Introduction: Food Masher/Large Wooden Pestle
This is a simple kitchen device for mashing, crushing, pounding, and mixing food. I asked my father to make one when I was about seven to help me mix up frozen cans of juice and over the years it has proved to be very useful.
Step 1: Get a Stick
The stick should be fairly straight, at least 3 inches wide at it's narrowest point, at least 16 inches long, and hardwood.
To find out if your stick is hardwood press the tip of your fingernail into the wood. If your nail leaves a large dent then the wood is not hard enough.
I found my stick at the beach. There is no reason that you couldn't buy a stick, but why should you when wood grows on trees?
If you choose to use "green" wood (wood that has recently been cut off a living tree and is still wet) the wood may crack.
To prevent cracking let your wood dry slowly by dripping hot wax into the ends of the stick and/or storing it in a plastic bag and/or the freezer when you are not working on it. If your piece of wood starts cracking you may be able to undo some damage by sprinkling water over the crack and microwaving it. Do not put wood in the microwave for more than 20 seconds at a time. Let the wood cool off before putting it back in the microwave.
Step 2: Carve Off the Bark
Carve off the bark and the first layer of wood with a chisel. If you have any strange bumps, knots, or branches you should level them off as well.
Step 3: Ruff Out the General Shape.
I used a lathe, but this can also be done with an adz, hatchet, or chisel. The bottom of my masher is just under 3 inches in diameter and tapers into the handle which is an inch and 1/2 in diameter (this taper occurs over the course of 2 1/2 inches). The handle is a consistent diameter for 10 1/2 inches. The top end is 2 3/4 inches in diameter and occupies the final 1 1/4 of the pestle. Please alter the proportions to fit your hands. It helps to leave a little extra wood on each end until you are finished carving.
Step 4: Sand It.
Use sand paper to remove imperfections and smooth the tools surface. I suggest you start with 30 or 60 grit and move up to 120 when you are finishing wood. You may also choose to finish your piece with a freshly sharpened chisel (you can make your chisel extra sharp by rubbing it on a piece of leather). Chiseling will leave a nice texture, but try not to leave anything too ruff or you will make cleaning your pestle difficult.
Step 5: Trim the Ends
Cut off the excess, and finish all the edges off smooth with sand paper.
Step 6: Clean It and Then Try It Out
You should wash all of the dirt and saw dust off of your with soap and water pestle before using it. When the wood drys rub it with vegetable oil until the surface changes color and then wipe off the excess. Oiling will make the pestle look nicer and last longer. Every once in a while you should take the time to reoil the wood. Most varnishes are not meant to be ingested and should not be put on wood that will come in contact with your food.
After all your hard work I bet you feel like some mashed potatoes?
Toasted Garlic & Rosemary Mashed Potatoes
8 large potatoes
3 tablespoons olive oil
1 head of garlic
5 sprigs of fresh rosemary
4 tablespoons sour cream
1 cup of milk
Salt, fresh ground black pepper, and Hungarian paprika to taste
Boil the potatoes.
Chop the garlic and toast it in the oil. Take the garlic off the heat as soon as it turns golden brown, don't let it burn.
Mince the rosemary leaves.
Peel the potatoes.
Mash the potatoes in a large bowl with the garlic, rosemary, and sour cream.
Slowly add the milk until the desired consistency is achieved.