Friday, 16 January 2015

Happy New Year!

The above pictures show the finishing stages of the dummy saw bench drive.  First three pieces of wood were cut into circles and trimmed to represent a toothed wheel.  After several stages of processing they were clamped together and glued.  The second picture shows the toothed wheel in place on the shaft.  We think this must be pretty much how the thing would have looked.

 Among other jobs, Richard made some adjustments to the chains on the dump valve.  This included putting adjustable links in so we could make sure the gate dropped level.
 With the stone lifted for its winter clean, Richard has adapted the wooden bearing blocks to take a grease nipple, as suggested by one of the comments on this blog.  This will make it much easier to keep the shaft lubricated in future, and removes the need for the masses of supposedly grease-soaked sacking that filled the other 3 slots in the bearing casting.
Instead we have cut some complicated wooden pieces to fill the 3 slots, while not bearing directly on the shaft.  Here Richard is trying one in place.

Other jobs have included still more cobbling of the yard, and work on the "declutch" lever for the shelling stone, which has not worked since some modifications we made last year.

Monday, 17 November 2014

Experimental Evidence

1                     2                       3
We know that breadmaking machines are not very good at making bread from the relatively low gluten flours that are made from British wheat.  For anyone who is uncertain about the properties of various flours and how they behave in a breadmaker, Philip Day from Leeds has carried out an experiment under controlled conditions.  He writes "to demonstrate the differences, I've baked three loaves using the Panasonic standard 'Wholemeal loaf' using 350 grams of flour in each case. Flours used are

  1. Acorn Bank stoneground wholemeal
  2. Waitrose Very Strong Canadian Stoneground Wholemeal [Spring Red Wheat]. 
  3. Carrs Strong White and Strong Brown [not wholemeal], roller-milled mixed 50/50."

If you want to bake using our flour, the recipe published by Little Salkeld Watermill certainly worked well when I went on one of their breadmaking courses.  Alternatively, I find a 50:50 mix with Allinson's Very Strong white or wholemeal works well in the breadmaker.

Meanwhile, back at the mill, Richard and I finished installing the dummy shaft and pulley in the former sawbench area.  These pictures show the inside and outside ends and their replica bearings.

Wednesday, 5 November 2014

End of the season - or not?

The property closed on Sunday - but will still be open until 28 December at weekends!  That leaves us having to decide when to open and mill. Much of yesterday was taken up with a meeting to plan the work programme for the winter.  It seems that there is a lack of building surveyors in the Trust, which is holding up a number of projects, including our kiln.

 Work has continued on making the dummy shaft to fit the bearing box in the lower wall.  Ray has made two imitation wooden bearings, shown here carrying a surplus length of shafting, and these have been drilled to suit the holes in the original box.

This week Richard, Donald and I managed to hoist the shaft into position, where it sits on the beam and the bearing box. Now we just need to fit the dummy bearings and make a gear wheel for the outside.
We received our second delivery of grain at the end of October.  Ray, Donald and I  loaded it into the mill, half in the old grain bin and half in the new one in the information room - seen here both part full and locked up, as it will normally be.  The delivery was short of a tonne, but no problem as we won't need it all this season.

Meanwhile work continues on the mill yard.  This week all the garden and estate staff and volunteers turned out to clear it and put down gravel for an apple-pressing event this coming Saturday (with help from George and Peter).  They also managed to break one of our stone lintels while trying to move it into the kiln room.

Wednesday, 1 October 2014

Sizergh Greenwood Fair, grain storage etc.

Our stall at Sizergh
Last Saturday, Sylvia, Richard and Bob ran an Acorn Bank stall at the Sizergh Greenwood Fair.  We assembled a fair display from the unpromising ingredients of Richards wallpapering table, two corkboards the Sizergh staff found, some pictures, bags of flour and some string to stop the boards from blowing over.  We had a good day, selling 25 bags of flour and advertising the virtues of Acorn Bank and, particularly, Apple Day.
Building the new bin

Meanwhile on Tuesday work continued on the new rodent-proof aluminium-lined grain bin.  This one is to have a hinged lid so it can easily be padlocked, as it will have to live in the Information Room.  Otherwise it is being built on much the same lines as the old one.

The need for the new bin is due to the change in our grain supply - instead of buying 150 kg at a time from Little Salkeld watermill, we are now buying 1 tonne at a time direct from the farm.  The old bin was not designed for that quantity, either in volume, or in the strength of its castors.

Fitting extra castors
As a new delivery is imminent, and our grain stocks are very low, we took the opportunity to empty the old bin and add 4 more castors to it to cope with the extra weight.

