Many turnings, whereas stunning and pleasurable to make, are relegated to the mantle or show case and develop into extra ornament than a serviceable merchandise. Others are meant for practical, ongoing use in our every day lives, reminiscent of pens, salad bowls, jewellery, lidded bins, and canes. This mortar and pestle venture shouldn’t be solely enjoyable to make, however it may be of service for a few years.


The mortar and pestle that we all know immediately existed at the least way back to 1000 BC, and some scientists declare historic variations date again to 35,000 BC. Since the mortar and pestle excels at crushing and mixing herbs, nuts, seeds, spices, and medicinal concoctions, it’s conceivable our historic ancestors employed them as we do immediately. The course of could have developed in prehistoric occasions, when maybe meals objects have been merely crushed between two rocks. The lack of containment would have prompted the event of a bowl operate to attenuate loss. Native Americans floor nuts and acorns utilizing mortars carved into bedrock.

Motorized grinders have lessened the usage of the standard mortar and pestle however haven’t changed its general versatility. Regardless of evolution, immediately’s mortar and pestle is a welcome addition to any inventive kitchen and might be helpful for different functions across the house, workplace, or studio.


Modern mortar and pestle units are constructed from numerous supplies, together with ceramic, granite, and wooden. They will not be normally manufactured from metallic, though by way of historical past bronze, iron, and brass have been generally used. When used within the kitchen, pharmacy, artwork studio, or another place needing pulverizing, mashing, grinding, or crushing, design and materials choice varies. Most commercially accessible items are ceramic or stone, lending themselves to dry and prolonged moist use. They are additionally just about indestructible. Glass and porcelain are generally used however are most frequently present in pharmaceutical functions.

Some however not all woods additionally make for fantastic mortar and pestle units for dry and, when correctly maintained, moist use. Woods that can present the perfect serviceability are dense species that can reject moisture greater than porous woods. Hardwoods flip nicely, maintain element, and are robust sufficient to be used. But even amongst hardwoods, closed-grain species reminiscent of maple and cherry would work higher than open-pore woods like oak or ash, for the reason that latter varieties usually tend to retain small bits of no matter is being crushed.

Dense fruitwoods provide most of the proper properties, and I opted for olivewood. It is nice to show, nice to scent, and sufficiently dense, onerous, and easy. In use, olivewood performs very nicely. I hammered peppercorns, mashed garlic, crushed dried crimson peppers, and typically put the wooden to the take a look at. I hand-wash my olivewood mortar and pestle with dish cleaning soap and scorching water. When dry, it reveals no marks, dents, or different indicators of use.

I don’t apply a end to my mortar and pestle units, so turning and sanding is all that’s required.


When you might be designing your mortar and pestle, suppose by way of your finish use, which can influence the dimensions and form. For instance, grinding up pigments for paints could name for a smaller dimension than making massive batches of pesto or spiced mayonnaise, and grinding spices is totally different nonetheless. There is not any “one size fits all” for this utility merchandise, although I do advocate erring on the aspect of creating it larger reasonably than smaller. It is simpler to make use of a too-massive vessel than one that’s too small. Also, having a number of sizes available is very like having kitchen knives in numerous kinds and sizes. Each excels at totally different duties and is price proudly owning. Having a objective for the dimensions and form of your mortar and pestle additionally helps with planning processes reminiscent of materials choice, workholding, and software wants, in addition to deciding on the logical sequence of operations.

For the venture proven on this article, I deliberate for the mortar, or bowl half, to be 6″ (15cm) in diameter at its widest level and a bit greater than 2″ (5cm) deep. I wished the partitions to curve again in in order that the rim diameter is barely smaller than the widest a part of the vessel. This dimension and form would work nicely for the parts of guacamole and pesto my spouse and I make, but it might additionally deal with spice and seasoning blends of garlic, peppers, mint leaves, and oils. The design of the pestle may have a ball finish and a muddler finish, reasonably than the everyday single-ball design. Use both finish within the mortar, and use the muddler finish for making ready drinks. The muddler consideration meant this pestle needed to be a bit longer than normal, because it must attain the underside of a tall consuming glass. Even if it weren’t used for muddling, this design lends itself to be used within the mortar for the reason that flat contour works nicely with tougher spherical objects being floor or crushed.

