Introduction: Salt & Walnut Salt Cellar
I've now done two other salt projects from a single block of rock salt I bought from my local cooking store. I think it is one of the coolest materials I've ever worked with. It has amazing colors, a great texture and a real depth of field. But... it is NOT GOOD FOR THE SHOP
You see, salt + iron/steel = rust. Rust is bad. Which means that salt in the shop is a really dumb idea. So I thought, "Well what about encasing it in resin?"
Step 1: Casting Salt & Surprises...
I took some smaller pieces of the Himalayan rock salt block I had and broke it up into even small chucks. I loved the colors and textures and thought, "This is going to look awesome!"
I mixed up some epoxy resin, about 3oz worth, and poured it into my mold. The mold was simply the lid to an old food container. I like the HDPE containers, because epoxy doesn't stick to it. (look for the number 2 inside the recycle symbol)
I don't know why it didn't occur to me, but I was really surprised when the salt dissolved in the epoxy and became transparent. Well, yeah, that's what salt does! I hadn't even considered it.
So there went all my time selecting all the cool looking bits with the pink hues! Oh well, moving on. I set it aside to cure while I started work on what would become the base.
Step 2: Creating the Cellar
A salt cellar is an extremely easy project and doesn't require a lathe to complete. You could cut the outside round with a hole saw in your drill press and then drill out the center recess with a forstner bit. Spend some time sanding and your done with the base. They you could just cut a lid with the same hole saw from thinner stock. For me, I see every round project as an excuse to turn on the lathe...
So I started with a block of wood 2" thick and 3" square. I turned it between centers on the lathe to round the corners and sand it up to 220 grit.
I then attached it to a face plate with a generous amount of hot glue and hollowed out the center cavity with a round nose scraper. This is slow work and you will have to re-sharpen your scraper 2-3 times during the hollowing, but you're left with a very clean surface and no center pilot hole from a forstner bit.
I sanded the inside to 220, which didn't take long given nice surface off the scraper. I then removed the salt cellar from the face plate with a steel putty knife and put it aside.
Total time was less than 60 minutes from block to base. Now, I have been turning for a fair time so, don't be discouraged if yours takes longer.
Step 3: Turning the Salt Lid
Now that the base is compete we need to work on the lid.
3oz is not much resin and should cure pretty quickly in room temperature shop. In addition the salt will do a good job soaking up the epoxy which will speed up the cure time. I poured this at 10am and it was hard as a rock by 3pm. 24 hours is my normal epoxy curing time, so I was pleasantly surprised to be able to complete is project in one day.
I once again used a dab of hot glue to attach the lid to the face plate. Since the bottom was flat I didn't even touch that side and instead focused on what would be the top of the lid. (I mention in the video the underside of my lid has a cool impression of the HDPE recycle symbol and is a fun easter egg for this project)
There were pockets of salt that came through and so I was turning plastic then salt and then back to plastic. But it only took a few passes to get it flat. I then reduced it's diameter to match the base at 3" across.
I sanded with wet sand paper and polished the whole thing with plastic polishing pads called "Micro Mesh" this brings the surface to a high!
Step 4: Hinge & Latch
With both lid and base complete there isn't much left to finish the project besides adding a hinge and latch.
I drilled a 1/8" hole in the lid then cut an aluminum nail with a pair of wire cutters. It should stick out of the hole about 1/8 to 1/4 of an inch. Trial and error are my two best friends!
I then lined up the lid and pressed it down on the base. This gave me an indentation for where to drill the corresponding hole 1/8" hole in the lid. Glue the nail segment into the lid with some super glue (or 5min epoxy) and wait for it to completely dry before re-assembly.
The last thing I did was add to magnets to the lid and base to act as a latch. I use the same methods to locate the holes as I did with the hinge. Just with a large enough drill bit to recess the magnets. These are rare earth magnets and are quite a strong latch.
Step 5: Finish
I then added a couple coats of spray lacquer and called it a day. When you finish this, you want to leave the inside natural. For two reasons. One so that the wood can absorb moisture away from the salt, and two so that the salt doesn't leach any flavors from the finish.
All in all I'm pleased with the concept, though I will admit I was expecting a very different look for the top. Still it was an interesting experiment and now I can finally be done with salt projects! Well, maybe...
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