How to Make Pepper Mills

Written by michelle labbe
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How to Make Pepper Mills
A homemade wooden peppermill makes an elegant addition to your dining table. (pepper mill image by Edsweb from

Constructing your own pepper mill may sound like a complicated project, but it's simpler than it seems. You don't need to rig up your own device for grinding whole peppercorns. Ready-made pepper mill mechanisms are widely available for woodworking projects. Once you have your pepper mill mechanism, the project becomes a simple exercise in shaping and turning the wood for the outside of the pepper mill, one that even beginning woodworkers can take on with confidence.

Skill level:

Things you need

  • Pepper mill mechanism
  • 2 wood blanks, 3 by 3 by 12 inches
  • Wood lathe
  • Scroll chuck
  • Drill bit, 1 5/8-inch
  • Drill bit, 1 1/16-inch
  • Drill bit, 1-inch
  • Drill bit, 3/4-inch
  • Drill bit, 3/32-inch
  • Measuring tape
  • Sandpaper
  • Wood finish or varnish
  • Screwdriver
  • Drill

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  1. 1

    Mount one wood blank onto the wood lathe. Turn to form the blank into a rough cylinder with a protruding tenon at each end, sized to fit your scroll chuck. Make a parting cut 8 inches from the bottom of the blank to separate the base of the mill from the cap, and form another tenon, 3/4 of an inch long, at the top of the base section. Remove the base and the cap from the wood lathe.

  2. 2

    Fit the scroll chuck on the wood lathe and mount the base of the mill again, with the bottom of the base facing the tailstock. Drill a recess in the bottom of the base with a 1 5/8-inch bit. The recess should reach 3/8 of an inch beyond the tenon. Then, use a 1 1/16-inch bit to drill a second recess 5/8-inch beyond the first one. Then, mount a long 1-inch drill bit into the chuck, and drill as far into the base of the mill as you can. Go slowly, and back the bit out intermittently to prevent overheating and to remove wood shavings.

  3. 3

    Turn the base of the mill around so the top end faces the tailstock. Make a finishing cut across the top of the base and complete the 1-inch hole through the base section. Remove the base from the chuck.

  4. 4

    Mount the cap section in the wood chuck with the tenon on top. Form a 1-inch tenon, half an inch long, on the bottom end of the cap. Make a finishing cut around the tenon. Drill a 1/8-inch recess in the end of the tenon with a 3/4-inch bit, and drill a 1/4-inch hole all the way through the cap of the mill. Remove the cap from the wood chuck.

  5. 5

    Mount a fresh wood blank and turn to form a jam chuck, 1 5/8 inches in diameter and 1 1/2 inches long. Make a finishing cut across the end of the blank so the stock fits against the recess in the bottom of the mill's base.

  6. 6

    Test and size the pepper mill mechanism. Press the spring bar of the mechanism into the recess of the pepper mill, and insert the mechanism and shaft through the base of the mill. Hold the parts in place and place the cap on top of the base. Mark the cap at the centre of the threaded part of the shaft to mark the finished length of the mill. Remove the mechanism.

  7. 7

    Cut off the tenon on the bottom of the base. Mount the base on the jam chuck and insert the tenon on the cap through the hole in the base. Turn the mill to the desired finished shape, forming curves and trim as you wish.

  8. 8

    Remove the mill pieces from the chuck. Sand the mill and apply finish as desired.

  9. 9

    Assemble the pepper mill mechanism and install. Attach the turnplate to the recess on the bottom of the pepper mill's cap. Press in place, drill 3/32-inch pilot holes, and screw the turnplate to the cap. Insert the spring bar into the recess at the bottom of the base. Press the female portion of the grinding mechanism into the spring bar and slide the male portion of the grinding mechanism onto the shaft and then the spring bar. Slide the shaft through the female mechanism and then the spring bar. Place the retainer bar over the mechanism and drill pilot holes to screw in place. Slide the cap over the top of the shaft and screw on the top knob. Tighten the knob.

Tips and warnings

  • Remove all debris from the centre of the mill before using. Tap the mill with your fingers, use a vacuum, or a can of compressed air to remove any fine shavings or particles that may linger inside the centre of the mill.

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