A few months ago friend and fellow woodturner George Overpeck, who specializes in bowls and hollow forms turned from local woods, gave Ted a spalted birch log. This is the story of that log’s transformation into salt and peppermills.
After applying Pentacryl to the log and Anchorseal to the end grain, Ted let the log sit for a month to make sure that it was completely dry and ready to turn. The first step was to bandsaw cut 3” slabs from the log.
From those slabs, Ted again used his bandsaw to cut 3”x 3” turning blanks long enough to form into the bottom and top sections of each mill.
Moving to the lathe, he rough turned the blanks into cylinders that he cut into two sections – a long section for the bottom of the mill, and a shorter section that would become the top.
The challenge in turning a matched set of anything, whether it be salt and peppermills or serving set handles or wine goblets, is making sure that the second item is the same size and shape as the first. The bottom section of each mill was turned first, followed by the top sections. After turning, the mills were sanded down to 600 grit.
Next it was on to the finishing station, where each mill received five or six coats of Watco Danish Oil (natural). The oil finish brought out the color and contrast in the wood. Spalted birch is a porous wood, requiring more finish than a harder, dense wood such as walnut or padauk.
After the final coat of oil, the mill set sections were set aside for at least three days so that the finish could dry and harden. Ted used a three-step buffing and waxing process that gave the mills a satin sheen, then assembled each mill with its grinding mechanism.
In addition to the matched set of 8” salt and peppermills, Ted turned a 10” peppermill. He also has in the works a 12” mill turned from that same log.
Ted purchases premium grinding mechanisms that are held in place with screws, not with glue or epoxy, so that they can be replaced if ever needed. The salt grinder mechanism is ceramic so that it will not corrode from contact with the salt. The peppermill has a high-carbide two-stage mechanism that cracks peppercorns before they are crushed and ground. The coarseness of the grind can be adjusted by turning the top knob.
Be sure to check out George Overpeck’s awesome work at his Betula Turning website (or stop by Ptarmigan Arts gallery in Homer, where you might even find George working as artist of the day).