Found in Early American Mills, making it look more like a real mill.
The wooden Bottle Weights are missing from the Lighter Staffs
along with the meal bins in front of the Millstone Chutes. Gone also
are the Twist Pegs and Crock Strings that controls the adjustment
height of the shoe that regulates the grain being fed into the millstones.
When the mill was operating the leather would be replaced, but once the
mill became abandoned between 1870 and 1879, anything that is attached by
Leather Straps will disappear and fall off in time. To the right
of the window it looks like even a pair of basement steps are missing.
Lefferts Tide Mill, a.k.a. Van Wyck Mill, Huntington Harbor, Southdown
Rd., Huntington, Suffolk County, Long Island, New York, completed circa
1795. Black and white photo from HABS.
When mill stops operating the machinery sometimes is removed, and taken
to other mill. Smaller items not attached often disappear sometimes being
carried away by kids, or it might be removed by souvenir collectors (sometimes
family members) or even so-called mill buffs. Everything from scoops, paddles,
scales, shovels, grain probes, hand trucks, often disappear. When they are
left alone and abandoned, mills can become sterile environments. For some
people tend to see the larger picture and not the small details. They restore
the buildings and the machinery, and not what was or should be in them.
The project either runs out of steam, sometimes out of money, or time, and
in many mill restorations that can even cost millions. It is bad enough
that many architectural award winning mill restorations that cost millions
installed millstones with furrows laid out backwards.
So in the process many of the details get left out. You have to go beyond
the read between the lines of old milling books to know enough about the
details. These are the loose items that break, wear out, come and go with
the changes in technology, or just are walked away with after the mill stops
operation even by flood waters. Unless you know what you were looking at
in the drawings of "The Young Mill-Wright and Miller's Guide,"
you would never know about bottle weights begin hung on the ends of leather
straps that are wrapped around the handle ends of the lighter staffs. Just
in the passing of time operating the mill, the leather straps would break,
the bottle weight sometimes comes off, and they have to be repaired to keep
them in as they originally were. I found a bottle weight once that hand
fallen to the mill's basement because the leather rotted, and with the next
flood that would came along, it would have become history. Artifacts and
props are one of the most important things in being able to interpret the
operation of a restored mill.
Most people don't realize that the corner basement fireplace was not
intended for heat, light, cooking or the miller's comfort. The miller would
not light a fire to ward off the cold or provide light in the dark basement.
These fireplaces were used for heating branding irons for barrel heads.
When mills went to using stencils and ink, the old fireplaces became forgotten
icons of former days and how the mill actually functioned. Branding Irons
were used for a long time because they believed that ink or paint would
contaminate the flour through the seams in the barrel head, so they used
branding irons, much like cattle branding irons. They often were simple
saying only "SF 196." The words "SF" meant
"superfine," and the 196 mean the weight of the flour contained
within the barrel regulated by laws. George Washington that shipped his
flour in barrels to the West Indies his branding irons said, "G.W.
196." The "G.W." of course in this case meant
George Washington, as "T.J. 196" would mean Thomas Jefferson.
After branding irons disappeared round brass stencils came into usage, and
then paper labels glued onto the barrel heads. Barrels were used mainly
by merchant mills and then later used by roller mills.
Barrels that were used in the mill to be fulled with flour were called
"dry" coopers. These would have split ash hoops that were bend
around the barrel and locked into itself thus forming a hoop. They were
used with things that were dry such as flour, salt, sugar, gunpowder, tobacco,
etc. They were used because there was not the same problem that a "wet"
cooper that would have in swelling the wood and beginning to leak. They
could be rolled around the mill by one person without the worry of the metal
hoops striking a nail head and causing a spark that could be disastrous
for everyone and everything. Old whiskey or wine barrels are cheaper and
easier to come by but should be only used for mill and visitor trash.
A good miller would know if they left any candles unattended in the building
because it might burn down the mill. So he had the blacksmith forge sharp
spikes that could be pounded into wood or a barrel head. The other end of
the sharp spike would have either a sharp point so that the base of a candle
could be pushed onto it, or a round shallow cup that would hold a candle
base. A similar device was used later to hold the very early railroad candles
and flares to the railroad ties to warn approaching trains. There were different
kinds of hooks that the blacksmith made that could be pounded into wood
beams or hung over beams that could hold candles. By the time that oil lighting
could have been used in mills they beginning to suspect about the explosive
nature of flour dust and lighting remained natural until electric lights
came along. When mills originally blew up from a dust explosion, hell fire
happened. They attributed this to demonic forces because the air would fill
up with flame and there was no way in hell that anyone would ever get out
alive. However it seemed that more mills burned down from being struck by
lighting than by other means, supernatural or by human carelessness.
