Ergonomic & stylish pepper mill

I posted this project awhile ago in the general forum, but I’ve recently updated. Initially I only studied the aesthetics of a basic pepper mill, but now I’ve added some mechanical innovation. The first phase of the project is the first image I have posted here.

I have a problem with my pepper mill. It is all held together using a screw on the top. While turning the mill it often tightens of loosens the screw holding the mill together, and this adjusts the pressure on the mill. In other words, it doesn’t produce a consistent grind.

My solution in the design is to regulate the pressure of the mill by using a spring. This can best be seen in the exploded view. The button on top of the mill must be depressed to allow the shaft to be detached for filling the pepper corn storage area. This verbal description may lack some clarity, so I will be posting some sketches and a rendering with some graphics within a week.

I would like feedback on any aspect of the design. Especially, I’m curious about the manufacturing. I’ve speced some materials on my exploded view, but I’d like some additional feedback. I know I will have some issues if I were to use aluminum for the chassis, but use a steel spring inside (disimilar metals).

Here’s the update I promised. It shows a little more clear the internal structure of the mill, and how it works.

The next stage that I’d like to experiment with is the aesthetics. As per some feedback I got the first time I posted these, I tried to make the knob and the chassis more consistent. This has created a look that is a little to close to a Rashid design I’ve seen.

why a non-round button? couldnt you modify the force/grind setting by using a round button? could have grind settings. Coarse Medium Fine. fourth position you depress button and unscrew. might add part. but one simple part for that feature seems good trade off. nothing out there does this already?

i find that the triangular shaft is one of the most egonomic shapes for an object that has to be turned. nice design.

explain? i dont see a triangular “shaft” on his design. and the button doesnt rotate by design in his concept.

I think he’s making a suggestion, not a comment.

YKH: Great idea! I was thinking while sketching of making a version with different grind settings, but I like your idea of integrating it into the button, which is certainly easy and possible. The ideas I had would have required the user to take the knob off and adjust the pressure plate…not elegant.

The button I added into my computer model. I’ve been practicing Solidworks alot lately, and I didn’t bother to sketch out the button. I’m going to review this further and show the ideation in my next post.

Triangular design: I think that rufo was refering to the design of the chassis and knob, not the internal shaft. Actually it might be better to refer to the chassis as hexagonal, since looking at the design from the top it would have three lines and three slight curves making up the shape. I did do this shape to aid in turning the mill.

Does this exist already?

Short answer: no.

Long answer: You knew I was going to have a long answer didn’t you? Most pepper mills are held together by a screw at the top of the shaft which turns the mill. As the user turns the knob they can either loosen or tighten the tension on the mill. I have a salt and a pepper mill. The pepper mill always tightens on me, the salt mill always loosens. I end up with really fine pepper and coarse salt on my food. This design cures that issue.

Ergonomiclly and aesthetically it is not all that innovative compared to other product types. Pepper mills tend to be round, despite the necessity of turning them. I address that in the shape. The aesthetics are inspired from the housewares that I looked at before starting the project.

brain fart. that went right past me. fixated on the guts when rufo said “shaft”. think he’s commenting on the whole form - the outside form is basically a shaft. and now i look at it, i’d agree. glad you took the scallops into the lower body. that wasnt there in first pass.

if you look at the top view of his final rendering, it has a triangular, profile with cleaved corners. i think you see what i mean from your last post. many screwdirvers )things you have to turn) have this same design, and it takes much less effort to get a good turn on them against the inherent resistence in them. thats all im sayin

I started sketching some ideas for the button on the top. I remembered that I can’t make it round, because of the way the internal shaft connects. I drew how it attaches in my thumbnails at the bottom.

In other news, a friend of mine gave me alot of advice about Photoworks. From just a few changes I realize that I could have made these images alot clearer. If anyone has any advice about those kinds of technical details, feel free to shoot from the hip.

I like the top left idea in your last post - I can image that the user’s fingers would fit it very well for the motion that is required, not to mention that it would look pretty wicked in aluminum or stainless steel.

Great job!

Any plans to produce or create a working prototype?

I was thinking of creating a working prototype to test only the mechanical functions of the design. I figured I could take an existing Wal-Mart pepper mill and modify it.

i like the functional considerations. My old peper mill infuriated me as it loosened up as it grinded. what do you expect from a graves product eh?

I purchased a new one this year from Cole & Mason. Overpriced, but the little nurled nut on top counterscrews to self tighten when grinding

Formally, it seems that most traditional grinders have an overal negative form, like this one:

but I think a positive form fits the hand better, perhaps two stacked positives would be a better form factor?

Just from a purely aesthetic point of view, and totaly in the realm of personal subjective opinion: when it comes to design of kitchen utencils, I am half ashamed to admit, I prefer the Alesi, Graves, Rashid, Newson, Umbra whimsicle look. Maybe tthis look is popular because cooking is fun. On the flip side, in kitchen appliences, I prefer the slightly industrial Dualit, Waring, Kitchenaid, Subzero look. These seem to be the two prevailing trends in the kitchen and your guy should probably relate, or intentional not relate to them

“I remembered that I can’t make it round, because of the way the internal shaft connects.”

dont understand. the sketch is right way or wrong way? principle makes sense. not sure how you tool what you show. think i’m only adding one part to my idea. clarify above. if i understand issue, my solution is probly fine. will post a sketch for you.

More sketches.

YKH: I was wrong. My current design, shown in the model, uses the button to transmit the torque to the mill. In my sketches I worked out an easy way to not use the button, therefore I can design the button any shape I want now.

Another thing I am still working on is adding a grind selector. I sketched out one idea on the second jpg. It would use turning the button on the top. It would ratchet into different spots on the inside of the knob, thus varying the pressure on the mill.

Also, I’m still looking at tweaking the aesthetics.

Yo: Here is one of Rashid’s pepper mills. Actually, I had only seen some salt and pepper shakers that had a similar shape from him.

I want that same sleek & minimalist aesthetic, but enhance it with dependable mechanics and better ergonomics. Plus, I think the sleek form is ruined by keeping the screw on top. One continuous form would be sleeker (and I’m working on concealing the button on mine).

your doing same thing i’m thinking. except using 3 steps. dont want to help too much. some interesting geometry in there. dont forget tooling issues. might lead down a better path.

Tooling issues is someting I can use help on. Like I put in the original set of jpgs, I was imagining die-cast aluminum that would then be polished to a chrome like shine. An alternative might be to die-cast steel and chrome it. Steel would give the mill a nice weight too. I’ve also thought of sandblasting or giving a texture to parts of the design.

I’m sure that this is all possible, but what am I probably missing? Such as: cost, ease of tooling, environmental concerns, etc.

I am thinking though that I haven’t thought out the part lines enough…die casting will require those.

Sand casting or lost-wax casting may give you better results without parting lines or the high costs of the die tooling. Of course, die casting would be optimal for mass production; you’ll trade off some work by hand for automation and better material quality, but at a much higher initial cost.

CNC-milled (and polished) stainless steel would be absolutely beautiful, but more than likely, amazingly expensive.

Vibratory polishing may be able to remove parting lines during the polishing if they are very fine.

How about a ceramic material? It should be able to be cast easily and would allow quite a few options for finishes.

For prototyping, sand casting or wax casting would definately be how I would go. In this project though I am imagining mass production.

With ceramics, would there be durability issues? Such as dropping one off a table 1000 times a year?

For ceramic, I was thinking of something similar to the material most modern “china” is made from. Feels like (sort-of) normal porcelein, but can be dropped, scraped, heated in the microwave, etc., with no ill effects. I haven’t found a name for the material yet, though.