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.

Tuesday, 22 April 2014

A good start to the milling season

Having only started milling for the year on April 12th, we were keen to try out the new power of the wheel.  We started with eight 25 kg bags (200kg) of wheat, and Richard and I milled 75kg in that first weekend, roughly shared between his Saturday session and my Sunday one.

That left just 5 bags to last the 4 day Easter weekend.  We divided it quite fairly, so we each had 1¼ bags per day.  With the new, improved wheel that was NOT ENOUGH! On Monday I ended up milling talcum-powder fine just to try to slow the machine down so we could last until 4 o'clock.

We had hundreds of visitors over the weekend (230 Sunday, 255 Monday) and sold most of the flour we produced, though we did eventually run out of labels.  We need to pay more attention to stock control at the start of future seasons.

During the first two weeks in April Richard and I gave our talk on the restoration of the mill (wittily titled "Flour Power") to two more local history groups, in Bampton and Low Hesketh.

Some Dutch windmills

 During a short holiday in Holland, we visited the Zaanse Schaans museum, where there is an amazing number of working windmills.

 Some are sawmills, one crushes peanuts for oil, one grinds spices and the one whose works are shown below grinds pigment.  We didn't see or hear of any grain mills.

 Very impressed with the wooden gearing and the general ambiance of having so much machinery turning in the breeze.

Tuesday, 1 April 2014

Finishing off and Spring Cleaning

The last board is hammered in
 Over the last 3 weeks we have finished the wheel boarding.  Ray cut and finished the final section of larch liner board at home, and we hammered it into place.  There were then just the bolts holding the paddles in place; these were fitted, trimmed to length and given a dab of black paint so they don't shine too brightly!

The cobbling complete
The cobbling team have finished the area behind the wheel house and are looking for fresh challenges.

Finally, today, we tried letting some water into the wheel for the first time.  It was a great success - see the video below.

Today's main other job was starting to clean and tidy the mill, sweeping, hoovering and mopping the floor ready for reassembling the stone and its furniture and starting to mill in about 10 days time.   The wheat is already on order.

Tuesday, 11 March 2014

Wheel work goes on

The stack of liner boards
ready for fitting
Over the past couple of weeks some of the volunteers have worked an extra day.  As a result, the bucket boards are complete and more than half of the wheel liner boards have been fitted  (there are actually 48 of them, not 40 as previously stated).
They are made from larch tongue-and-groove (t&g) board, and are initially prepared by cutting them all to the same length.

One of the liner boards being
persuaded in to place
They are then offered up to the wheel and marked for the bolts that hold them to the casting and for the three brass screws that fix them to the bucket bottom boards.  After drilling they get an application of Roofer's Mate sealant on the mating surfaces before being fixed in place.
Ray cuts a board to fit round a spoke
The boards that coincide with the spokes are a little more complicated.  They have to be cut to fit round the spoke and the casting that it fits into.  They cannot be fitted in the normal sequence, as the t&g would prevent their being put in their place.
Fitting a board trimmed around a spoke
Instead, the previous board is removed, the trimmed board fitted, and the previous board hammered in from the end.

Thursday, 27 February 2014

Wheel progress continued

Top view of Richard working
on the wheel
By the end of today,
half the boards are in...

... and the remaining 15 pairs are ready

Wednesday, 19 February 2014

Waterwheel rebuild - good progress

Ray planes bucket boards
 A good turnout of 7 volunteers today, so we were able to get on.  Ray, Bob and Donald continued making the bucket boards.  This involves ripping the boards to width, cutting at the required 54 degree angle; trimming them to length; drilling the bevelled edge for the joining screws and inserting and removing the screws (to make them easier to put in for real); and planing the edges to ease the fit into the wheel castings.

We now have 10 sets fully processed, and the remaining 20 sets are all ripped and waiting for length cutting and finishing.
Richard helps Bob locate the angle
of the bucket screws

Assembly has been made easier by drilling the clearance holes slightly bigger than is strictly necessary for the brass woodscrews we are using.

The tailrace is flooded
In spite of which several buckets
were installed

Richard and David managed to complete the installation of 7 buckets overall.  They have to be fitted a few at a time, then the wheel turned and some fitted at the opposite side.  Otherwise the weight of them would make the wheel dangerously unbalanced.

Finally, Peter and George got on with cobbling the area behind the wheelhouse; only a small area left to do.