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Friday 24th September was Heritage Day. What better way of celebrating it than milling with a 200-year-old Water Mill?

I wasn’t exactly overrun by visitors despite the day (two groups), so I decided to test the main elevator for the first time. On the last visit, I glued a wedge into the short chute to the grain cleaner, so that is firm now. I fitted the specially shaped plug for the middle chute to the Stamford Mill, so the chutes were set to feed the Vitruvian Mill.

After cleaning out the cobwebs, I poured half a bucket of grain into the main hopper. That turned out to be a big mistake, as the sluice at the bottom was wide open and the grain poured through and clogged the bottom of the elevator completely! No amount of turning the pulley or even the belt itself at the top would allow a bucket to pass through the ‘blockage’. There was nothing for it but to climb into the pit below the elevator and open the flaps and try to remove the grain.

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Space is very limited there. The openings which are exposed when the flaps are open are too narrow, really, so I had to coax the grain out little by little with a welding rod, onto a plate and remove the plate from time to time and pour that into a dust-pan. The space I had to climb into is narrower than a bucket, so every time the dust-pan was full I had to reach out and empty it into the bucket above! I was climbing out frequently anyway to test the belt at the top, in the hope that it would start turning.

Eventually the elevator started operating, so I could test how the grain was thrown out of the buckets. I have always said we will be able to gauge the correct speed of the water wheel by the operation of these original buckets. Too little speed and the grain will fall down the ‘down’ trunk; too much speed and the grain will be thrown across the Mill!

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There was plenty of water in the dam to experiment with, but now that the buckets had the weight of grain in them, the drive belt up from the grain clener was slipping badly and a lot of speed was lost there. Experimenting by assisting the top pulley just a bit, made some of the grain throw out nicely into the discharge chute. There should be a knife-edge between the down trunk and the discharge chute. This has become flattened over time and must be re-made with sheet steel.

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Once in the discharge chute, I was disappointed by the reluctance to flow, although this chute is original. However, it was possible to adjust the relative position of the new reciprocating delivery chute and the one from the elevator so one just touched the other at the end of stroke. This slight agitation was enough to get the grain to flow. There was some spillage over the edge of the reciprocating chute, so it will need an extension upwards just there.

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The drive belt continued to be a problem, often slipping off to the side of the chutes. The drive on the grain cleaner is a two-part pulley which was very easy to slack it off, move and tighten up again. Now the belt runs nicely in the middle of the pulley. The belt must be replaced with rubber-backed canvas transmission belting like we use in a few critical places on the mill, the rest is scrounged old belting, not necessarily made for power transmission.

During all this, the Vitruvian Mill was grinding away, working through the remainder of the bag of grain started during the Pink Weekend. Doing the calculations of meal ground compared with grain bought, we produced 97½kg of meal out of two 50kg bags, and no small amoung of grain was spilled while testing the elevator; there is probably some still in the bottom of the elevator.

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Before leaving, I closed the little flaps at the bottom of the elevator and vacuumed the pit thoroughly. We need a shallow tray here with turned-up edges. Hopefully a baking tray can be found with the right dimensions; otherwise we’ll have to make up something out of galvanised sheet.

I have also measured for some galvanised steel plates to be cut for the knife-edge as well as a cap for the elevator. It seens that if the speed does become a bit too fast, grain will be thrown all over the place. It will be better to contain it. Let us hope they will be cut, and a new belt made up before my next visit, so I can test again and play with the speeds.

Altogether, I’m very happy with the results!

Andy Selfe

25th September 2010