Kim Dailey’s salt and pepper mills would look right at home on a 1970s-era dinner table.

The curvy mills come in funky designs and swirls of bright colors. Some are turned from dyed and laminated wood, while others are airbrushed, a technique that softens the transitions between colors. When Dailey, a wood turner who lives on the outskirts of Carthage in western Maine, started making the mills in 2007, “people thought of them as pieces of art, and they bought them but never used them.”

That seemed odd at first to Dailey, but he has grown used to the idea. “I didn’t grow up that way,” he said. “We didn’t have art in the house. Everything had to have a purpose.”

For years, Dailey worked as a traveling salesman, logging more than a million miles driving in all kinds of weather. Now he jokes that his commute consists of walking 14 steps down into his basement workshop.

His eye-catching mills are made with sustainably harvested Maine birch from Cousineau Wood Products in North Anson. For the laminated pepper mills, Dailey works with birch veneer that’s been dyed and glued by Cousineau. “That’s how we get the stripes and all the colors,” he said.

Dailey’s designs are drawn from what he sees around him, and named for people who have been in his life. The Haynes mill, for example, is named for Flossie and Donald Haynes, the parents of a childhood friend. “I learned from them that having goals for kids was actually a good thing,” Dailey said.

The Haynes design was inspired by a water droplet Dailey saw one day when he was breaking ice off the eaves of his house.

“If you flip it upside down,” he said, “you’ll actually see the water droplet as it starts, and then it gets elongated. The head of the mill is actually the water droplet after it dropped away.”

The most popular mill, the Morrison (named for his in-laws), was designed after a photo Dailey saw of a Victorian woman dancing. The cut of the mill reflects the shape of her head, shoulders, tiny waist and long dress. Dailey turned some rings at the bottom of the mill to mimic the pleats in the woman’s dress.

The air-brushed pepper mills use a retro technique responsible for an untold number of tacky T-shirts in the world, but it transforms pepper mills into things of beauty.

Dailey ships his psychedelically decorated mills all over the world. The price ranges from $100 to $150, depending on the design. He also makes smaller mini-grinders for $45.

The mills are sold on Dailey’s website,, and can also be found at the Center for Maine Craft in West Gardiner. Dailey said that by mid-November, Found in Kennebunk and Lisa-Marie’s Made in Maine in Portland and Bath will also carry the pepper mills.

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