When Mimi said we were out of Pepper Grinders, she didn't say she meant "sets" of Pepper Grinders and Salt Cellars. So it looks like there will be a lot of saw dust being made.



To create the salt cellar use a glued up blank consisting of 18 to 22 alternating pieces of maple and walnut- or wood of your preference. The thickness can vary from a little over 1/8” to about 3/8”. The piece are about 3” x 5”.


The key to the glue up is jig that would hold the pieces tightly together at about a 70 degree angle. The pieces had to be squeezed together and at the same time held down tightly to the work surface. The base of the jig is a discarded plastic cutting board that I got from a local restaurant. The ends of the jig were made from scrap ¾” stock. The sand paper keeps the pieces from slipping out of place. Since these pictures were taken, the jig was rebuilt, using the same dimensions but made from 4 x 4. This eliminated some of the flexing that occurred with the braced 1 x material. The plastic cutting board work surface has been replaced with a large slab of Corian.



The jig also uses a piece of ¾” aluminum angle iron as a guide to align the stock. The pieces are placed on the jig in random thicknesses and alternating the wood species.



Because the finished blank is a parallelogram, a story stick is used to aid in getting enough pieces in place. Also, knowing the salt cellar will be round and hollow, the placement of defects can be arranged so they will be eliminated in the finished product.



It is easier to manage the glue up if the blank is split in half.



Apply glue to the surfaces and set the pieces against the angle iron. The center piece of the jig is straddled by two shim sticks. These sticks, the addition of wedges, and the remaining part of the jig and will provide downward pressure on the blank.



This part of the jig provides both horizontal and vertical pressure during the glue up



This clamp provides horizontal pressure



A couple of spacer blocks are added to provide a vertical clamping surface. These two spacers are permanently attached to the "V 2.0" jig.



This clamp assures the glued up pieces won’t “ride up” as the horizontal pressure is applied



Finally, two more clamps are added to provide even horizontal pressure. Tighten all of the clamps. Make sure the all of the pieces stay firmly against the surface of the jig and the angle iron.



From this angle, you can see it is necessary to add small shim wedges on top of the spacer sticks. This made absolutely sure the pieces didn’t lift off of the plastic base surface.



Once the glue dries on the first half, repeat the process for the second half of the blank. When that dries, repeat a third time to glue both halves together



Next, the blank needs to have two sides square to each other. Using part of the glue up jig, clamps and a fence on the miter gauge, trim one side of the blank.



Next, using the jointer- set to remove barely 1/32”, flatten the “bottom” of the blank. This took several, slow passes.



The blank now has one side square to the bottom.



Using a square, draw “vertical” lines at each end of the blank. Position the lines so that you maximize the length of the blank. The distance between the lines will be roughly the same as the width of the blank- about 5”.



A piece of ¾” scrap forms a waste block for the lathe work that follows. The block is sized for the dimensions of the blank’s width and the distance between the lines



Glue and clamp the scrap block in place on the jointed, flat bottom of the blank



After the block dries, located the center and drill a pivot hole for a circle cutting jig. Also, return to the jointer and flattened the “top” of the blank slightly so it would be easier to locate the center point for the lathe’s live center



Next, form the circular blank on the band saw



You can start to see design that will be in the finished salt cellar.



Remove the round blank from the band saw and locate the center of the “top” of the blank



Finally, ready for the lathe. Set the lathe’s drive spur into the “waste block” end of the blank.



Mount the piece into the lathe. To assure a constant reference, an alignment mark on the drive spur and on the work piece can be used.


Turn the waste block to a diameter that will fit into the lathe chuck.



The blank is then removed from the drive spur and re-chucked. 



Reference lines are drawn to indicate the various transition points



A measurement jig can be used to quickly reset the calipers if multiple Salt Cellars are going to be turned.



Using the parting tool and calipers, turn the transition points diameters.



Form the outside of the salt cellar. This shape was used to compliment the previously made pepper grinders, to create a “set”.



Form the inside of the blank. The wall thickness follows the outer contour and is about ¼” thick.



A home made depth gauge is used to help turn the inside of the blank. When all the turning is done, sand the inside and outside through 320 grit.



Part off the salt cellar from the glue block. The overall finished size of the salt cellar is about 4 ½” in diameter and 2 ½” tall.



