Elm and stainless steel espresso tamper

Elm and stainless steel espresso tamper

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.

Stainless steel reduced to final size.
Stainless steel reduced to final size.

 

I went through a progression of grit sizes to achieve final surface finish on the stainless steel.

Sandpaper strips used to shape the stainless steel part.
Sandpaper strips used to shape the stainless steel part.

 

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.

Finished.
Finished.

 

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