Adapt the venture design to your personal wants.

Dual-Purpose Pestle

Mint leaves being crushed with an olivewood pestle

If you aren’t conversant in a muddler, it’s a bartender’s software particularly used to mash (known as muddling) spices, herbs, and fruits on the backside of a glass to launch their flavors. Mojitos, Mint Juleps, and Old Fashioneds are simply of few of the drinks the place a muddler is beneficial. A typical muddler is manufactured from wooden and is about 7-half of″ (19cm) lengthy for enough attain. It has a flattened backside with barely rolled edges to work nicely within the backside and aspect curves of drink glasses.

The Turning

Collection of olivewood turning blanks
The writer’s stash of olivewood, which arrived coated with sealing wax to stop cracking attributable to humidity modifications.

I ordered a number of items of olivewood in sizes that might accommodate my anticipated design. Since my mortar was to be round 6″ in diameter and deeper than 2″, I ordered bowl blanks 6″ sq. and 3″ (8cm) thick. For the pestle inventory, I bought blanks 2″ sq. and 12″ (30cm) lengthy.

Olivewood blank cut into a circle
Mortar clean rounded on the bandsaw.

Cutting the pestle inventory to 7″ (18cm) lengthy allowed for a 6″-long pestle and some workholding scrap. Since a mortar is basically a bowl, knocking the corners off a sq. clean at a minimal or ideally rounding the clean on the bandsaw is useful.


Starting mortar blank turning on lathe
Rough-shaping the mortar’s exterior profile, reducing towards the headstock and throughout the facegrain. The clean is mounted between facilities.

With the mortar clean mounted between facilities, tough-form the surface profile and start to kind a tenon on the tailstock finish.

Forming tenon on olivewood blank
Beginning to kind a tenon on the tailstock finish of the clean.

I discover it simpler to chop the tenon on the tailstock finish of the clean, as there may be extra room to work and the bowl-shaping cuts will principally be made within the route of the headstock, which is preferable.

Using sizing gauge to form tenon
The writer’s tenon-sizing gauge, constructed from scrap wooden, used to rapidly kind a tenon you understand will slot in your chuck.

The tenon can be used for mounting the mortar in a scroll chuck for hollowing. I exploit a shopmade gauge to dimension the tenon for my chuck.

Cutting mortar profile with scraper
Fine-tuning the surface profile with a scraper.

As proven, I exploit a scraper to refine the higher a part of the surface profile. At this level, don’t agonize over the transition from bowl aspect to foot, as that can be addressed after hollowing.

Tenon does not bottom out in chuck, tenon shoulder contacts top of jaws
Mortar clean now mounted within the chuck, with prime of jaws registered in opposition to the tenon shoulder and clearance on the backside of the jaws.

Mount the mortar clean in a chuck for hollowing. Be sure your tenon is so long as it may be with out bottoming out contained in the chuck jaws. The photograph reveals an applicable hole between the underside of the tenon and the underside of the jaws.

Hollowing out mortar blank on lathe
Hollow the mortar as you’ll a typical bowl.

Begin hollowing as you’ll any bowl. Work in levels by hollowing to a shallow depth and then thinning the partitions in that part to last dimension. Given the supposed operate of this piece, I go away the partitions at the least 1/4″ (6mm) thick and barely thicker on the rim and backside. When one part is accomplished, hole to the subsequent quick depth and lower the wall thickness to dimension. Hollowing in levels capitalizes on the power the remaining materials within the bowl supplies, decreasing vibration.

Checking mortar depth with shop-made gauge
Deepen to desired backside thickness, checking usually with a depth gauge.

Don’t overlook to periodically examine your depth, lest you make the underside too skinny. I exploit an simply made bowl depth gauge (the directions to make your personal are under).

When you’ve got achieved your required backside thickness, sand the within, as you received’t be coming again to that a part of the turning. Sand slowly, letting the abrasive do the work. Progressing by way of the grits yields nice outcomes on olivewood. With no end deliberate, I sand to 400 grit.

Fixing lathe jaws with layer of painter's tape
Painter’s tape protects the wooden as you gently increase the jaws contained in the mortar rim for a superb grip.

