In recent years there has been an explosion in the popularity of making artisan quality pizza at home. Companies like Ooni, Roccbox, and Gozney have made it affordable to recreate high-end pizza oven conditions in your backyard.
On top of that, several pizza-focused cookbooks have been published recently that will help take your pizza game to the next level. The Elements of Pizza, by Ken Forkish, has become a go-to in my kitchen, and my fridge often has a few dough balls that have been slowly fermenting.
Once you start going down a culinary rabbit hole such as artisan pizza making, the logical next step is adding accessories to help show off your newly acquired skills. One of the first pizza-making accessories I added was a beautiful walnut pizza peel.
This was back before I had started my Etsy shop, so this peel was made purely for myself. Unfortunately, I ended up making it way too large. It is better suited for a commercial kitchen than my kitchen and backyard pizza oven.
Since then, I have refined the style to make it lightweight and the perfect size for the backyard pizza chef. I have sold hundreds of these peels in my Etsy shop and will share the tips I have learned with you all!
How to Make a Wooden Pizza Peel
My best-selling pizza peel is made from solid walnut and measures 12″ square for the peel portion with a 12″ long handle. The peel measures just under a half-inch thick, while the handle is double that thickness.
This differentiates it from most other peels on the market as the handle is much easier to hold than other peels with a flat handle.
The peels are glued up from six pieces of walnut, with four measuring ~12 1/2 inches long by 2 1/2″ wide, one measuring 25″ long by 2 inches wide, and the last measuring 1 1/2″ wide by 13″ long. The shorter pieces will make up the peel, while the longer piece will run down the middle and make the handle. The last piece is glued onto the handle to double up the thickness and is what will make your peel stand out.
- 4/4 (1″ thick) walnut or other hardwood
- Waterproof glue (Titebone III)
- Food-safe finish (cutting board oil or wood butter)
The tools I use today to make my wooden pizza peels are much different than what I had on hand when I first started making them. Because I am making dozens of these peels each month, I have spent a fair bit of money to add tools that will speed up my workflow.
For this reason, I will note the processes I use today and how I made the peels when I first started out and didn’t have tools like a drum sander at my disposal.
- Table Saw
- Bandsaw (optional)
- Miter Saw
- Jointer (optional)
- Planer (optional)
- Drum Sander (optional)
- Disc Sander (optional)
- Random Orbit Sander
- Spindle Sander (optional)
1. Prepare your Rough Stock
I start all of my peels with rough 4/4 (1″ thick) walnut stock. This means that all four sides of the walnut have a rough edge.
So my first step is to break down the lumber into ~25″ inch lengths. I like this length as I can split them in half later on to use for the peel portion or keep them the full length to use in the handle section.
I then joint one edge to get a flat reference surface for the next step on the table saw.
If you don’t have access to a jointer, you can buy your walnut pre-milled. This means that 1, 2, 3, or 4 edges have flattened and squared up on a jointer and/or planer. The more edges that are surfaced, the more expensive the wood will likely be.
2. Cutting the Wood to Size
After jointing one edge, I move over to the table saw and rip the walnut down to 2 1/2″ wide strips.
Please note that if your walnut isn’t relatively flat at this stage, then you will want to flatten it on either the jointer or planer. Running warped boards through the table saw is a recipe for kickback and will result in uneven joints later on during glue-up.
At this point, you will have your stock ready for resawing on the bandsaw.
3. Resawing the Boards
If you’ve started with 4/4 walnut, then at this stage, we’ll be resawing the boards to make 1/2″ thick stock. It really helps to dial in your bandsaw guides and use a feather board during this step. Otherwise, the blade can wander and you’ll end with two halves with very different thicknesses.
Ask me how I know this!
If you don’t have a bandsaw, this can be done on the table saw, but because of the thicker blade, you’ll end up with a slightly thinner finished product.
If you don’t have a table saw or bandsaw, then I would recommend purchasing some project boards from a woodworking shop. Rockler offers these 1/2″ thick walnut boards that are the perfect length for this project.
