Pepper and salt shakers make a great unique, handmade gift. Here is how to make them using scrap wood and a lathe!

If you’re not already aware, there is a salt trick used in wood working which helps with glue-ups. If you sprinkle a little salt on the board when you’re doing a glue-up, it gives the boards a little bit of traction to prevent them from slipping around while you’re clamping them together. However my problem is I tend to remove the saltshaker from the kitchen but always forget to return it. So, I decided to make a dedicated saltshaker on my new wood lathe my woodshop.

Things I Used In This Salt Shaker Project: 

Excelsior Lathe
Carbide Mini Turning Tool Set
Shop Stool
4″ Tool Rest 

Pen Turning Carbide Tool Set
Deft Spray Lacquer
Super Jaws
Japanese Pull Saw

Wooden Handscrew Clamps
Triton Belt Sander
Triton Drill
Forstner Bit Set
Center Finder

I think this machine is great for getting started. It’s a plug-and-play machine and I was able to take it out of the box, plug it in, change out a few of the components to do spindle turning and I was ready to go.

2 Saltshaker

To start with I am using Rockler carbide tools; both the large set and the smaller pen turning set. I started off only using the larger set to get the shape roughed-in. Once it was time to do the smaller detail work on the saltshaker I switched over to using the pen turning set.

3 Saltshaker

Now since I’m just playing around getting used to my machine, I raided my scrap bin and pulled out anything that I could turn into a round shape. I have a lot of cut down 2×4’s and even some old table leg scraps I cut down. I learned very quickly that the long grain pine scraps were a bit more messy and difficult to turn than the shorter grain oak table leg scraps. The oak blanks measure roughly 1-3/4” square and I thought they were the perfect size to make saltshaker’s.

4 Saltshaker

Once I had the basic shape of the saltshaker turned on the lathe, I hit it with a bit of sand paper. I was impressed at how easy it is to sand the wood as it turned on the lathe. It takes very little time to move through the grits of sandpaper to get the surface finish you need when sanding on the lathe. I started by using 100 grit, then switched to 120, then finished up using 220. I would advise using extreme caution when putting your hands on turning material however. If you decide to recreate this project on your own, just be very careful. : )

9 Salt Shaker

With the surface nice and smooth from sanding I decided I wanted to add a bit more character to the saltshaker with some accent lines. For the accent lines, I used a little tool called a “Garrotte” wire. You may have seen these little doo-dads used on classic mob movies as a strangulation device – and I can see why : ) However, for this project I’m using it to burn in the accent lines. I moved the tool rest out of the way and as the part turns, I simply pull the Garrotte wire in to the workpiece so that it burns a line in the material.

8 Salt Shaker

After strangling the saltshaker with the Garrotte wire, I removed the whole spindle (or workpiece) from the lathe and took it over to my super jaws where I clamped it down and used a pull saw to cut the bottom off.

5 Saltshaker

The next item is to drill out the well which holds the salt. For this, I would clamp the shaker in a wooden C-clamp then use my drill-press and a ¾” forstner bit to drill a blind hole. I made this hole go about 3/4 of the way into the saltshaker.

6 Saltshaker

Now I needed to make the small pour holes for the shaker. I removed it from the clamp and then used a cordless drill and a 3/32” bit to create five holes in the top of the shaker. These holes are through holes, meaning they go all the way through the material – from the top surface of the shaker all the way in to the well which I created with the forstner bit. In order to do this I had to clamp onto the end of the bit with my drill since my 3/32” bit is kind of short. I needed enough drill bit length to get through the material.

7 Saltshaker

And now the shaker’s done other than some finish work. I clamped my belt sander down to my workbench and used it to clean the top and bottom up. Then I gave it three coats of spray lacquer.

10 Salt Shaker

Lastly, I pilfered through my husband’s collection of plastic caps and plugs and found the perfect cap to fit the hole I created. Then I filled this little baby up, plugged the bottom of it, and spent the rest of the day admiring it on the shelf : )

1 Saltshaker

Admittedly, I got carried away and made a few of these, but that’s okay because it’s good practice. A salt and pepper shaker set would make a good gift for just about anybody however remember that a nicely turned saltshaker would also make a good gift for a workshop buddy. It’s small and simple but really functional in a woodshop.

Happy Turning – April : )

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