Homemade Scratter

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How to make a Homemade Cider Scratter

After posting recently on the group about an apple mill which we had made, it was suggested that I share my experience and design with other group members who might want to have a go at...

Making a Scratter on a Shoestring

The 'fully modular' Codler with its accessories.jpg

The Origin of The Codling Grinder !

Our machine "The Codling Grinder" was conceived from the outset as a low budget project, largely using materials that my wife and I had by us, or could obtain at little or no cost. We honed our scrounging skills to perfection along the way, it became a real challenge to ourselves to keep expenditure to a minimum. We paid those that contributed in materials or labour with the best of our 2005 liquid gold. We found, time and again, that people, once they knew what crackpot device we were attempting to construct, were more than happy to help out and become involved.

I should explain the name. This was coined by one of the cydermaking ner'do'wells with whom we associate. He, on seeing the newly studded wooden drum for the first time, exclaimed, "Its the Bl***y Codling Grinder!" (Apparently a medieval torture device from an episode of telly's "Blackadder"). I couldn't comment on this, not having seen said episode, but... well the name stuck anyway !

The layout of the Codler is basically a wooden chassis, supporting at one end an electric motor, driving, in the middle, a rotating wooden drum which is surmounted by a plywood hopper. Fruit is chucked into the hopper via an optional sorting tray (more on this later) and is shredded against the front hopper wall by the studded drum. It then emerges beneath as a finely milled pulp ready for the press. Simple. In its basic form, the Codler could be supported on 2 chairs/trestles above a collecting vessel and fed directly by the bucketful. We decided to refine this by making a stand for the unit and also a fruit sorting tray which has proved invaluable. But,if you want to keep yours simple, you can.

  • More inspiration...

Also check out this variation on the homemade scratter / mill theme, as made by Matthias Wandel: Apple Grinder--Ray 11:36, 14 October 2006 (BST)

Back in 1999, Richard Thomes invented a scratter by drilling holes in a piece of steel from an oil drum.

There are some images and description of a home-made rotating "scratcher" for milling apples included in the book: "Success with Apples and Pears to Eat and Drink" by Alan Rowe, which is available from the ukcider bookshop.

Anyway,carrying on with the "Codler"...

The Chassis

Basically, 2 pieces of timber joined together at the right distance (200mm + in our case) to accept the drum between. We used 3"x2", as that was what we had; 3"x3" would be better. On one end a deck is made to support the motor and on/off switch. A piece of robust plywood forms the front wall (motor side) of the hopper and descends between the main timbers where it is backed by a stout crossmember to form the 'crushing face'. Another crossmember runs just behind where the drum will turn, this forms the rear, lower face of the crushing chamber. We used old pallet wood and stainless steel screws where necessary, we also faced the lower portion of front hopper panel with stainless plate that we had cut from an old fire extinguisher.
Hopper off for cleaning.jpg

The Motor

The onoff switch, motor and bearing.jpg

We used a 240V SINGLE PHASE motor of 0.5 horse power, giving 1425 RPM. For an 8 inch (200mm) drum this is just right; if you can get a 0.75HP or a 1HP motor, go for it, you could then easily drive a larger drum if you wished. We scrounged our motor, but £25-50 is normal on Ebay if you simply must use coin of the realm. Car boot sales might be cheaper still. Try to get one with a pulley already on.

The Drum

The drum and stainless screws.JPG

This is the only bit you're not going to find 'knocking about' - you'll have to get one made. We used sycamore wood for ours, this does not split easily when seasoned and was traditionally used for the rollers on the machines used in the British textile industry. If it was good enough for the mills of the North-West, then it's good enough for us. Our drum is 200mm long by 150mm dia. and has a 25mm hole through its centre to accommodate the shaft. Your local tree surgeon will no doubt have a bit of sycamore in his yard; our log cost £2.50. Then its round to your local woodturner to get it made into something useful (ours cost £10), but make sure the logs seasoned or he'll get drenched turning it! Once you have your lovely smooth drum, you need to 'stud' it. We used 1 1/4 inch x No.8 countersunk STAINLESS woodscrews for this. Screw them in so they project no more than about 6mm (make a depth gauge from a lolly stick to help you?). The screw pattern you adopt is important. Aim to have a 'cut' every 5mm across the length of your drum, at least twice per 360 Deg. rotation. Stagger the screws accordingly in the pattern that pushes buttons for you. Arrowhead pattern, Tractor tyre pattern, doesn't matter. Be artistic. Every 5mm though.

Looking down the hopper.jpg

Drive Belt & Pulleys

The pully and belt side of things.jpg

Someone you know will have an old car fan belt hanging up in their garage... Pulley size affects the RPM of the drum shaft. Here's the formula: Drive pulley size x motor RPM, divided by load pulley size. Ours was 2.75 inch X 1425 RPM divided by 4.5 inch, giving 870 RPM at the drum. This seems plenty and does the apples a treat. Our load pulley is a 3 speed type, we use the large (slower) one, but we can increase speed if need be by moving the belt over and adjusting tension at the motor end. Make sure your pulley alignment is okay and the belt tight, but not overtight.


These fasten to the chassis using coach bolts. Use 'Plummer block' bearings with an inside diameter to match your drum shaft (25mm in our case). Ours were not stainless, but as they sit outside the hopper and are well painted, juice contact is really minimal if not non-existant. Cost to us: £20 the pair from a local bearing stockist. On Ebay you pay about the same (with postage) and you have to wait for the right size to come up too!


