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I bought a set of David Mason Design salt and pepper grinders in a transparent acrylic design around Christmas 2008. They were in a chunky, domed and rounded 'classic salt and pepper mill shaped' shape, a bit different from the design of the illustration accompanying this review. Each of our grinders stands about five inches tall, and is made entirely out of clear plastic, so that the internal reservoir for rock salt / whole peppercorns is visible from the outside. I selected these because from their outward appearance, they closely resembled a 'Cole and Mason' black pepper grinder owned by an old landlady of mine, which worked very well.
I remember the timing of our purchase of grinding mills in particular because we got them from the high-street chain 'Woolworths' which was due to be going into receivership around the time. For some years we had been accumulating Woolworths gift certificates given to us by various family members and having consistently failed to find anything in the shop to spend them previously, it became necessary to 'use or lose' them at this point.
That I paid for the salt and pepper grinders using the old Woolies gift certificates, and that they were reduced to half price anyway (if I remember it right it cost about £6-8 half-price for the two of them) - due to Woolworth's selling off stock cheap on account of being about to close down - are of some small consolation to me given the annoying fact that I soon found that my David Mason Design salt and pepper grinders DO NOT BLOOMIN' WELL WORK and in my opinion were never any good even from the outset. I still get cross however when I think that by having bought the gift certificates that were used to purchase this useless pair of articles, our relatives did in effect pay for these David Mason Design grinders, and that someone had to pay money for things that don't work does in principle annoy me.
I never found the set of much use, even from the start. The pepper grinder worked sporadically for about two refillings of its internal peppercorn-storage area, but despite having an apparently 'adjustable' grind-size (adjusted by means of the uselessly slippery spherical metal tightening screw at the top of the device), it would only ever produce black pepper ground so fine it was almost invisible and thus barely even there, or at the other extreme, great big hunks of black pepper, each of which seemed to be the result of a single black peppercorn having been roughly cracked in two. There was no happy medium of pepper grinding possible between these two extremes, and after the second cycle of refilling, then grinding pepper out until it was empty it simply stopped working altogether anyway. We soon gave up on that.
The salt mill still works, but it is to salt consumption a lot like one of those armoured 'Humvee' recreational vehicles that used to be popular in Los Angeles a few years ago (the ones that didn't so much provide miles per gallon as use gallons of petrol per mile) were to fuel efficiency. The salt mill from our set spouts out so much ground salt with each turn of its milling action that I found its internal salt reservoir is pretty inadequate and I would say is too small for the type of apparatus it is. I also feel the grinding mechanism in the set - assuming it's the same in both the pepper and salt mill - though serviceable enough for breaking down hard, brittle substances such as rock-salt, is not nearly robust enough to deal with hard yet slightly flexible materials such as black pepper corns. Based on some years experience of fruitless searching for a replacement for an excellent (but now broken) wooden pepper mill I once owned, I'm beginning to think this is a problem inherent in all acrylic / non-wood pepper mills in general.
Even the clear acrylic used to make these salt and pepper grinders, though it looks very attractive, and transparently pleasant, is in my opinion completely unsuited for a utensil designed to be used in a kitchen environment. I kept my grinder set next to the cooker, for seasoning just-cooked food with, and the salt and pepper mills soon picked up a thin scum of airborne oil or grease from my frying pan. This stuff is almost impossible to clean off from the plastic salt and pepper grinders: what the mills need is a good soaking in hot, soapy water - but given the powdery nature of their contents, and the fact that you're not supposed to wet the grinding mechanism, this is not an option for cleaning them. The thin coating of oil makes twisting the knobs of the grinders even more difficult which is another reason I have given up on the salt grinder now as well. Though the instructions for use that came with the grinder set did say that the utensils were not to be used during cooking (as steam from the pans dampens the grinding mechanism and causes clogging), I think its ridiculous that the mills have such limited usefulness that I can't even use mine in an area NEAR to where cooking is taking place.
To be fair, David Mason Design did offer some kind of guarantee on the salt and pepper grinders - it was either a lifetime guarantee or a fixed term of five years or some such on the mechanism. Though my mills are barely more than a year old and still well within the guarantee period, I haven't made enquiries or taken this up as frankly I don't want a replacement pair of pepper and salt mills from the company, not if they're going to be as useless as my original set.
Perhaps this company can supply all-wood pepper and salt mills that work adequately. I would avoid any of their products that are made from plastic, however. Mine are going to the charity shop.
Clear acrylic salt and pepper mill set