Peppermill Philosophy

I’m sorry I ran out of time for the demonstration Monday night. Here are some highlights of my thinking that you may find useful.

I think the challenge of making a peppermill can be divided into three parts: layout, drilling and design. Each comes with their own challenges.


The primary challenge to laying out a peppermill is getting the overall length of the mill to come out correctly to the length of the rod. Combined with this is the challenge of getting the top (ball) of the mill to be in correct proportion to the bottom, both in diameter and in height.

In addition to the length of the pieces, allowance needs to be made for tenons – tenons to hold and drive the parts for drilling and a permanent tenon on the bottom end of the top.

Layout varies a bit with different types of mills. What I call a conventional mill has a rod that extends through the ball of the mill with a knob that is used to adjust the fineness of the grind. Crush/Grind mills (and others that copy their design require a blind hole in the top). The hole must be deep enough for the rod to extend up through the drive mechanism. The shaftless mechanism (also a Crush/Grind mechanism) has its own special requirements.


Drilling the counter-sink(s) and the through-hole is best accomplished with Forstner bits, and in the writer’s opinion is best accomplished on the lathe. If you are considering purchasing a Forstner bit (or bits) specifically for the purpose of making a peppermill, I recommend you spend the extra for a carbide bit. Rather than purchase a full set of Forstner bits, determine which sizes you need to make the peppermill you want and purchase them. Individual Forstner bits can be purchased on Amazon for a reasonable price. Some of the sizes required for peppermills list both a Metric and Imperial size for the same bit (i.e. a 1-9/16 bit may also be listed as a 40mm bit).

When drilling the through-hole, drill no more than an inch at a time before backing out the bit and clearing the chips. Otherwise the chips can become packed behind the bit so tightly that it becomes very difficult to get the bit out of the hole.

Drill bits can get very warm while drilling – especially when drilling the through-hole in the mill body. Be careful when removing the bit from the chuck.

Peppermill Design

The classic peppermill design is the fun part of turning a peppermill.

The bottom of the mill should be the largest diameter part of the mill, to keep the center of gravity as low as possible and to give the mill stability on the table or the countertop. The bottom corners of the mill should be slightly rounded over for greater comfort, but the rounding should kept to a minimum to maintain stability.

The mill should taper so that the smallest diameter of the body should be in the top half of the body, and then flare back out just below the joint between the body and the top (ball). This allows the hand to naturally grasp the mill and keeps the mill from sliding through the hand as it is used. The top of the mill should fit comfortably into the hand and allow a grip and leverage to turn the mill and grind it’s contents.

If making a pair of mills for both salt and pepper, the appearance of the mills can differentiated by making them from different woods, or by changing the number of beads on one of the mills.







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