Sculpting a Wooden Pepper Mill

When people first see an exotic wood pepper mill, such as one of the stunning pieces created by the renowned craftsman Pinky Martin, they typically want to know how it was made. The answer varies widely-no two artisans go about the task in the same manner, and few are accomplished enough to master the kinds of elaborate designs originated by Mr. Martin.

Pinky Martin’s museum-quality wood pepper-mills was first brought to wide public attention on Sara Moulton’s Cooking Live television show. Later, on the Oprah show, one of Pinky’s mills was given to a lucky fan, allowing her to bypass the two-year waiting period.

Pinky’s pepper mill designs are famed for their signature combinations of select woods and artful patterns. Each is truly one-of-a-kind-even when using identical types of wood, the grain patterns are inherently unique. The singular appearance of each pepper grinder is dependent on the selection of distinct wood slices and the shape and contours of the design.

Below is the general process of crafting an exotic peppermill in the tradition of Pinky Martin:

  • Wood selection. An artist must first decide which wood, or woods, to use to create the pepper mill. Today’s top pepper mill artisans often choose rare, exotic wood varieties prized for their grain colors, patterns, and overall beauty.
  • Cut and pattern. Once the desired woods are chosen, they are cut to the appropriate size and placed together to create an alluring pattern of varying, warm wood grains. When an eye-catching pattern emerges, the pieces are fused together using a permanent wood glue. This results in a pepper mill “blank.”
  • Lathing. The blank is center-drilled and turned on a lathe until the artist is satisfied with the shape and contour of the pepper-mill-grinder. When this is completed, the mill’s body is sanded smooth.
  • Finishing. A wood grain filler is often applied to prepare the surface for lacquer. Once this filler coat is dry, the piece is sanded and lacquered. The surface is rubbed to a lustrous finish as multiple layers of lacquer are applied.
  • Grinder installation. The pepper mill is complete when the grinder assembly is installed in the center hole. Fresh peppercorns can now be stored inside the pepper-mill-grinder, ready for your next meal.

Unfortunately, Pinky Martin is only one man, and there is only a very limited quantity of his exquisite wooden pepper grinder mills. The good news is that several talented and highly-skilled artists have taken up the mantle, inspired by Mr. Martin’s groundbreaking work. The most notable of these, Rudy Paredes, is creating exceptional pieces that pay homage to the great Pinky Martin, while also carving out a distinct identity for himself. Examples of his remarkable wood pepper mills can be found at