My espresso machine came with a lovely plastic tamper, that looked like this:
I am not all that picky aesthetically speaking, but that tamper is absolutely ugly and does not fit the cup snugly enough. Its outer diameter is about 1/4″ smaller than the inner diameter of the espresso reservoir. I thought that making a new tamper would make an interesting turning project. Then I thought that the business end of the tamper had better be metal.
I don’t have a metal lathe, so, at first, I considered brass. Then I read that brass is not very food safe, because it may contain lead and who knows what other additives. I could be unnecessarily paranoid here – after all, how much of the bad stuff can the tamper base leach into the coffee when used on dry coffee powder to press it down momentarily, but I decided against using brass for health and safety reasons.
This brought me to stainless steel. I got a 2mm plate of stainless steel, and cut it approximately to size using a hacksaw. I then turned an Elm blank approximately to the size of the espresso reservoir, making the face slightly hollow, and epoxied the stainless steel to the blank. I hot-glued a piece of wood to the steel in order to be able to use the tailstock support. A tedious process of turning down the stainless steel to final size without a metal lathe ensued.
At first I tried using a mill file on the spinning blank, but very quickly I dulled the entire surface of it. Luckily it was a cheap file. I then switched to sandpaper. I was cutting small strips of 80-grit sandpaper, resting them on a 6-inch rule and then sliding them back and forth on a rotating blank. This worked reasonably well and fairly soon the metal piece was reduced to final size.
I went through a progression of grit sizes to achieve final surface finish on the stainless steel.
I then reversed the blank in the chuck and finished turning it.
It came out alright, but I wish I had a small metal lathe to do things a little differently. I think that it would look nicer if the metal end were much thicker, perhaps 1/2″ thick or even more.