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Spalted elm & walnut salt & pepper shakers

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Project by Dave Polaschek posted 05-10-2017 11:31 PM 646 views 2 times favorited 6 comments Add to Favorites Watch

When I cut the corners off my shop stool, I had a couple triangular pieces left over. One of them became a butter dish (I’ll be posting that soon), and that in turn had some cut-offs. Some of those cut-offs turned into this pair of salt and pepper shakers.

I drilled a 5/8” hole in the center of each piece of elm, then soaked the elm in food-grade linseed oil and left it to cure while I worked on other things. That firmed up the somewhat punky wood, but now I would have problems getting any other finish to stick. So after some light sanding to touch up the surface, I started shellacking with a one-pound cut. Six coats later (inside and out) and the wood finally started to seal up. I poured a thin layer of (again, food-grade) epoxy into the inside of each of the shakers, and left it to cure. Meanwhile, I cut 3/4” holes into a couple scraps of walnut, and glued and screwed a #2 rubber cork into each to serve as a base and stopper for the shakers.

Once the epoxy cured, I sanded the shellac on the outside with 800 grit sandpaper. Then I got out the violin varnish and a piece of t-shirt wrapped in cheesecloth for a pad. Two coats of the varnish, then sanding with 1200 grit sandpaper, then a final coat and it was time to drill the holes. For salt, three 1/16” holes should do the job. For pepper, a single 3/32” hole (pepper is lighter and needs a larger hole to shake properly). Then I used the scraper I had made a while ago to dress the inside of the shaker, and I’m basically done. I might do a little touch-up with varnish on the tops of the shakers, but I don’t want to accidentally clog the holes, either.

-- Dave - Minneapolis





6 comments so far

View Jim Jakosh's profile

Jim Jakosh

18193 posts in 2739 days


#1 posted 05-11-2017 02:05 AM

Very rustic shakers!!

-- Jim Jakosh.....Practical Wood Products...........Learn something new every day!! Variety is the Spice of Life!!

View Dave Polaschek's profile

Dave Polaschek

147 posts in 215 days


#2 posted 05-11-2017 10:19 AM

Thanks, Jim. With the shiny varnish, they look pretty sharp, but I had trouble capturing that in the photos. Next iteration will probably get some carved detail, but I’m still practicing my carving.

-- Dave - Minneapolis

View Ron Aylor's profile

Ron Aylor

1219 posts in 281 days


#3 posted 05-11-2017 10:32 AM

Looks good, Dave. Great use of cut-offs. Keep it up!

-- Ron in Lilburn, Georgia.  Knowing how to use a tool is more important than the tool in and of itself.

View Dave Polaschek's profile

Dave Polaschek

147 posts in 215 days


#4 posted 05-11-2017 10:41 AM

Thanks, Ron! The slab of spalted elm I bought is such beautiful wood that it seems a shame to waste any of it. It’s very punky in spots, but between soaking it in BLO or epoxy and filling with CA or glue and sawdust, I’ve managed to deal with all of the soft-spots and cracks I’ve found so far. And every new project I try teaches me something new.

Plus for this pair of shakers I got to go out and buy a small egg-beater drill so I could hand-drill the holes in the top.

-- Dave - Minneapolis

View Ron Aylor's profile

Ron Aylor

1219 posts in 281 days


#5 posted 05-11-2017 11:01 AM

Well, there ya go! As long as you can learn something and gather more tools … what more could a man want! LOL! Good luck with the upcoming carving …

-- Ron in Lilburn, Georgia.  Knowing how to use a tool is more important than the tool in and of itself.

View Dave Polaschek's profile

Dave Polaschek

147 posts in 215 days


#6 posted 05-11-2017 11:18 AM

Exactly! The carving might have to wait a little, though. I’m signed up for the tool swap and need to get cracking on that. But there’s always slack time while waiting for oil to dry or something.

-- Dave - Minneapolis

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