The making of a pepper mill for Saltwater Grille


I get asked all the time about how I make a pepper mill.  While I was making a pepper mill for Saltwater Grille in S. Portland, ME I thought that I would take pictures of the process and give a brief explanation of how I go about making a mill.  I know, genius, huh?  So what follows is the process that I used to make an 18″ pepper mill.


Here I have roughed the pepper mill to round between centers on my lathe.  I have cut in for the head and will now take it to the band saw to cut off.

 There is a lot going on in this picture.  The mill body is being held in a 4 jaw chuck at the head of the lathe.  I have a steady rest (white thing with orange wheels) holding the free end of the body.  I am working at the foot of the body.  I have already smoothed the end up with a detail gouge.  Making it slightly concave so that the mill will sit evenly on a table or counter.  I’ve sanded the end, drilled the larger hole and what you see is me drilling the hole that goes completely through the body.  I will drill about 3/4 of the way through the body.  Flip it around, smooth the other end making it flat (not concave) and drill in from that end.  I do that because it makes the through hole perfectly centered in the mill body.

With the body drilled out I then work on the head.  In this picture I am holding the head in the 4 jaw chuck and have already turned a tenon to fit inside the through hole of the body.  This helps keep the head aligned with the body.  Then I’ve drilled a hole for the drive plate (basically a round washer with a square hole in the center) and am now drilling a 7mm hole about 3/4 of the way through the head.  I will flip this around in the chuck and trim the head to the finished length.  Which is about 1 7/8″ in this case and then drill in again with the 7mm drill bit.  This hole is for the square drive shaft to come up through body, drive plate and to connect with the adjustment knob on the top of the mill.

Pictured here is a special tool that I made to hold the head so that I could turn it separately from the body.  As you can tell from the picture it’s a really complicated tool.  A block of wood, turned down for access to all parts of the head, and a 7mm drill bit epoxied into the wood.

Here is the highly sophisticated tool with the head of the mill on it ready for turning to shape.

Here the head has been completely turned and now the tailstock of the lathe (round cone) will be pulled away so that I can have access to the entire head to sand it.

Here is another highly sophisticated tool.  This will actually slide into and hold the foot of the body without marking up the wood while I turn the body to shape.

Here is the body being held between the tool above and the tailstock for the final turning to shape.  At this time I will cut the shoulder down to meet the head and roll beads or rings onto the body (in this case 3 separate areas of beads/rings) and then turn the areas down to the final shape between the beaded areas.  Everything will be sanded and then a finish will be applied all before it’s taken off from the lathe.  Once it’s dry I will buff the head and body with 3 layers of wax, the last being carnuba wax.  The last thing that I do is assemble the mechanism into the mill and it’s done.

Here is the finished mill.  This one and a few more can be found in use at The Saltwater Grille in S. Portland, Maine.  You can find Saltwater Grille at 231 Front St and on the web by clicking on their name here Saltwater Grille.



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  • Kim Dailey