Brooms and hand brushes were standard items found in every mill that
would do some sort of regular cleaning. Housekeeping depended upon the mill
owner or the miller. Some mills cleaned daily, and others never wasted the
time in cleaning, or they cleaned the mill once a year to remove the buildup
and insect infestations. An accurate restored mill would be covered with
interpretive trash, dust, grain and cobwebs everywhere but that would not
go over too well with modern health standards. A good miller never throws
anything out because he will always find a use for it. Besides saving wood
for bearings and blocks to hold millstones when they are being dressed the
miller also would save worn out broom handles. They were used to tie rags
on to make cobweb catchers, but sometimes long poles were used instead.
Besides a cobweb catcher the miller would use a length of rope with a rag
tied on the middle of the rope to play tug-a-war in cleaning out the inside
of chutes. The miller also cut them into about 18 to 24 inch lengths to
use as rappers to pound on the outside of bins and chutes to get the clogs
and the flow moving once again. Sometimes they hung a wooden mallet on a
nail near a bin or chute that would regularly clog up. The early mills that
just ground soft wheat flour everything from the chute leading from underneath
the millstone cover to around the millstones themselves. It was very prone
to clogging from the wheat that had the least bit of too much moisture content
it became very prone to clogging chutes and bolting screens. The larva of
the meal worms were born in spidery webs that the miller's moth butterfly
would lay its eggs in that could fill and clog meal chutes. The butterflies
instinctively knew that the meal worms would have plenty to eat with from
the meal that would catch on the same webs that bore the larvae from the
Every miller who kept all of his fingers also knew to use these sticks to
get jammed elevator cups and belts moving again. It is better to use a stick
than loosing some of your fingers. These sticks often were found with cords
tied through the ends that had holes drilled so they could be hung up around
the mill and would make them more handy when needed. They could be easily
hung on nails pounded into beams or posts. They also became useful items
to have and were used as twisters to add in pulling two ropes together that
were wrapped around both free ends of a broken elevator belt. Gradually
they would twist the rope together to take up the tension so they could
be laced or bolted tight. These short sticks could be used in place of a
broom handle to ad in removing a moving belt or to assist in placing a leather
belt onto moving pulleys. Every miller who has tried to use the claw of
a hammer can tell you if you don't do it correctly or drop the hammer while
you are doing it, you often end up with the hammer bouncing off your forehead.
Broom handles also were used to make wooden control handles that were hung
on long cotton ropes though a series of holes drilled on each floor from
values found on spouting swells in upper stories of the mill. A hole was
either drilled or burned though the center of a section of wood to form
a hand hold, and the rope slid though the hole and knotted underneath to
keep it in place. This was part of the applications of Oliver Evans improvements
in milling, the miller could just step over and change the flow of material
from one direction to another without having to climb a series of stairs
A miller would have leather lacing strips, several size hole punches
and a good knife (with a cutting edge like a mat knife) to cut the end of
the belting square in the beginning process of belting lacing. Then later
alligator clip lacing was used where you pounded in the alligator clip jaws
into both sides of the end of a leather belt. Once that was done a section
of cat gut was used to slid between the interlocking metal loops together.
After that wire staples were used with a staple press, but forms of metal
lacing was of the modern era. It is almost a lost art knowing how to hand
lacing leather belts but I know from experience that leather lacing is much
better and stronger than the metal lacing, and this also includes gluing.
Originally the miller would have carved grain and flour scoops out of
wood. Then they were made out of a combination of wood and metal. These
scoops had a wooden rod or piece of a broom handle placed in a hole and
nailed into a half round circle of wood. On the cure of the circle was tacked
a piece of tin that formed the shovel end of the scoop. Over time it could
be trimmed back when it was torn, curled down, wore down and then eventually
replaced to make it usable again. Like the millwright that fabricated everything
about the mill, the miller often made his own tools. Later commercial made
scoops were made and sold. Meal bin paddles that looked much like a painters
pallet were used to move the meal to one side of the meal bin and to pick
it up and pour it into a sack or barrel. They were most often made out of
walnut, and would have a thumb hole and a long curved fingers hole. The
end of the paddle was drawn to a point like a shovel blade. In time they
often would warp because of the dampness in the meal or from the dampness
in the basement, and from the flooding regularly of the mill's basement.