Next, prepare the stock for the lids. The lid is made from ¾” maple. Start with a 4 ½” circle but the finished diameter will depend on the dimension of its’ mating salt cellar. The waste blocks- as before- are ¾” scrap pine.



Glue and clamp the lid blank to the waste block



Locate the center of the lid blank and drill a pivot hole. Note that the pivot hole is being drilled in the maple lid. This hole will be used later to locate the lid’s knob. Drill only about 1/8” deep.



Cut the lid blank and waste block with the circle cutting jig.



Next, locate the center of the “waste block” side of the blank. This center will be used for the lathe’s drive spur.



With the blank mounted in the lathe, I turned the waste block to the correct diameter for the chuck. 



Remove the blank from the drive spur and mount it in the chuck. Begin forming the lid. Matched the diameter dimensions of each lid to it’s salt cellar mate. The bottom of the lid is tapered. This helps center the lid on the salt cellar.



After satisfied with the shape of the lid,  sanded the top through 320 grit. A random orbit sander worked great for this.



Part off the lid. The lid has a dome shape. At the tallest point it is about 5/8”  thick. The tapered section is about ¼” thick and the diameters are sized to fit into its’ mating salt cellar.



The final piece of lathe work is turning the small knob for the lid. This was made from walnut. Turn a ¾” x ¾” piece into a dowel and shaped the knob



To size the tenon, use a ¼”  open end wrench. The overall size of the knob is about 5/8” diameter x ¾” tall with a ¼” long tenon.



Sand the knob through 320 grit, burnish with shavings and part it off. Wait to glue the knob to the lid until after finishing the lid’s underside.



With a ¼” forstner bit, drill the lid for the knob. The pivot hole, used to cut the lid, is the pilot hole for this operation. The hole is slightly deeper than ¼”.



Next, another jig this one is to hold the lid and salt cellar for sanding the rough areas left by the parting tool. The “top” is slightly scooped out and a ¼” dowel protrudes about 3/16”. The sides are tapered and the diameter, at the top, is slightly less than the inside diameter of the salt cellars. There is about a 1"  round tenon on the underside. This tenon is used to hold the jig in the bench vice.



The hole in the lid is placed over the pin. The lid is dome shaped and fits into the “scooped out” top



Using the random orbital sander, sand the “bottom” of the lid through 320 grit.



To sand the salt cellar, a thin piece of rubber- this piece was actually designed as a gripping device to open jars- and placed it over the jig.



Then placed the salt cellar over the rubber/jig. The combination of the taper and the thin rubber helped hold the work piece while sanding the bottom using the random orbital sander.



A little touch up sanding and several coats of water based polyurethane.



A finished set.

Using the same idea, a sugar bowl can be turned. To make a quick distinction, reverse the woods used to make the lids. Dark lid, Light knob. Also different diameters so the lids can't get mixed up. Nothing worse than salty coffee!


Thanks for looking!






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Comment by Lewis Kauffman on May 14, 2014 at 7:09am

Thanks for the kind words, Mark!

I'll have to try the chop stick method!!!

Lew Kauffman-
Wood Turners Forum Host
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Comment by Mark Wisecarver on May 14, 2014 at 5:54am

Tip: Chop sticks make great depth gauges, hold one across the face the other resting on it is slid into the void.

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Comment by Lewis Kauffman on December 18, 2011 at 7:10am


I love those old time grinder mechanisms. I think they look so cool!


Comment by SQ on November 5, 2011 at 9:05pm

It's stunning!  Your work is truly amazing.  What a great set.  Really enjoy your posts. I learn something new every time.  




It it can't be fixed with glue and sawdust - it's not worth fixing.

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Comment by Lewis Kauffman on November 4, 2011 at 5:31pm

Thanks for the heads up on the edit button. Hadn't realized it was gone.

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Comment by Lewis Kauffman on November 4, 2011 at 5:23pm

Actually, Charles, when I make these I shape the top with a scraper. The first ones I sanded on the lathe using hand held sand paper. I switched to the random orbital sander when I made a large batch.


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Comment by Lewis Kauffman on November 4, 2011 at 5:12pm

Thanks for the kind words, Charles! Please post your versions. I'd love to see them.


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