From Tree to Thee

From Tree to Thee

We have been asked “How long does it take to make that?” and usually we answer, “It depends!” The time it takes depends on many things.

If you are wondering how long it takes to just craft a pepper mill for instance, well, that depends, too.  Below are the steps for most of them made from a single wood.

First, we have to find the right wood. Sometimes it means going to the several stashes we have acquired and finding the piece requested. If the wood is completely dry, that is good, but if the moisture gauge says it is too moist and might crack, back to the hunt.

Once the wood is found, it usually needs to be trimmed up on the band saw. Now, finally, it goes to one of the 5 lathes, depending on the wood and how it will be shaped. The piece typically needs to be turned round, so on goes the dust evacuation system (some woods are toxic, others very dusty, in any case, wood dust is not good for humans so George built an elaborate system to get rid of the dust) and one of the roughing gouges is used to bring the piece to somewhat larger than the finished size will be.

Then it is evaluated…are there details to be featured or eliminated in the final shape? Are there any substantial cracks or voids to be addressed? In general, how is it looking? Occasionally the wood is not going to work, and then back to step 1. If it is good to go, any voids addressed, the final shape is determined, the center of the pepper mill is drilled out on the lathe. Depending on the density of the wood, this step can take many passes to complete. The center is checked and cleaned up.

Now the piece can be chucked up (the wood holder is called a “chuck”) on the lathe and any number of tools can be used to get to the final shape, stopping to evaluate the piece along the way. Once it is as smooth as can be made with the lathe tools, it is sanded, and evaluated again. If everything is good, sanding continues through several grits.

The piece is taken off the lathe, and fitted with the proper mechanism figuring whether copper or brass finish looks better. Then holes are drilled for fitting the mechanism. Now the finish is applied, then waiting to dry, and again it is sanded, then more finish is applied, and another wait time. More sanding, More finish, more waiting. More sanding, etc. until we are satisfied with the finish. Each mill is signed and dated and the wood used identified. The mechanism is attached, and still it is not done.

The mill comes upstairs and is evaluated again in a household setting. It is photographed from several angles, downloaded into the computer and a number and its statistics (wood, size, finish, date) entered into the database, and the photo identified with the mill number. The mill number is inscribed on the base.

It’s identity and care tag is printed and tied to the mill. Now it is ready to be stored or boxed to send out or posted on line.

Now…how long did that take?

We want you to know we appreciate your taking the time to ask, and to appreciate that when you buy something hand crafted you are purchasing something special. They are not produced by a machine somewhere…they are individually made by folks who care enough to put their own name on the product. Thank you for supporting us, and artists & crafters everywhere who put their hearts into their work!



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