Pepper Mills | Popular Woodworking Magazine

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Transform a useful and beautiful object.

When it comes to pleasure for the senses, a well-turned pepper mill has a lot to offer. It pleases the eyes, is comfortable to hold and feels smooth to the touch. Of course, there is always that wonderful taste and smell that only freshly ground pepper can offer. Keep these things in mind as you follow me through the creation of your pepper mill.

Your first consideration is the mill mechanism. The mills have lengths from 3 inches to 24 inches with 8 “and 10” being the most popular. For this story I used a 10 ″ mechanism with a nut on the top.
You can also get mechanisms with cranks, mechanisms that adjust from the bottom (without nut at the top) or mechanisms that crush rather than grind. My rule of thumb; buy the best quality milling mechanism available. In other words, don’t try to save money here. The time and effort you invest is the biggest cost and a poor quality mill will make your creation frustrating.

The next step is to select the wood. Domestic woods such as walnut, cherry and maple are a good choice for pepper mills. Tropical forests are another choice. I used Hawaiian Koa for the mill in this story. The wooden blank should have a diameter between 2 1/2 “and 3” and 1 1/2 “between 2” and longer than the mill hardware to allow for the waste.

The way I turn the pepper mills often varies from the instructions that come with the mill hardware. The instructions are useful for some critical dimensions and assembly guidelines. Don’t get frustrated if the first two mills you spin aren’t perfect. I think you need to run five to ten mills before you can develop your system and perfect your shapes.

Prepare the void
1 Cut the wood in white from 1 1/2 ″ to 2 ″ longer than the hardware, to allow for waste and a tenon between the cap and the body.
2 Cut the block of wood to separate the cap and the body of the mill (Image 1). I like to position the tenon on the mill body, because it makes the cap a little lighter. I usually cut about 13/4 “from the blank for the hood and allow a 3/8” to 1/2 “long tenon on the body.

1. Cut the pepper mill to white to separate the cap from the body. Place a large “V” on the cutting area to help keep the parts oriented correctly. Cut an 11/2 “long waste block for chucks and perforations.

3 Turn all three pieces into cylinders. Then cut the tenons on top of each to fit the sliding spindle.

2. Cut the tenons on the tops of all three pieces. Make another orientation mark after the cylinder has formed.

4 Mount the base tenon in the sliding spindle. Face the end of the body with a splitting tool, to make it square at the sides and flat.

Drill the Body
5 Place a Jacobs-style chuck in the tailstock. Remove the tool holder and slide the base towards the headstock. Wear a full screen for all drilling operations.
6 Drill a 1 5/8 ″ diameter hole at a depth of 1/2 ″. You can also cut this hole with a parting tool or an oblique chisel held flat on the rest in scraping mode.

3. Mount the mill body in the sliding spindle for its tenon. Drill the 1/2 “deep hole in the lower part of the mill body with a 1 5/8” bit in the Jacobs type chuck.

7 Place an 11/16 “bit in the Jacobs style chuck and drill approximately three quarters of the body (Image 4). Work slowly and withdraw the bit frequently to remove the chips or the bit may overheat. Excessive heat can ruin your part. and possibly break the wood.

Alternative method: the 11/16 “hole is required only for the first 1” above the 15/8 “hole. You can drill the body using a more common 1” bit and then enlarge the hole for that lower section 1 “with a round tip scraper.

4. Drill the smallest hole from 11/16 ″ to about three quarters of the body. Tall pepper mills like this, may require some extension. A piece of tape indicates the stop point.

8 Clean the lower part of the body of the mill using an inclined chisel flattened on the rest to slightly scrape the final grain (Image 5). The base should be flat.

5. Scrape the final grain on the bottom of the mill body. Use a light touch and keep the chisel tilted flat and horizontal over the rest.

9 Fit the waste block into the sliding spindle. Create a tenon for adaptation to the jam with the large hole on the mill body (Image 6). The length of the tenon is slightly less than the depth of the hole. Fit is essential. It must be narrow enough to keep the mill safe for rotation, but wide enough to remove the body without canceling the force. Carefully approach the sizing of the diameter, as each cut is double. In other words, if you press in 1/32 “it will remove 1/16” in diameter. The tenon shoulder of the waste block should be flat or slightly concave.

6. Install the waste block into the slide chuck and cut a tenon to fit the hole in the mill body. The fit must be tight enough to hold the mill body for drilling and turning.

10 Mount the body of the mill on the waste block and finish drilling the hole 11/16 ″ from above (Image 7).

7. Mount the mill body on the tenon of the waste block, a technique known as “jam block”. Complete drilling from the top of the mill body.

Shape the body
11 With complete internal work, it is time to turn the outside of the body. First, rotate a small block of cork-shaped wood to fit it into the hole in the mill body (Image 8). This will allow you to use the tailstock to support the body. On some lathes, there may be a tapered cone area on the center of the tailstock that fits the 11/16 “hole. There are also large aftermarket cones available that work similarly to my wooden stopper.

