Turning Archive 2006

Osage Orange and Cherry Peppermills *LINK* *PIC*

Dominic Greco in Richboro PA
>Hello Everyone,

A couple of months ago I was asked by Harry Pye to demonstrate to the Lehigh Valley Woodturners Association how I turn peppermills. The two pictured here are the first that I finished out of the batch of (6). While I've turned peppermills before, these two represent a series of turning break throughs for me.

The first one is Cherry and the other is Osage Orange. Both were from wood that I found along the highway, lugged back to my shop, sawed into shape with my bandsaw, air dried for a couple years, and finally turned. I used my shop built 3 point and half round tools to make the coves and beads. Now that I have made them, I can't imagine trying to turn spindles with em'.

After sanding to 320 grit, both of the peppermills were wet sanded to 600 grit with the 50 min spirits / 50 varnish mix I use to seal open grained woods. Then they were given several coats of Watco's Danish Oil. As each coat hardened, it was buffed with 0000 steel wool. These were then buffed with my Beall, and given a coat of Renn Wax. Each peppermill uses the old style 10" "Mr. Dudley" kits as sold by Packard Woodworks. Pretty much your conventional peppermills, right?

Here's the breakthrough part. I stopped turning peppermills several years ago because of (what I thought) was the excessive labor involved. You had to cut the blanks, rough them into a cylinder part off the top drill the holes (and hope you lined them up correctly), turn the tenon on the top, yada, yada, yada. Figure in the time and materials and you needed to sell these babies for a hefty sum of money to break even.

Maybe it was because I had been away from turning these types of items for a while, but when I looked at the process again it suddenly hit me. Peppermills are spindles. Pens are spindles. Peppermill components need to be a specific size to work and look good. So do pens. Why not turn peppermills as if they were just BIG pens?!. All you need is a plan for the shape, a mandrel, and a couple bushings.

The plan was easy. I looked online at several kitchen supply web sites. After looking at the various peppermills they offered, I chose aspects of the profiles I liked and incorporated them into my own. I used a solid model program to mess with the profile until I had it just right. Then I made some detailed plans that laid the entire profile out. I even took the time to make full size templates to take measurements off of, and to use as a "story stick".

When it came to the mandrel for the top of the peppermill, nothing could have been simpler. The peppermill mechanism calls for a 1/4" dia hole through the top. Wouldn't you know it? My PSI pen mandrel is just about 1/4" in diameter! Fancy that. Some bushings made from hickory and colored with a felt tip marker (to show when I was wearing them down), and the job flew along. In the past trying to turn the tenon then drill the hole was a constant problem for me. If the 1/4" dia bit wandered, it would not be centered and the top would never work right with the mechanism. Using the mandrel insures that the hole is centered on the tenon. The bushing also helps to increase repatability.

The base was a bit trickier. At approximatelly 8" long, it's longer than the PSI Pen mandrel. So using that was out. But turning a tapered one and installing it in my Talon Chuck, and turning a similar one for my live center made a split mandrel. The "cone" portion of the split mandrel is installed in each end of the 1" dia thru hole that is drilled into this blank. The templates help to keep the dimensions controlled, and the story stick with it's "negative image" of the profile helps me repeat the curves.

I attribute the ease at which these peppermills were turned and assembled to the fact that I planned out just about every aspect of the project. Not to mention that the "mandrels" and templates used added a much needed level of control.

But, even with this control some issues occured. As you will notice, the profiles are NOT exactly alike. I had a catch while turning the lower portion of the cherry peppermills base. This necessitated me making it slimmer than I had planned. The Osage Orange peppermill was slimmer all over due to the narrower width of the blank.

You may also notice that each peppermill has it's own "coaster". This was my wife Dawn's idea. She really likes the peppermill she has now. But she says that when you set it down, it leaves little bits of ground pepper on the counter. So when I turned the sized the original blanks. I made it longer than necessary so that I would have enough to turn a grain matched coaster for each pepper mill. BTW, the Cherry peppermill is hers.

If you'd like to turn a peppermill like the ones I have pictured here, I've included a PDF version of the drawing

See ya around,

My ugly mug


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