Back before you could buy one of those fancy and expensive pasta machines for your home, cooks used a simple set of specialty rolling pins for the same purpose. A traditional smooth-bodied roller was used for rolling out the dough, then rollers with various sized grooves were rolled through the flattened dough, cutting it into strips that became pasta! For this project, I decided to create a roller core that can share three or more sleeves. One is for rolling, and the rest are for forming the various sized strips of pasta.
Then, just as I got “rolling” on this project, my lathe decided to go on strike! Most of us would agree that woodworking is a proving ground of the old saying, “necessity is the mother of invention.” That is what drove me to create my rolling pin jig. I managed to mill the sleeves round, cut the grooves and even make the handles with a table saw, router and this new jig. In the next few pages, I’ll show you how it is done and, along the way, I’ll introduce you to the bird’s-mouth router bit and teach you how to make large diameter dowels on the router table.
Fashioning the Sleeve Blanks
Everything in this project is determined by the size of the rolling pin sleeves, so they need to be made first. Six segments (pieces 18) form a hexagon that gets milled round in the jig later. Mill your stock flat and straight. Remember that you are making three sleeves, so you need 18 pieces for your three-roller set. You will certainly want to make up a few extras for setups. My sleeves were to be 9-1⁄2″ long, so I cut 20 pieces a bit long — 10″.
I set up the bird’s-mouth bit in the router table. Into one edge of the piece, this ingenious bit cuts an angled notch, which mates with the square end of the next, forming a 60° angle. Setting the bit is not difficult: the top part of the notch should be 5/8″ long (the same as the thickness of the end it mates with). The peaks of the hexagon will get milled off, so the joint only needs to be close. Mill one long edge of each part, then dry-fit them together.
The width determines the overall diameter of the finished sleeve, which should end up just about 3″ at the smallest point. Spread glue into the notches and assemble them. For clamping, I used several rubber bands wrapped around the assembly.
After they are done drying, trim off the ends, but leave them a bit long.
Creating the Core
The sleeves you just made will slip over a core that also holds the handles. Since the interiors of the sleeves are hexagonal, the core needs to be as well. It also needs a hole through the center to house one of the threaded rods (piece 19). Rather than try and drill a straight hole through the core, I made it in two parts (pieces 20), with a groove along the center of each.
Carefully measure the inside of the sleeve along the widest point. That is the overall width of the core halves, with the thickness being half the small width of the sleeve. Mill the groove down the center of both halves. Then set the bevel angle on the saw to a 30° tilt, and bevel each long edge of the blanks. Test the fit inside the sleeve before gluing these pieces up, and be sure to err on the side of too large. Later, you can joint the faces of the core to adjust the fit.
Routing the HDPE End Caps
The end caps (pieces 21) keep the sleeves in place on the core. I milled them from 1/2″ HDPE (high density polyethylene). Inexpensive plastic cutting boards are a great source for this material. I drilled a 1/4″ pilot hole in the plastic, then used a router and trammel to cut a circular groove halfway through the plastic. The inner ring formed this way was cut to fit close inside the sleeve. I then reset the trammel and cut their overall 2-7⁄8″ diameters.