8 Close the hole with a turned wooden “plug”. With the hole closed, the tailstock can be used to support the body of the mill while turning the outside.

12 With the pin in place, lift the tailstock and rotate the body to the desired shape. I like to enlarge the diameter of the body at the base and at the top, with a nice curve inward in the middle for the hand. This general modeling is performed with a chuck gouge (Image 9).

9. Use the chuck roughing gouge to shape the body of the mill. Switch to a gouge for detail spindles or an inclination for details that work like beads.

13 Use a chuck heel for details or an oblique chisel to make the details. I often go from one to three pearls at the base of the body, and something on top of a bead, where the cap and body will meet, but these are design questions for you, creator.
14 Once the details are complete, remove the tool holder, put on a dust mask and sand until there are no visible scratches (Image 10).

10. Sand the completed mill. If the turn went well, you should be able to start with 120 or 150 grit. Continue sanding with finer paper up to 220 or 320 grit or until all scratches are removed.

15 Before removing the body from the lathe, complete the area of ​​the tenon (Image 11). The length is from 3/8 ″ to 1/2 ″. The shoulder should be flat or slightly concave.

11. Rotate the tenon of the mill body about 1/2 ″ more than the hole in the body. Cut the top and shoulder of the tenon clean and square by scraping at an angle.

16 Remove the mill body and waste block from the lathe.

Model the hood
17 Place the cap tenon in the sliding mandrel. Use the Forstner tip to drill the cap approximately 1/4 ″ deep with respect to the length of the tenon on the body (Image 12).

12 Fit the mill cap into the sliding spindle. Drill a flat bottom hole about 1/4 ″ deeper than the length of the tenon on the mill body.

18 Install the 1/4 ″ bit in the Jacobs type mandrel and drill the cap (Image 13).

13. Drill a 1/4 “hole through the cap and in the tenon, but not through. Work slowly, often removing bits and shavings to avoid binding and overheating.

19 Now is the time to compare the size of the hardware with the mill you have created so far. Place the mechanism in the body. Screw the nut all the way in, then unscrew it one full turn.
20 Measurement to determine the length of the cap (Image 14).

21 Widen the hole in the cap to fit the tenon on the body. This measure should be a little loose for easy pepper grinding. I widen the hole for a parting tool or for a flat and horizontal inclination held on the rest.
22 Determine the length of the cap by cutting it with the splitting tool, about a quarter of the way down.
23 Use the detail / mandrel bead to shape the outside of the cap (Image 15). To check the overall appearance of the mill, I often turn off the lathe and put the body on the hood.

15. Model the outside of the cap with the detail / mandrel bead. The goal is to have something wonderful in the hand and pleasant to look at.

24 Remove the cap from the slide mandrel. Fit the waste block into the slide mandrel and create a new tenon or mandrel for the stopper block.
25 Turn the residual material on the cap to reach the final length (Image 16). When you are satisfied with the shape and quality of your turn, go ahead and sand the cap.

16. Jam the stopper on a new larger tenon cut on the waste block. Rotate the hood into its final shape and length.

26 The mechanism I chose uses four small screws to secure the mill to the base. Pre-drill each of the holes with the 1/16 “bit. Screw the mill hardware into place. Add the cap and nut and watch how it behaves.

17. Mount the parts with the screws provided. These screws are small and break easily, so be sure to pre-drill.

The end
There are several considerations when choosing a finish for a pepper mill. A pepper mill is a manual tool that contains a food and is often exposed to moisture from boiling pots of gourmet goo. The hands are abrasive and acidic, even when they are clean. Most film-like finishes, including wax, lacquer, shellac, and varnish, don’t wear well on a pepper mill. I turn to oil or an oil / paint mixture, such as pure tung oil, walnut oil and Danish oil.

List of materials

Wood

• A block of wood with a diameter from 2 1/2 ″ to 3 ″ and 1 1/2 ″ to 2 ”longer than the mechanism

• Block of 3 “diameter (length of the wise grain like the mill) from 2” to 3 “in length

Mill mechanism

• Recommended dimensions: 10 ″ mechanism

Hardware

• Scroll spindle

• Jacobs spindle

• 11/16 “Forstner style tip (you can use a 1” tip and the hole slightly enlarged by turning)

• 15/8 “tip (this too can be rotated)

1/4 “drill extension

1/16 “bit to drill pilot holes for screws of the milling mechanism (the size of the tips may vary depending on the mechanism used)

• Chuck roughing gouge – of any size

• Gouge detail / chuck –3/8 ″ recommended

• Inclined chisel –1/2 ″ or higher

• Division tool –3/16 ″ or 1/4 ″


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