Build Your Own Cider Mill

Do you have access to a lot of apples? Build this cider mill and you can turn them into a lot of apple cider!

| September/October 1981

A century ago, the home cider press was a familiar sight in rural America. Today, however, you're not likely to encounter one anywhere but in antique shops unless you choose to go ahead and build your own. Which is exactly what MOTHER EARTH NEWS' Emerson Smyers did.

Since our western North Carolina headquarters is in the apple capital of the South, it's hard for us not to take advantage of the abundant fruit in season. We had built a cider-maker or two in the past, but had quickly discovered that what we really needed was a cider mill, which combines an apple grinder and an apple press, to get as much juice from the harvest as possible. The design we finally came up with uses mostly readily available parts, works as well as any modern store-bought model, and looks (we think) rather attractive.

To build your own version of MOTHER EARTH NEWS' apple mill, start by gathering the needed hardware. The only item you're likely to have difficulty in locating is the pressing screw, and—if you can't scrounge a unit from a discarded office chair—you can purchase a new one from Woodcraft Supply Corp. The other metal parts include the chain, crank, chainwheel, and bottom bracket assembly from a scrapped bicycle, plus a 3/4" X 12" shaft to serve as an axle, two 3/4" brass bushings, a 1/4" X 2" roll pin, a 3/4 "bore sprocket about 3 1/2 times smaller in diameter than the chainwheel, and a 20-pound pulley or flywheel that fits on the steel axle. You'll also need a section of 3/4" pipe that's about 20" long, two pipe caps, an 8" length of 1/8" X 1" X 2" X 1" channel iron, a 1/4" X 1 1/2" X 8" metal plate, 16-gauge flat stock measuring 3/4" X 220" (it's best to buy a full 20-foot piece to avoid paying a cutting charge), and assorted fastening hardware.

Next, you'll want to select your lumber and cut it to size. The press's framework is essentially yellow pine, but the two bottomless tubs (in which the ground apple is first caught and then pressed), the hopper, grinding drum, drum housing, screw guide, and trough walls are made of oak; oak is sturdy and doesn't affect the cider's flavor. An 8-foot length of 2 X 6, a 33" piece of 2 X 8, and two sections of 2 X 4—one 8 and the other 10 feet long—will be enough pine to complete your frame, and about 24 feet of 1 X 6 oak should be adequate to supply the hardwood components. You'll also need a few scraps of pine to use when making the hopper cover, its handle, and a pressing foot support well as a section of plywood measuring 3/4" X 14" X 42" from which to fabricate the trough base and the pressing foot itself.

It's important to plan your cuts before sizing your lumber, to avoid halving a component that should have remained whole. As an example, you should cut the two 34 1/2", the 17 1/2", and the 6 1/2" frame sections from your 8-foot 2 X 4. Order your oak in two lengths—10 and 14 feet—then cut all your 3/4" X 1 1/4" X 12" tub staves (20 for each tub) from the smaller of the pieces. Once you've trimmed everything to size, you can go ahead and complete cross-lap and dado joints and cut notches in the trough rails to the proper dimensions. (Remember, too, that the trough walls must be grooved to accept the 3/4" plywood base.)

You may find, as our Mr. Smyers did, that two components of the press are a little tedious to assemble. The first is the tapered hopper, which will require that you make a compound joint that connects two angled pieces of wood. If you've never had experience with this admittedly difficult carpentry task, the bin can be fashioned much more easily by simply butting the sides and ends together and securing them with screws to produce a box-shaped hopper.

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