Gifts – Salt and Pepper Shakers 2018

Note: This video is a little different as it was shot unexpectedly by my friend who wanted to test his camera gimbal. He shot the video and I edited it. A lot of hobbies are adopted for the sole purpose of personal enjoyment or personal growth. Before woodworking my hobby was playing pool. Like my current hobby of woodworking, I enjoyed it incredibly and took every opportunity to learn from what was going on and grow the skills involved. Also like my current hobby of woodworking, I did my research and found a way for my hobby of shooting pool to be self funded; I replaced cue tips and ferrules. Unlike shooting pool, the hobby of woodworking has the benefit of being able to give.

I don’t have half of the items I made since I started uploading videos in December, 2012. That’s not because I sold them. I tried to avoid making stuff to sell, actually. I gave them away. Most of the items I’ve made that have a video associated with them were made as gifts initially or later given away as gifts. Being able to give is very rewarding and being able to give something that you created is even more so. I’m not saying we should all stop charging for work and give away all of our hard effort. But if you have the opportunity to pass something along that will put a smile on someone’s face I encourage you to do so.

“Gifts” is the reason behind these pieces. Salt and pepper shakers are an easy gift that don’t require a large material investment, can easily be batched out in larger quantities, and provide a universally accepted gift that can be kept on hand and given away as random gifts. This batch is the fourth or fifth that I’ve made over the past couple years. Every one of the previous sets ware given away at some time or another as a gift and every one of these will find a new home over the next few months. To play on the contrasting light and dark colors of S&P I chose curly maple for the light color and walnut for the dark color. I’ll be making as batch of simple boxes soon for the same reason.

The basic structure of these shakers will be two larger chunks of the same material with a strip of contrasting material sandwiched in between and on top and bottom. I already had some thick and thin walnut but to make the thin maple I finished resawing a piece that already had a saw kerf started right down the middle of it. In this image you can also see a section of the maple with garnet shellac applied. I applied shellac to this piece to see how it would look for a previous project.

Now we can begin the rough milling process for all of the material. I generally start my milling process at my miter saw station. For those who are interested, you can see my entire milling process in greater detail here.

After crosscutting pieces to a more appropriate size they go to the jointer to get one wide face flat. Generally speaking, the longer the board is before going to the jointer the more material waste you will have to get a flat face.

With one face flat we can reference that face off the bed of the planer to get the opposite face flat and parallel.

And back to the jointer we go to get one narrow face flat and perpendicular to the wide faces.

Followed by a trip to the table saw to rip the stock to the appropriate widths needed for the shakers. I am trying for a 1.75” square shaker after all the milling.

It will be easier to keep things aligned and also less wasteful to glue up a single, long shaker block instead of a bunch of shorter, individual shaker blocks. I glued everything at the same time and scraped the glue squeeze out off after a half hour.

Once out of the clamps I started to clean up the joint faces with a scraper but realized it would take longer than I had hoped for. So I went back to the jointer instead. This is a good example of using the tooling you have available to be more efficient. Often times I read comments where the person might not have the faster tool and therefore thinks he/she can’t get the job done. That’s nonsense. In this case the scraper could have done the job just fine. Use whatever tool you have to be most efficient :)

Finally the individual shakers can be cut from the longer blanks. I really need to get around to making a decent crosscut sled….

The thin stock is cut to oversized shorter lengths that will be used as caps and bases for the shakers. If you need pressure close to the blade and don’t want to use your fingers simply use a pencil or another piece of wood.

At this time ONLY the bases can be glued on.

After the glue has had enough time to dry on the bases the counterbored hole can be drilled on bottom. For this step I used a 1.25” forstner bit and drilled down just deep enough so that the head of the bit was flush with the shaker. Then a .5” bit is used to drill a hole as deep as the drill press will allow.

Here’s what the bottom should look like. This will give enough room for fingers to remove the cork that will be used to plug the hole.

Flip all of the pieces over and drill the main material cavity of the shaker on the top. I used a 1” drill bit and drilled down until I could feel the resistance decrease. This meant that the drill bit made contact with the .5” bit that was drilled from the other side. An exact depth mark here is irrelevant. All you need is a larger cavity to hold the salt and pepper and for that cavity to connect to the fill hole from below.

This is looking through the top of the shaker. You can clearly see through the entire pice.

Finally, the oversized top can be glued in place.

Last time I made a batch of shakers I picked up a bag of corks. I had, and still have, a bunch left over. To make it a little more easy to grab the cork and to allow more finger room I used a chisel to create a flat spot on opposite sides of the wide end of the cork.

Once the shakers are out of the clamps for the final time the top and bottom can be flushed to the sides. I used a low angle block plane for the bulk of the end grain work.

Then a bevel down plane for the long grain and then to create a final smooth transition on all sides.

Time to drill the material exit holes on top. To play it safe I used a 0.09375” (3/32”) drill bit and only put one hole for the salt. This seemed to provide enough salt without easily going overboard. For the pepper I drilled 5 holes in an X shape.

For consistency sake, all faces spent some time with 320 grit sandpaper on my sander.

For a food safe finish I went with regular mineral oil. Some might opt for a more protective finish but I want to preserve the natural look and feel of the wood. There’s something more inviting about a piece that looks and feels more natural than something with a film finish on it. That’s the way I see it anyway. Your mileage may vary.

The final product, five sets of salt and pepper shakers. Did I learn anything from this seemingly simple project that I’ve already done previously? Yes; don’t mix batches of walnut without thinking about it. The thinner walnut strips were from one batch of walnut and they have more of a milk chocolate appearance. The thicker walnut pieces with the maple strips are from another batch of walnut that has more of a dark chocolate appearance. It’s not the end of the world but it is noticeable. My favorite set is the “oddball” extra walnut bodies that only have a cap to designate salt and pepper. I think the next set I make will all be like this “oddball” set. Click here to download a one page diagram showing the dimensions of these shakers. Anyway, that wraps up this quick win project….on to the next batch of quick wins :)


  1. Great video, thanks Jay. Not that your other videos are not good, this different style was a nice change. I also like that the video and web article are together. Great job!

  2. Hi from Belgium. I just started with woodworking as a hobby. I m a chef in my own restaurant. Woodworking helps me get rid of the adrenaline we get during service. But the problem is, all the mistakes i do. Watchinf6u guys looks so easy. I quit 5 times a day with woodworking, but watching you guys motivates me again :))). Where or how you come up with new projects ? Thanks for sharing your knowledge. Greatings from Ghent, the most beautiful city of Belgium :)

    P.s. sorry for my bad English.

  3. Had a great time making my own sets, so thank you for the idea! I did marble wood for salt and mahogany for pepper with purple heart accents. I have pictures just don’t know how to get them on here. Again Thank you for sharing.

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