Thursday, January 30, 2014

Pizza break!

We interrupt your regularly scheduled project update for this very important announcement.


If you haven't already heard about the Super Peel, you should really check it out.  It's amazing.  If I wasn't so do-it-myselfy, (and cheap), I'd have bought one by now and one for every member of my family.  Seriously consider buying or building one for yourself.  It's worth the money/effort.

Being a cheapskate, I took a first attempt at making my own.  As a prototype I kept it cheap and simple and made it out of crappy 1/2" plywood.

I cut the slot too close to the edge and it ended up pretty floppy and weak.  It only took me 45 minutes.  The bar wasn't set very high.  But I quickly got sick of using this and wanted a better one.

I have plenty of hard rock maple, but decided it was more prudent (and cheap) to check the scrap bin.  Sweet!  I had plenty of red oak in there.  That'll do!  (you're not gonna see the wood anyway).

We learned a few new details that we can add to improve the canvas, but it works way better than my first attempt.

Not so super.  :-(

Step 1: Gather the Scraps

Step 2: Plane everything except the handle down to an even thickness, 1/2" or so.  

Keep the handle thick so it's easier to hold onto in use.

Step 3: Orient the grain so it's running in the same direction on every piece and glue it up.

I had two boards running in the opposite direction which resulted in some tearout.  Oh well.  Doesn't really matter as it doesn't impact the ability of the peel to function, but we aim for perfection.

Step 4: Wait a day, let it dry.

Step 5: Plane it flat on both sides; taper the front edge; keep the handle thick.

Step 6: Sand it nice, round the corners, chamfer the edges, add whatever details you prefer.

Step 7: Rasp and sand the handle into shape.

Step 8: Cut the slot as straight as possible and sand it as smooth as you can.  The less friction here the better.

Step 9: Wipe on some mineral oil as a food-safe finish.  Doesn't really matter as the canvas is what touches the food, but it looks nicer this way so go with it.

Step 10: Drill a hole and add some leather to hang it by.

Step 11: Ask your wife to help you cut and hem the canvas.  

A second pair of eyes is helpful here.  Wrap the canvas around a dowel or narrow piece of wood that is the width of the peel.  Hold it together with binder clips or some other method.  

Step 12: Watch a video on how to use it.

Step 13: Go make pizza!

Here are the details:

  • overall dimensions: 17" wide x 26" long x 1/2" thick (more or less). It's sized to allow me to make a pizza as wide as the sheet of steel that I keep in my oven that I cook pizzas on.  You're probably wondering what the hell I'm talking about right now.  Hah!  Do yourself a favor and make your own baking steel as long as you're making your own pizza gear.  You can thank me later.
  • front edge is tapered down to about 1/8" thick
  • usable canvas area is about 17"x15"for my 16"x18" steel.
  • the location of the slot is important.  Ideally it will end within the long grain of the outer boards and not on a glue-line.  I think this provides some extra strength.  My slot is 1" in from the sides and 1.75" in from the back edge.
  • slot is 1/4" wide, rounded over by hand.  A router bit would do a better job here, but I hate using routers so it's good enough for me.
  • half of the canvas is as wide as the slot (minus a little bit), and the other half is as wide as the peel.  This was tricky to figure out so we did it out of construction paper first and made adjustments until it was sliding easily.  We used the paper as a template to mark on the fabric.
  • my advice: hem all the edges.  Canvas frays just by you looking at it.  We're going to make another canvas for it so I can use the full width of the peel.  C didn't buy a wide enough piece so we ended up a little narrow after hemming.


This peel fell to the floor and shattered into several pieces.  I've since made another one with a few modifications.
  • The single wide slot makes for a very wobbly connection.  In version 3 I made two separate slots and allowed the wood of the handle to continue straight down the middle of the peel.  This stiffened things up quite a bit.  It's much more rigid now.  This setup requires the fabric to be a little more sophisticated in that you need to remove a piece from the middle of the underside to slide around that center divider.  Hard to explain.  Leave a comment if you want more info.
  • Went with slightly thicker wood so that my glue bonds are a little meatier.
  • Bought fresh glue.  It shouldn't have shattered like that.  I had old glue.  Don't use old glue.
  • The canvas doesn't wash well.  It shrunk like crazy and got all wrinkled and the edges started to fray apart.  I cut up an old bed sheet and have been using that with great success.  It's pre-shrunk, dries wrinkle free, and doesn't fray.  It also slides easier.
  • I've added about 6 more binder clips :)  If there aren't enough binder clips, the tension becomes too great and they start to pop off right as you're loading things into the oven.  
  • Instead of the bar being uniformly square or rectangular, I made it trapezoidal so that it mates better with the angle of the binder clips, thus providing a better grip.  This has helped minimize the clips popping off at inopportune moments.

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