When they broke or wore down they could be easily replaced. Some millers
used them until they became almost worn away and they shape drastically
changed. They were like leather belting you only replaced it until it broke
or would not stay on. Some millers used the paddles in place of scoops,
and some mills never had paddles and used only scoops. Modern metal aluminum
scoops are sold commercially today in farm feed stores. Originally they
had wooden handles but the handles have been replaced by metal. In a pinch
a scoop can be made by the cutting off the bottom end of plastic bottles
or jugs that have a hand hold near the bottle cap. Then they can be used
as used as a scoop but fold or bend more easily than a metal scoop blade.
Commercial scoops even were made large enough to hold a bushel measure that
was used by two hands.
Every mill would have different types and sizes of paddles. There were
ones used in flour and meal bins, bolter bottom hoppers, and in greasing
gears and cogs. Flour machinery companies and others that sold only bolting
cloth and screen passed out small (usually made of metal) hand held scrapers.
They could be used in bolters for cleaning the screens, removing caked on
build-ups, and for scraping down the reel surface clean when applying new
bolting screen and webbing. Sometimes they are found with a small round
magnifying glass (used to count opening in bolting screen) in the round
hang up hold hole. Often when removed from the mill they would become sold
as flour dough scrapers by mistake. That is not to say that flour milling
companies did not hand out premiums with sacks of flour, but these pot,
pan and work surface scrapers usually assumed different shapes and have
more pronounced commercial labeling of the flour milling company rather
than the supplier. There were also testing rings or small hand sifters that
could hold a variety of different size mesh bolting screen or cloth.
The millers also would have had grain shovels that were constructed out
of a single piece of wood. I have a book that tells you how to carve and
make wooden shovels that were used in mills and other industries like the
storage of apples. They were cut and carved out of a single piece of wood.
Originally all scoops, shovels, paddles and other items were made out of
wood that came into contact with grain or flour. They believed for a long
time that metal tainted the taste of flour. This superstition turned out
to be a good thing because in this way there was no metal to strike the
nail head and accidentally make a spark. In this way a superstition lessened
the accidental chance of a dust explosion, that brought about hell fire
and the end of everything in and about the mill. Sometimes these wooden
scoops are found with metal patch repairs covering weak or cracked areas.
Pounding blocks, wood blocks made out of the same material as the wooden
wedges were found inside of the mill. Sometimes they had wooden handle holds
and could be mistaken for a mallet. It is better to hold a pounding block
by a handle than to miss and hit your hand. After all the inside of water
wheels were wet and slippery while gears were often found areas with little
lighting where it was easy to miss.
Bag holders, every mill has one, or at least every restored mill was
often thought that they should have them. They are found around a great
number of mills, but very few are actually used or does anyone really know
how to use them. The look like a small one half of a oxen's yoke that goes
around his head to harness him to pull something. It is made out of a curved
bent round piece of wood that is formed into a half round circle. Then its
two free ends are placed in a single piece of wood. That looks like half
of an oxen yoke. They were used with cloth and cotton sacks. The sack holder
is held in the air and the open end of a sack placed though the inside of
the hoop, and the end of the sack is folded back like folding up your sleeve
cuff one time. Then it was placed on to two strips of wood that would rest
on the mouth of an open barrel. Then it could be used to catch tailings
from a bin sifter sieve or screen. It can also be used underneath a chute
that does not have a sack boy on the end below the gate. As the sack filled
it expanded and became full inside of the barrel and still could be pulled
out when completely full. The full sack below is tied with string to close
the sack and the sack or bag holder then removed. Some bag holders would
have nail points on the two ends of the straight strip to help hold the
sack in place from slipping off as it became heavy with material.
For images of a sack holder see: Curatorial
Items found in an average Grist Mill circa 1840-70, A Drawing of
a Sack Holder #1.
Sack-boys are similar to a hopper-boy in that it was work that was once
performed by a young boy or child. A sack boys main job in a mill is to
replace a full sack with empty one when they became full during the mills
operation. Metal sack boys are made by using small curved upward hooks that
are screwed on the end of the chute or by using small nails without any
heads. Then you have a hook as to wrap the open end of a sack around a chute
and the sack can be then used to catch bran or other material. The sack
could be quickly changed when filled, faster than using any other method
of holding a sack. Some mills (mainly German built) would have short leather
belts and buckles hung from behind the chute used like holding up ones pants
with a leather belt.
Beam scales, large ones and smaller ones were the rule before platform
and spring scales were found in mills. Early mills used beam scales to hang
sacks of grain and to tally the weight of customer's grain. I should mention
tally boards. Tally board were used because they needed no chalk or slate.