You’ll be paying quite a bit more than you would with rough stock, but for just one project, it’ll be a lot cheaper than buying all these tools!
4. Surfacing the Boards
This step is optional, but at this point, you can run the resawn boards through a planer or drum sander to bring them all to the same thickness and remove the resawing marks.
If you run the boards through the planer at this stage, be careful to take shallow passes, as this dimension of wood is susceptible to tearout and sniping.
I skip this step because I prefer just to run the glued-up peels through the drum sander.
I also realize that a drum sander is a luxury tool I wouldn’t own if I weren’t running this business!
Before I had my drum sander, I would run the boards through the planer and would take my time during the glue-up process, as this would help minimize my sanding later on.
5. Glue up the Panel
You should have four 25″ long x 2.5″ wide x ~1/2″ thick boards at this stage.
One of the 25″ boards will make up the center section of the peel and the handle. Take two others, preferably matched sides from the same board, and cut them in half at 12 1/2″.
These four boards will make up the peel portion. The last 25″ board will be cut down later to make the thicker portion of the handle.
Using two pipe or parallel clamps, glue up the four 12 1/2″ boards to the 25″ board. This should give you a 12 1/2″ wide x 12 1/2″ tall panel with a 12 1/2″ handle.
6. Glue on the Handle Board
At this stage, we’ll be gluing on the handle section that will double its thickness. I like to mark a line at 11 1/2″ on the peel and at 24″ on the handle.
I’ll then cut down the last 25″ x 2 1″2 board to approximately 13″ x 1 1/2″.
If you have a drum sander, then this is a good point to run the peel through. Once the handle is glued on, you’ll do any remaining sanding or planing by hand.
Both the handle section of the peel and your handle piece that will be glued on must have one side with a flat surface for a strong glue joint. This can be done (carefully) with a random orbit sander, a hand plane, the planer, etc.
Before gluing on the handle piece, I also like to round the front end and do a little shaping on the disc sander. I will eventually taper the nose of this piece down so it blends into the peel, so any material removal is a lot easier to take care of now versus once it is attached to the peel.
7. Cutting the Peel to its Final Shape
Once the handle is glued up and dry, I mark my final shape on the peel and cut it to its final size on the bandsaw. My final dimensions are 12″ x 12″ for the peel and 24″ for the overall length.
I will trim down the sides of the handle to bring it to ~1″ wide as I feel like anything wider is a bit unruly in hand.
I’ll then round the transition where the handle meets the top of the peel. This is done with the bandsaw and then cleaned up with a spindle sander drum attachment in my lathe. I have found these little drums to be very handy for cleaning up rounded corners in projects and they can be mounted on the lathe, a drill press, or even a hand drill.
The front shape of the peel is marked by tying a pencil to a piece of string the length of the peel. I’ll hold the end of the string at the end of the handle and mark the curve along the front edge. I’ll then cut out the shape on the bandsaw.
8. Sanding, Sanding, and More Sanding
This is the final stretch but also the worst part of the process! Not that anyone likes sanding.
I use the disc sander to sand the front edge to create the taper to slide pizzas on and off the peel. I’ll also roughly shape the handle to round the edges.
This step can also be done with a spokeshave and is probably advisable as using the disc sander is a really messy process. Even with a dust collector hooked up!
From there, more sanding is needed to smooth the panel and shape the handle. I start at 100 grit and work my way up to 220. After sanding at 150 grit, I’ll wet down the wood to raise the grain before doing the final sanding at 220.
9. Applying Finish
Last but not least, apply your favorite food-safe finish.
I use a wood butter made from mineral oil and beeswax but feel free to use any food-safe finish you’d like.
We’d love to see the final result if you choose to do this project!
Derek grew up woodworking in his father’s shop and has since gone on to start up a successful woodworking business on Etsy. In his spare time, you can find him mountain biking, skiing, or writing.