The driest September since records began has left us desperately short of water, and an average day's milling has gone from about 22 1.5 kg bags to 7 or 8.  It is therefore even more essential to keep the headrace clear.  It was obvious that there were several places where fallen twigs and branches were slowing the flow, so we took the clearing tools and removed as much as we could.

Clearing the leat - just look at
the "dam" behind Richard

While others were continuing with clearing the yard for cobbling, we also looked at the bearing support where the drive from the third waterwheel originally entered the building.  Having removed the masonry that had been inserted to block the space, we treated the metal with Waxoyl and put a wooden back in the hole to keep weather and wildlife out.  Ray is going to make some wooden imitation bearings to support the layshaft with its two pulleys.

Fitting a board to the
bearing support

Tuesday, 26 August 2014

Moving the chicken hut and other stories

In order for the cobbling of the yard to proceed, we had to move the chicken shed from the top of the yard to the bottom.  Having pleaded a bad back, I was able to take pictures from the upstairs of the mill while Chris (the gardener), assisted by the mill and estate volunteers, used a system of planks and rollers to move the beast into its new position.  It seemed to be surprisingly heavy, even though all the chickens had been removed first!

The removal of the shed meant we could get at the old lay-shaft that had been trapped behind it.  This was not part of the mill machinery, but had been introduced.  Richard had an idea that we could use it to give a better idea of the mechanical arrangements in the saw-mill part of the mill.  To that end, he has started to dismantle it and shorten the shaft.  It is proposed to make dummy wooden bearings and a dummy gear wheel to sit on the outside end, where it would have met the gearing from the third waterwheel.
Where I crossed the river

The evidence we have for the third wheel and its drive comes from some late 19th century photographs.  So that we could get a better idea of the arrangements, I decided to take a modern picture from a similar viewpoint.  This means the other side of Crowdundle Beck.  I first tried walking to it via the road, but after a 35 minute exploration, I decided I could not reach the river bank that way.  Later I set off to ford the river, armed only with a crudely cut stick and a pair of borrowed wellies.  This was more successful, though the trees and undergrowth have advanced a lot since the 1890s.

I got the angle about right - this is a combination
of the 2 pictures

In other news, the timber and castors have arrived for the second grain storage bin, so Ray and Donald started work on that.

Wednesday, 20 August 2014

We'll always find another job to do... fact, we'll find any number of jobs.

Just recently we have:

Made changes to the milling machinery to reduce the chances of annoying wildlife, like mill moths, gaining access.  This includes taking the damsel out every time we finish milling and storing it in the hopper.  To facilitate this, we have changed the mounting of the upper bearing of the damsel shaft.

Continued cobbling the yard.

Made plans for a second grain bin and got the materials ordered.

Made no progress with the rebuilding of the kiln.

Begun to rebuild the retaining wall adjacent to the weir.  The river has undercut the wall (as it has the weir itself) and there was a danger the whole thing could collapse into the water.  The pictures show Richard and Donald moving some heavy masonry during week 2 of the work (I was there as well, but I was holding the camera!).

Nice day for a change!

Tuesday, 10 June 2014

Even more wheel power

Quite a lot has happened.  Nick and Ana Jones have finally sold Little Salkeld watermill and are due to enter well-earned retirement (!) next week.  As a consequence, we are unable to buy our wheat from them as we have done since we started milling.  However, Nick very helpfully found a supply of good quality wheat for us, and we had our first tonne delivered a couple of weeks ago.  I would like to thank Nick and Ana for all the help they have given us over the past few years, and to wish them all success in whatever they turn their hands to in the future.

A couple of weeks ago, I visited the National Trusts's Cragside.  I was interested to see that their model of a pitchback wheel had a simple step at the end of the launder to kick the water flow upwards.  This avoids the impulse of the water from opposing the motion of the wheel.  Our wheel has been highly efficient since we re-boarded it, but there is never any harm in increasing efficiency - after all, we might have a dry season and be short of water.

With this in mind, Richard added an extra baffle board to the end of the launder to achieve a similar effect. When we tried it out, the wheel turned (not under milling load) with much less water than ever before.
 We have also built part of a tun over the shelling stone, with a plastic window at the front.  This is partly to improve the safety of the mill operators while the machinery is turning, and partly to show visitors what is going on in the milling tun.

The newly efficient wheel has enabled us to turn out much more flour than before in a standard weekend session, and we now have a good stock in the mill and the shop.

Other jobs have included cleaning out the tun and flour chute and improving their resistance to intrusion by mice and insects and continuing to expand the cobbled area - George is now working across the front of the barn.