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Build It | French Rolling Pin

Ask This Old House general contractor Tom Silva and host Kevin O’Connor, turn a French-style rolling pin with an ornate detail in the center using a lathe.

Host Kevin O’Connor joins general contractor Tom Silva in the workshop to learn how to make a French rolling pin on a lathe. French rolling pins have handles that are fixed in place, whereas American rolling pins have handles that move independently from the roller.

Steps for Making a French Rolling Pin

1. Glue together a piece of mahogany veneer in between two pieces of maple for the inlay. Tom used mahogany for the rolling pin.
2. Find the center of the piece of wood you will be using for the rolling pin, and make a 45-degree cut.
3. Cut a short piece of the inlay the length of the diagonal with a 45-degree angle on each end.
4. Put that in the middle of the main pieces of the rolling pin, and tape the edges to hold it together.
5. Set another piece of inlay on top and mark the thickness.
6. Cut out the marked section.
7. Place another piece of cut inlay to make an X.
8. Glue the inlay together with the rolling pin using wood glue and small brushes.
9. Clamp it together and allow the created wood slab to dry overnight.
10. Before you use the lathe, make sure you have the proper safety gear on: face shield (not goggles), aprons, long sleeve shirt.
11. Mark center points on each end of the wood slab by making two X marks from corner to corner.
12. Secure the piece of wood to the lathe by connecting the spur and spindle to each center point.
13. Adjust the tool rest to have about a ¼ inch clearance.
14. Start the lathe at a low speed to ensure the piece is turning appropriately, then increase the speed to know the wood is secured properly.
15. Tom put his lathe to 1200 RPM.
16. Take the tool and slightly pick the handle up. Remember to keep the tool should always contact the tool rest. Slide the tool across the wood with your body.
17. When you have the desired diameter for the pin, Tom estimates about an inch and ⅝”, it is time to taper the ends to create a handle.
18. For the middle, Tom measured 12 inches. For each handle, he measured 4 and ¼”.
19. Turn the lathe on slow. Use a pencil to mark each measurement.
20. Tom set his caliper to 1 inch. He used a parting tool to bring both ends down to 1 inch.
21. To create a taper on each end, use a skew chisel.
Note: Skew chisels are not for beginners as there is a lot of kickback with this tool. Start at the outer third segments as that is where you want to remove most of the material.
a. Watch the horizon of the wood while you use the lathe. Start with your chisel high and bring it down until you hit the bevel. Then, slowly raise your handle and pitch it slightly. Don’t catch the tip and remember that the bevel should always be in contact with the wood.
22. Sand the entire rolling pin until smooth.
23. Apply a food-safe finish to the rolling pin using a paper towel.
a. Never use cloth on a lathe because if it gets caught, the paper towel will break away but the cloth won’t.
24. Let dry for approximately 15 minutes.
25. Use another paper towel and put the lathe on low to go over the whole rolling pin while adding slight pressure.


Tom used a REVO 12|16 110V lathe, which is manufactured by Laguna Tools. The tools Tom used to actually turn the rolling pin can be found at any specialty woodworking store.

To create the custom piece of wood for turning, Tom used leftover pieces of mahogany and maple that he had from other projects, but that lumber can be found at most home centers and woodworking stores. To cut the in-lays and secure it all together, Tom used a Kapex KS120 sliding compound miter saw by Festool and some wood glue from Gorilla Glue.

To finish the rolling pin, Tom and Kevin applied Odie’s Oil.

The other tools and materials Tom and Kevin used to turn the rolling pin, including the sandpaper and coping saw, can be found at home centers.