For this you need a nice piece of STAINLESS rod (we used 25mm solid, 20mm might have done just as well). Unless you're an ace scrounger like us (well..Sharon really!) buying a short piece of this could cost you about £30. Remember that the shaft diameter, bearing I.D., and hole in your drum must all be the same. If your loadside pulley wont fit, have it bored out or the shaft end turned down at your local engineering shop (this was more Scrumpy expenditure for us). We also had a small STAINLESS flange welded to the shaft (£10), so that when the drum was pushed on, we could screw it to the flange, thereby stopping the drum from rotating ON the shaft rather than WITH it when in use. In practice this may not have been necessary as the sycamore was a VERY tight fit anyway. Very nerve-wracking knocking the blessed thing on with a wooden mallet and hoping it won't split!

(Hmm..just a thought,maybe stainless steel pipe as used by plumbers in bathrooms might be an alternative you could use ? Could work out cheaper and should be strong enough.)

The Hopper

With sorting tray not fitted.jpg

The sides and rear of the hopper were made from plywood and screwed to the chassis inboard of the bearings. Fit a STEEP rear slope within to guide the fruit decisively onto the all-consuming rotating drum. If you are not going to use the sorting tray and small cover arrangement as we did, you WILL need to make a full cover. The apple bits fly like lottery balls on acid!

The Electrics

A motor of the sort of size discussed here (0.5-1HP) will run from a (U.K.) 13A socket. Fit an RCD Safety plugtop to your flex. This is better than the adaptor type, as it is hardwired to the machine and there can be no temptation to operate without protection because you can't be bothered to get the RCD adaptor from the shed! Fit a splashproof on/off switch to IP54 or 55. Use a DOUBLE POLE type, with these there's no danger if our budding sparky cocks up the polarity, they break Live & Neutral. You'll get one of these from your electrical wholesaler (don't worry, they love to sell to the public over the tradecounter (about a tenner). Scrounged ours byetheway!

The Skirt

A rather fetching miniskirt.jpg

This was made by one of the 'Codlettes' from one of those grey plastic mailsacks beloved of the Royalmail (Thanks for ours byetheway Your Maj!). These sacks are ideal as they already have 4 eyelets fitted. Secure around the drum chamber with cup hooks. The skirt directs the pulp... well... more directly into yer bucket!

2007 season modification ! We found the skirt a bit of a nuisance to clean and sterilise and so have now replaced it with a square 'flip-top' kitchen waste bin with the bottom half cut away and the removable top discarded. We melted some holes in it for cable ties to pass through, enabling it to be fastened to the cup-hooks on the Codler.

The Stand

The Codler, ready to tackle its first 'Majors'.jpg

Made from old pallets, enough said. Make it large enough to accept a large collecting vessel beneath it, as a bucket ain't big enough when the Codler lets rip !

The Sorting Tray

The sorting tray atop the hopper.jpg

This is great. You load your washed fruit into it for further inspection prior to milling. Pick out all the really grotty ones easily. Make a support stand that gives a slight 'fall' to the apples. The business end locates over and into the hopper, secured by battens attached underneath. Don't forget a removable bridge piece at the outlet into the hopper.


When assembling your Codler the crucial measurement is between the drumscrews and the lower portion of the hopper front wall. Set this at 1-2mm clearance. All other dimensions will relate to belt length, pulley sizes, etc. Fit the Drum/Shaft/Bearing/loadpulley assembly first, then work to that.

The Codlettes feeding the Beastie.jpg


The Codler gets through 25kg sacks of apples like the 'Majors' in the photo's in no time at all (I will time things when next we use it... if memory doesn't fail). The pulp comes out as fine as that out of professionally made machines I have seen (and used), and is well suitable for the next stage in its journey... the Press!

See a short clip of The Codler in action here; [1]



The Codler Price Challenge

Well thats about it, I hope that you have enjoyed these lighthearted ramblings. When making yours, remember, its not rocket science, have fun doing it! Ours cost £42.50, can you beat that? Remember Codling isn't just about milling fruit... it's a way of life!
Regards, Ni. (Marches Cyder Circle)

P.S.There's no prize for this, but see if you can spot my dog, Rosie, in the photo's!

Query re Drum Speed

I followed the homemade scratter instructions but have a question:

I have used a one hp motor driving an 8 inch block with screws and blades. the problem is that the block rotates so well (fast) that the apples are just scored not scratted. I presume I must find a way to reduce the speed of the drum. Is there any alternative to a larger pulley ? Hope you can help in time to get my crop into pressable form. Thanks for your time, Cheers, Dave Ferns.

Help with unknown apple variety ?

Does anyone recognise what variety this very tanniny bittersweet apple is ? (Not Yarlington or Major)

Problem solved! A trawl through Bulmers records (courtesy of the ever helpful Chris Fairs)turned up a 1948 invoice for the original purchase of the trees. They are a Norman variety 'Saint Laurent'. They make great keeved cyder. Bulmers nursery no longer did this type (it had been lost) and so we furnished them, via Chris, with graftwood and they now list again this type. I too have young trees should anyone want one. Thanks to Jeff (below) and all others who tried to help. Ny (2012)

Unknown variety.jpg

Suggestion from Jeff Silver (jeffas): I'm guessing you have quite small hands, in which case this could well be a John Downie crabapple. The mix of small yellow/green/brown ones with larger shiny pink/yellow ones is exactly what I used to get from my (sadly defunct) tree.