I’m very glad I was asked to do this interesting project. Photo 1: Top view of finished Valknut or Triquetra tamper, a design so ancient it’s origin is unclear. Photo 2: 1st trio of dovetails cut on milling machine, using double-stick carpet tape to mount the stock onto a fly-cut wooden block. (That tape holds like a pissed-off octopus.) Photo 3, 4: Inside V-grooved trio, inner and outer dovetails cut and fit together. 4-inch sliding dovetails of bocote, East Indian rosewood, bloodwood, and cherry. Photo 5: All design pieces assembled and bonded. Photo 6: design inserted into the final dovetail and V-notch, cut into the tamper handle of East Indian rosewood. Projects like this make me glad to turn on the shop lights each day.

Photo 1: Curly Koa Tamper with Art Deco interpretation of the da Salo viol F-hole of the late 1500s. Photo 2: Raw materials of koa, African blackwood and American holly. Photo 3: The F-hole design will be joined in segments through the tamper, in a design that’s a vertical mirror-image, but which is also vertically off-center in the tamper. Thus the koa is cut into halves, opened like a book, placed side-by-side, and clamping blocks are glued to each half on the design vertical center. The sides of the clamping blocks are trimmed to exactly the same location relative to the top of the tamper, so that all grain features of the koa will realign later. Photo 4: Drawing of the design, showing the 9.5 deg. slant of the F-hole. Photo 5: With one of the halves rotated top-to-bottom and the vise raised 9.5 deg., the recess for the veneers is milled into the halves. Photos 6, 7: Veneers glued in, V-notch cut through veneers into koa for blackwood segment, and blackwood segment notched for holly diamond.Photos 8,9,10: Halves joined, holes drilled for blackwood dowels, then re-drilled for holly dowels. All dowels turned with side-grain on ends and end-grain on sides. If it’s possible to have more fun than this in the tamper shop, I want to know about it!

GOODBYE STATIC CLING!  I’ve been searching for a solution to the static charge in the dry shop air this winter. I keep the relative humidity (barely) up to 33-35% with the shop humidifier running full time, and the temperature between 67-70 degrees. Even more annoying than the shock I get each time I touch the lathe, I find that dust is attracted to the tamper handles by a static electric charge. The filaments of dust will even stand on end, pointing straight out from the wood like porcupine quills or hair on a scared cat. Each night I try to wipe a coat of polymerized tung oil onto the current batch of new tamper handles before I close the shop, but the charge on the surface of the tampers means that I need to clean off the dust in the finish the next night with micro mesh before I can wipe on another coat of finish. I’ve tried static mats and microfiber cloths to no avail.
Tonight I applied a light spray of Static Guard from the personal care aisle of the supermarket to one side of a paper towel, folded the towel, and took a few wipes over each handle. MAGIC happened: the dust stuck to the paper towel, and no dust replaced it on the handles. The oil coat went on smoothly, wiped off with a clean polish, and I’m feeling happy: Sweet dreams tonight!

GOODBYE STATIC CLING!  I’ve been searching for a solution to the static charge in the dry shop air this winter. I keep the relative humidity (barely) up to 33-35% with the shop humidifier running full time, and the temperature between 67-70 degrees. Even more annoying than the shock I get each time I touch the lathe, I find that dust is attracted to the tamper handles by a static electric charge. The filaments of dust will even stand on end, pointing straight out from the wood like porcupine quills or hair on a scared cat. Each night I try to wipe a coat of polymerized tung oil onto the current batch of new tamper handles before I close the shop, but the charge on the surface of the tampers means that I need to clean off the dust in the finish the next night with micro mesh before I can wipe on another coat of finish. I’ve tried static mats and microfiber cloths to no avail.

Tonight I applied a light spray of Static Guard from the personal care aisle of the supermarket to one side of a paper towel, folded the towel, and took a few wipes over each handle. MAGIC happened: the dust stuck to the paper towel, and no dust replaced it on the handles. The oil coat went on smoothly, wiped off with a clean polish, and I’m feeling happy: Sweet dreams tonight!

Someone better stop watching the Olympics and get to work, because things are getting a little backed up in the shop! I rough-counted 29 species in that pile: I know the names of most of them!

Someone better stop watching the Olympics and get to work, because things are getting a little backed up in the shop! I rough-counted 29 species in that pile: I know the names of most of them!

A group of tamper handle blanks ready for turning to size and profile for individual hands. On the left, imbuia (delightful cinnamon scent) with narra and red and black veneers. Next, maple with cherry and mahogany inserts. Then, purpleheart with the same inserts, and on the right, lacewood with narra, claro walnut and veneers in the client’s colors. The end grain of the imbuia and lacewood create wonderful visual texture on the top of the finished tamper handles.

