Monday, January 30, 2012


Hi Everyone,
I like to try new things from time to time and in order to spot and work out problems ahead of time I like to make prototypes and give them to friends who like to cook. This gives me a chance to work out design and production problems before I jump into making things out of more expensive materials. And by giving them to friends to test, I can see if my designs work out in a busy kitchen environment.

I've been wanting to make both small tea boxes and salt cellars and since I had some thick pine left over from a previous project I decided to use a pine blank and make a salt cellar.

Salt cellars have been around probably as long as there has been salt. They are open containers, not salt shakers per se, and they allow the cook to grab a pinch of salt so the container has to be wide enough to admit an adult hand and shallow enough so that a person doesn't have to dig around trying to get every last grain of salt.

So I've cut out an approximately 5 1/2" blank and mounted it on the lathe and began turning it to a round shape:

You can see that I've cut a tenon and a foot. I like to cut foots on bowls because it gives a nice transition between the table surface and the bowl. The tenon is the attachment point for the lathe.

Since pine is a very soft wood it only took about 10 minutes to completely cut and finish the outside. I then flipped it over and hollowed out the inside. I've purposefully left it rather shallow so grabbing the last couple of grains of salt isn't so difficult:

This is also an interesting piece of wood in that it has a lot of pitch in it. If you look at the rim you can see an area that is really soaked with pitch (and the wood shop smells great at the moment). This is typical of pine and a reason why you don't want to burn this in a fireplace.

Since our salt cellar will be probably sitting on a counter were it could get splashed with water, it will need a lid to keep the salt inside dry. So I'm fashioning a lid out of another piece of pine and Brazilian cherry. Since it is so very cold in the wood shop at the moment and glue won't dry under those conditions, I'm going to use a wood screw to screw on the block of wood that is going to become the knob. I also am planning on turning the knob into a finial-type shape and I'm worried that the narrowness of the base could cause it to break off at some future point so I think a wood screw works well. But I suspect that it will ruin the esthetics of the piece. Oh well, we can't have everything.

This photo shows the lid mounted on the lathe and the sides and underside shaped. The lid needs to be able to be removed with one hand so it can't be a tight fit but it can't be so loose that it wobbels so it has to be shaped and cut one bit at a time till this fit is achieved. I don't like the way the screw looks...

I got the top and bottom to fit and I've fitted them together and I'm going to turn them as a single piece so the diameters of both will be identical:

And here is the completed box.

I rounded off the knob just to get the corners off of the block. After that I took the lid off of the bottom and turned it on the faceplate in order to fully shape the knob. Here is a photo of the completed lid on the bottom of the box:

Here is the underside of the lid:

That screw has got to go.

This is the inside of the bowl:

Since this piece of wood has so much pitch in it, I've put an oil and beeswax finish on it as I don't think other finishes will work well here. 


Well, I normally like the items I make but I'm not too sure of this one. The knob is too stubby for a finial and I'm not sure I like the difference in color. And that metal screw has got to go. No more screws. I'll go back to doweling the knobs on like I have in the past. Oh well, that's what prototypes are for.  They answer questions and help me to make better decisions next time around. 

I have a young friend who likes to use coarse sea salt when she cooks so I'll ask her to use this for a while and see how it works. 

The wood shop is absolutely freezing right now so I'm going to stop and come back later today after I've warmed up a bit. I'm going to shape the tea boxes I've told you about and get those on the road. And the wedding present is on hold. It's too big for my lathe and I'm going to have to figure out how to cut it without cutting it too narrow.

So let's get some hot coffee and I'll see you later in the wood shop. Stay warm!!


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