French polishing is a technique developed in Europe back in the early 1800’s for finishing first-quality furniture. While there are many variations on French-polishing technique, my approach relies on the gradual buildup of thousands of micro-coats of shellac-based “polish” and pharmaceutical grade walnut oil (with some natural pumice and vegetable gums added to fill the wood grain and increase the durability of the polish) to obtain what I consider to be the most beautiful wood finish available. For shellac, I rely on an eco-friendly “button” lac, which I compound myself using 95% ethanol (“grain” alcohol – think in terms of 190-proof vodka!) I find this shellac produces a much more pleasing result than commercial products.
Filling your mills…simply pull the top of the Salt Mill straight off. (The top’s held in place by a friction spring embedded in the top.) Then fill with salt to the line and replace the top by pushing down until it “clicks.” The Peppermill is filled by sliding open the little door at the top and filling with your favorite peppercorns.
Adjusting the peppermill grind: holding the retaining nut in place, turn the adjusting wheel counterclockwise for a coarser grinder or clockwise for a finer grind as shown on “Figure 1” below. If the grinder starts to bind, the adjustment is probably too “fine;” simply back off the adjusting wheel until the grinder starts moving freely again. The Salt Mill’s adjusted by turning the adjusting when on the bottom clockwise for a finer grind, counterclockwise for coarser. If the turning knob binds, realize that salt can be a little tough to grind so try backing off the adjustment for a coarser grind and/or turning it back and forth to dispense the salt.
What if it gets dirty, gets food on it or whatever??? Not to worry. French-polished surfaces are fairly impervious to normal dirt, fingerprints and moisture. If your mill gets wet, simply remove any surface moisture with a clean towel then let it air dry. You can also buff your mill with a section of soft cotton cloth–an old T-shirt’s perfect–if you want. Same thing with dirt: wipe the mill off with a soft moist cloth. You can even add a drop of normal dishwashing detergent to the cloth, if necessary. You can also apply an very light coat of a hard wax wood polish like Johnson’s or Fiddes Supreme (available through Amazon.com) if you like, but that’s purely optional.
 Holding the retaining nut in place is important; otherwise the tension spring can go flying off into “Never Never Land.” You’re then left with a very expensive paperweight until you can either find it (not always easy)—or can get to the hardware store to buy another.