Segmented stave pepper mills put the “fun” in functional artwork. They also provide woodturner Ted Heuer with an opportunity to showcase his precision cutting, laminating, and turning talents.
Over the summer Ted created a series of segmented stave pepper mills ranging in height from just over 7 inches to 12 inches and utilizing some of his “go-to” woods — cherry, maple, and walnut.
How do you make segmented stave pepper mills?
Ted starts by selecting contrasting woods, which he cuts into wide strips and runs through his drum sander to make sure they are perfectly flat. He sandwiches and glues the layers together. He then sets his saw blade at the correct angle and cuts these sandwiches into long angled strips. Using very thin strips of a light-colored contast wood, he assembles and glues the long strips lengthwise into a cylinder that becomes the turning block. It’s similar to the process used in barrel making.
Ted turned the tall segmented stave pepper mill, 12-1/2″ in height, from cherry, maple, and morado. Morado is a tropical South American wood that is also known as Pau Ferro or Bolivian rosewood. The mill top is solid cherry.
Ted fashioned the smaller mills, about 7-1/2″ in height, in the same manner. Two of the mills use the same three woods (cherry, walnut, and maple). The different patterns reflect the varying thickness of the wood in the strips and the amount of wood removed during turning and shaping. The dark wood in the middle mill in the photo below is morado.
Each of the pepper mills is finished with multiple coats of a durable Danish Oil finish. After the last application of oil, the mills dry and cure for at least three days. Then Ted applies a light coating of wax to the outer surface and buffs it to a satin sheen.
Where can I buy one of these segmented stave pepper mills?
You can go to our Store page and look in the “Pepper Mills and Shaker Sets” category. We also sell them in Homer, Alaska, at Ptarmigan Arts Gallery on Pioneer Avenue.
How do you care for and refill the mills?
The mills are very durable. Fingerprints and smudges wipe right off. As with any segmented stave turning, do not immerse the pepper mill in water or allow it to come in contact with a source of high heat.
To fill the mill, loosen and remove the screw on the top portion of the mill. Separate the top and bottom sections. Pour in the peppercorns, replace the top, and put the screw back on. That screw also adjusts the grind of the pepper.
Is there a guarantee on the grinding mechanism?
The premium mill mechanisms that Ted uses for his mills come in lengths of 6, 8, 10, and 12 inches. Some people prefer the tall mills and others find the shorter mills to be a better size and fit for their dining table. Each mill mechanism has a lifetime guarantee, and Ted will replace it if it ever misbehaves. We’ve never had that happen, and in fact the first mill set that Ted turned over a decade ago is in constant use at our house, but it’s good to know.