There are some ways to reverse-mount a bowl, or mortar, to show the tenon right into a foot. Here’s a approach to make use of a scroll chuck, since for this venture it’s already in use. With stout sidewalls and an undercut inside, you may simply use the jaws in enlargement mode to mount your hollowed mortar. I put painter’s tape over the jaws to stop marring the wooden. Orient the mortar over the tape-coated jaws and frivolously increase the jaws.

Centering mortar blank on lathe tailstock
Use the tailstock dwell middle to help in centering.

Bring the tailstock as much as assist with centering the workpiece, inserting the dwell middle level within the indentation beforehand made when the piece was first mounted between facilities. While making use of light stress from the tailstock, increase the jaws into the bowl rim for a superb grip.

Finishing mortar base cut
Complete the underside contour.

Reverse-mounting a bowl this manner means that you can refine the contour of the mortar’s backside and reshape the tenon right into a secure foot. With the tailstock in place, lower the flat floor of the tenon barely

Completing tenon cut on base of mortar blank
Clean up the tenon to create the mortar foot.

Sand all the exterior of the mortar, apart from the nub that continues to be underneath the dwell middle. Remove the tailstock and take gentle cuts to take away the nub, then end-sand that space. The mortar is now accomplished.


Rounding out olivewood pestle blank
After roughing the pestle clean to spherical, form its ends as desired.

Mount the pestle inventory between facilities and spherical it to the ball-finish diameter. Shape every finish in keeping with your design; this pestle has one ball-formed finish and one flat, muddler finish.

General shape of pestle grip
The writer’s design known as for a rounded ball at one finish and a flat muddler on the different.

The grip between them might be formed, contoured, and embellished as desired. Sand all the pestle.

General shape of pestle mudder
Shape the middle of the pestle as desired.

Pare down each ends to organize for elimination. With the pestle faraway from the lathe, you may lower the remaining wooden from each ends utilizing a small tenoning or razor noticed. Hand-sand each ends.

Shopmade Depth Gauge

Shopmade depth gauge crosspiece and dowel

When hollowing bowls, lidded bins, or different excavated kinds, use a easy depth gauge to measure your progress and decide how a lot deeper you’ll must go. My depth gauge is constructed from simply two scraps of wooden. The foremost half, the crosspiece, is a stick of wooden whose size measures at the least twice the diameter of the bowl rim. The different half is a dowel barely longer than the peak of your bowl.

Using dowel to measure blank depth

Drill a gap by way of the crosspiece on the middle of its size, sized for a cosy match of the inserted dowel. Having a cosy match permits to be used with out the dowel slipping or the necessity for a setscrew. Sand one finish of the dowel spherical so it received’t injury the within of your bowl.

Using dowel to measure bowl depth

Using the gauge is easy. With the crosspiece spanning the bowl rim and the dowel extending down exterior the bowl, set the rounded dowel finish at a place equal to your required inside backside depth. This might be decided both by eye or ruler. You can set the depth for a uncooked clean or for a turning already within the chuck and in progress. Periodically examine your depth by inserting the dowel contained in the bowl, with out shifting its place within the crosspiece. As you measure previous to completion, the hole between the bowl rim and the crosspiece will present you the quantity but to be eliminated. Keep hollowing till, when examined, the dowel touches the within backside and the crosspiece rests on the bowl rim.

Final Thoughts

Finished olivewood mortar and pestle turnings
This meals utility merchandise in olivewood stands as much as repeated use and hand-washing, having obtained no utilized end in any respect.

For this venture, I opted to not apply a end in any respect. Any type of movie end would run the chance of being broken, fractured, or worn by way of generally use. The wooden I selected is dense sufficient and appears ok that, with correct use and cleansing, its pores don’t must be sealed with a ending product. Nut oils reminiscent of walnut oil can pose the chance of an allergic response in somebody with a nut allergy. All of those issues led me to depart the wooden unfinished.

This is a enjoyable, talent-constructing venture that reinforces basic woodturning practices. For craft truthful turners, you would possibly think about including the mortar and pestle to your gross sales choices. It would definitely be a beautiful present for anybody who enjoys cooking, together with your self.

Kurt Hertzog is a previous president of the AAW, previous chairman of the Rochester Woodworkers Society, and a council member of the Pen Makers Guild. He has written about woodturning and woodworking extensively for numerous publications. For extra, go to

Source link


Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here