They were simple boards with a series of holes and wooden pegs that could
be placed into different holes. They could be hung on the sides of vertical
posts or on a table, stool or sit on a barrel. They could be used to count
sacks, pounds of any standard weight amount or measurement. They could be
used as a form of abacus. The were often removed and with their pegs lost,
and their actual function forgotten. Most often someone would think they
were unrelated to the operation of the mill and that they were only simple
board games made to amuse the miller or his customers waiting for grain
to be ground. Later tally boards became conversion charts and actual simple
calculators that could figure the correct toll or conversion from eared
corn to shelled corn.
Small beam scales could be hung near the meal bins and weigh sacks full
of products. They could be taken down and used elsewhere in the mill or
just locked up for safe keeping. They came in the form of larger beams that
held a square hanging platform that could hold a barrel. Some large beam
scales were also hung from the ceiling and held the receiving hopper that
weighted the receiving grain and then by opening a gate on the bottom of
the hopper dump it in to a chute that feed an elevator or grain sink which
served the same purpose. These wonderfully made beam scales could even be
found in roller mills hung from the ceiling holding a weighting bin and
clicking away a set weight on a counter. The platform and truck scales still
measure the weight along a beam but they use a system of springs and a platform
to hold the weight rather than it be hung from one side of the beam. Many
a times the farmer would take processed meats, cheeses or maple syrup that
was sold originally by the pound, to be weighted by the miller's scales
because he knew he would get an accurate weight.
Rakes were found in the mill not to rake leaves around the mill. They
were originally used like shovels to rake freshly ground flour back and
forth to cool it before Oliver Evans invented his hopper-boy. Long handle
rakes were used to clean the leaves from trash racks, along with long metal
rods that often had a loop or handle end and a hook on the other end for
A very rare item to find in a mill is a "Dancing Miller."
It like a wooden limb jointed lumber jack, that is hung by its own miller's
willow from the wooden horse frame and stands on the millstone cover or
vat. Normally the miller stands there quietly will the mill grinds away,
but when the millstones become in need of being balanced and leveled, the
dancing miller will begin to twitch and even dance. The move the millstones
are in need of work, the more the dancing miller will dance to draw someone's
attention. Then it is time to give the devil his dew, stop the mill and
balance and level the millstones. You have to wonder if they were mainly
there and used for the entertainment of young visitors and mill cats. Every
miller that is worth his salt would know by his senses that the millstones
needed to be balanced.
Corn cobs become a problem around a mill. You can only grind a small
percentage into different animal feeds. It they become wet they will start
to mold and decay. They are mainly used as fire starters. They are easily
lit, burn with a very hot flame (hot enough to get coal burning and they
leave very little ash. Corn cobs used as file handles or on the end of long
wooden dowels to become back scratchers. Besides being made into pipes,
they also became dolls and scrubbers and even served as millstone bearing
blocks in rural mountain mills.
Mill picks and mill bills along with wooden handles called thrifts were
used to dress the millstones. The millstone dressing tools are mentioned
in another part of this web site so I won't discuss them in detail on this
page. The miller or millstone dresser would always have a number of cut
blocks, either 6 by 6, 8 by 8 and or 12 by 12, that were used to rest a
millstone on when it was lifted off the millstone spindle. These blocks
along with thin pieces of would were often stored underneath stairs. Many
mills had a corner of the mill that was not used for machinery or storage,
were a work bench could be found that hand a bench vice. The miller sometimes
kept his hand tools there. Here the miller would punch holes in the ends
of leather belts, he repaired tin and wooden elevator cups, and tried to
keep his tools in one place. The miller would have a tact hammer to replace
bolter screen and cloth, a regular hammer, screw driver, perhaps a Yankee
screw driver, mallets, and other hand tools. Some place the grease bucket
and paddle for greasing gears and cogs would be stored and kept, or perhaps
in the gear pit were it was used. The proof staff and paint staff along
with the trammel were usually kept near the millstones were they were regularly
used and there was no need to carry them else were in the mill because they
were used no where else. Sometimes the paint staff was hung on a beam near
the millstones. The millstone dressing tools were often found laid on a
cross beam of the framework of the building near the millstones or they
could be hung from leather straps on a vertical post near the millstones
or on the millstone crane.
Another item that seems to disappear from every mill is the toll dish,
grain or toll measure. They may walk away with the last operator of a mill
or by relatives who want to remember them when they used it in the mill.
A toll dish may be either a round wooden bucket or cooper, or a square box
of shallow wooden bowel. Some mills used a bin paddle as a toll dish that
could be scooped into a bin full of meal. The miller made a science out
of taking the toll by drilling holes to cover the paddle and what was lifted
and remained on the paddle belonged to the miller.
