Simmons, Las Vegas, NV,

View olddutchman's profile


187 posts in 3933 days

#12 posted 08-14-2010 10:26 PM

Very nice video! I am trying to keep an eye out for Your others. Ill have to chech all of them out Very nice.

-- Saved, and so grateful, consider who Created it ALL!!!

View MickeyGee's profile


119 posts in 2892 days

#13 posted 08-18-2010 10:18 PM

Great stuff Bob – really nicely demonstrated again!
Thankyou for all the patient camera work and extra shots to illustrate the process.
Can’t wait for the next one!

-- -- Mike

View Bob Simmons's profile

Bob Simmons

505 posts in 3012 days

#14 posted 08-18-2010 11:31 PM

MG…Much appreciated. Thanks for the acknowledgement and approval!

-- Bob Simmons, Las Vegas, NV,

Have your say...

You must be signed in to post the comments.

DISCLAIMER: Any posts on LJ are posted by individuals acting in their own right and do not necessarily reflect the views of LJ. LJ will not be held liable for the actions of any user.

Latest Projects | Latest Blog Entries | Latest Forum Topics