A group of tamper handle blanks ready for turning to size and profile for individual hands. On the left, imbuia (delightful cinnamon scent) with narra and red and black veneers. Next, maple with cherry and mahogany inserts. Then, purpleheart with the same inserts, and on the right, lacewood with narra, claro walnut and veneers in the client’s colors. The end grain of the imbuia and lacewood create wonderful visual texture on the top of the finished tamper handles.

Wish your Breville steam wand had that La Marzocco tip? Hmmm. Other than having to leave my English leadscrew engaged while reversing the lathe, it really wasn’t much of a problem! The small end of the adapter is .5 mm pitch, or 50.8 threads-per-inch, by .017” deep. Pretty delicate work for a guy who’s a blacksmith at heart!

Wish your Breville steam wand had that La Marzocco tip? Hmmm. Other than having to leave my English leadscrew engaged while reversing the lathe, it really wasn’t much of a problem! The small end of the adapter is .5 mm pitch, or 50.8 threads-per-inch, by .017” deep. Pretty delicate work for a guy who’s a blacksmith at heart!

Three fun tools in one project: 24-station indexer, .047” slitting saw, and mini-mill. The saw kerf can go on the maple tamper blank anywhere I want it within .001”, on any 15-degree radiant, and the mahogany and cherry inserts are sliced to fit perfectly in each kerf. I just cain’t wait ‘til tomorrow, to put it back on the lathe and clean it up!

Three fun tools in one project: 24-station indexer, .047” slitting saw, and mini-mill. The saw kerf can go on the maple tamper blank anywhere I want it within .001”, on any 15-degree radiant, and the mahogany and cherry inserts are sliced to fit perfectly in each kerf. I just cain’t wait ‘til tomorrow, to put it back on the lathe and clean it up!

Six matched single-use cherry cups, on the way to NYC for a Barista competition. 3-1/4 oz. capacity on the inside, hours of fun on the outside!

Six matched single-use cherry cups, on the way to NYC for a Barista competition. 3-1/4 oz. capacity on the inside, hours of fun on the outside!

Sometimes the most ordinary exterior hides startling detail. This common Western cedar tamper handle surprised me with every coat of tung oil and, I think, begs the user to anticipate the coffee in the cup with wonder. It’s a little 51.2 mm base, a gift for a home barista and an accent for a machine that brings much joy to it’s owner.

This could be the only time I’ll get to use genuine Lignum Vitae (guaiacum spp.) for an espresso tamper! With Lignum for the top and 304 stainless for the base, I might as well have been machining stones, or meteorites: making the brass weight was the only rest I got. The two bottom photos show the caterpillar-to-butterfly metamorphosis, from the raw specimen of Lignum that was brought back from Panama in the 40’s to the finished handle. Faint wonderful scent, sleek high gloss with no finish applied, and I feel fortunate to do what I do!

This project kept me off the streets (and out of the shop!) for six weeks. Bo Patterson and I built these terraced walls to convert a hopeless bank in my back yard into useful garden tiers. The S-curve at the bottom is to remind me of Jefferson’s beautiful serpentine walls in my hometown of Charlottesville.

Shop Hours Explained

   I’m in the shop most days by about 9:00 or 10:00 am, but occasionally as early as 7:00 am, and sometimes as late as around 12:00 or 1:00 pm.

   I usually finish up for the day at about 4:00 or 5:00 pm, but sometimes finish up at 2:30 or 3:00 pm, then again sometimes as late as 11:00 pm, or later. On some days I’m not in the shop at all, but lately I’ve been here a lot, unless I’m not here.

(Just funnin’, folks. Shop visitors are always welcome, but the world outside too often lures me away from what I love to do. Email me, and let’s meet here for coffee!)

I meant to post this long ago, but I lost track of the first photo by Kevin Cuddeback. I’m no longer working as a sound engineer, so I’ve converted a second mic (early Beta58) into a custom-height tamper handle. The mild steel adapter is designed to fit closely inside the mic housing and allow a solid connection to the tamper base, and it enables installation of the original mic capsule under the grille! The first one was made for a working engineer who also has an illustrious career in coffee, and the second one for a retired DJ who’s opening a cafe in Australia.

1” thick local black walnut brewing station, with one digital scale removed to reveal one of the recesses. Finger grip recesses on the ends routed with round-nose bit. Moser blonde shellac and waterborne clear coat finish. The hidden secret is thin, coarse resilient anti-slip tape applied on the bottom, to the front and rear edge: That stuff really grips, and prevents any accidental movement.

Soon to be tamping World Class shots in NYC!