Smaller items found in a mill were a large sewing needle and string to
sew cloth bags and holes in bags shut. Cotton or burlap cord was used to
close sacks using a "miller's knot." To cut bundles of cord either
the mill's wood ax was used on a chopping block or a curved blade was hung
on the side of a post to cut the string at the desired length.
I need to mention hand sifters or as they are know by their traditional
name of temse. This is a hand sieve for dressing flour to make it
fine, in hand sifting. Traditionally they are round wooden sifters with
cloth weave or wire screen. This type of sifter goes back to Roman times.
The Romans had seven grades that they would sift out of ground wheat, so
they had several mesh sizes of woven cloth and reed grasses. It reminds
me, once we wanted to put linseed oil on the floors of an early nineteenth
century log cabin to preserve them. The person in charge of the interpreters
said, prove that they would have had linseed oil. I said there were several
linseed oil mills in America in the 1600's and the Romans had linseed oil,
it that good enough?
A mill would have several hand sifters with different size mesh for sifting
different materials out of the grind. This is one of the oldest methods
of sifting or bolting flour. I have made them but it is easier to make and
construct square sifters, for one thing bins are square and not round. You
found them being used as decoration on walls other than mills, like winnowing
baskets are also displayed. Later companies that sold bolting screen and
cloth would make sets of small round (usually metal) testing hand sifters.
They either came with one round side with a removable ring that could hold
on different circular pieces with different meshes, or came in a set of
hand sifters with different meshes already set into them. These little test
sifters were not intended for the production of flour. The idea being that
if the miller wanted to produce a new product, all he had to do is use the
test hand sifters and once he found one he wanted order the size mesh for
his larger bolter. This became important with the roller mill's gradual
reduction system where you might have a lot of very fine mesh bolting cloths.
Warning bells. Yes, warning bells were found in early American mills.
I have seen then in windmills and in early mills found in Westmoreland,
to Bedford, Fulton, into Perry County, Lancaster, Berks and Bucks Counties
in Pennsylvania, and south into Carroll County, Maryland. Warning bells
were mainly used to tell the miller that the hopper above the millstones
was getting low on grain. A mill in Carroll County, Maryland has a warning
bell that told the miller that the barrel was full. A modern version of
the warning bell is an electric sensor used on the hopper's of Meadow's
Mills that shuts off the motor when it no longer senses being covered in
grain. They can be set on a time delay shut down for after the sensor trips
in and realizes it is time to stop the mill.
Some warning bells worked off the turning motion of the damsel as found
in some windmills. Others rang from the turning of the vertical shaft that
rose up between the millstones. A large heavy leather piece made out of
shoe sole leather was attached to a leather cord that would hold down the
free hinged end of a lever. When the grain in the hopper would become low,
the weight of the bell on the other end of the lever would pull out the
leather cord causing the bell to drop down and be rung by flutes or raised
pegs placed into the turning vertical shaft.
When I worked at Peirce Mill, I installed one between the two millstone
that I regularly used. It was modeled after one that was there in the 1930's
when the Fitz Water Wheel Company restored the mill. Perhaps it was either
in place in the the J. A. Baldwin Mill in Burnt Cabins, Pennsylvania, or
the Baughman's Mill near Linesboro, Maryland, were the bulk of the machinery
came from. This warning bell was very similar to the warning bell system
found in Milling Consultant Steven Kindig's Grist Mill at Lobachsville,
Berks County, Pennsylvania. In Steve Kindig's mill, which is a typical mill
of the area, there are three millstones clustered around a central vertical
post and each has its own warning bell.
Peirce Mill's original warning bells were simple devices. If you face the
millstones on the back right corner of the hopper on the floor is a hole
the same side as the leather crook sting holes that control the shoe from
the basement. They are found on the center and left millstone. The millstone
to the right the floor and the millstone were removed early in the 1900's
during the Teahouse period for the first installation of public steps to
the mill's basement. When the steps rotted out and needed replacing rather
than replace them, they took out the ending stone to the left of the left
stone and installed a second set of steps. The original set of basement
steps were in the center of the mill, off of the millstone platform like
in the Colvin Run Mill. At the inside of the back basement door of the was
a pair of steps that led down two-three feet to the original level of the
basement floor. From these steps to the center steps in the building of
Peirce Mill were planks laid out to walk upon.
The original warning bells of Peirce Mill were simple leather pieces with
leather cords that went out of the hopper and down through the hole in the
floor. On the other end was hung a bell or a weight, between the floor and
the hopper was a knot in the leather that would stop it from going all the
way through the floor. When the hoppers become low, the weight of the bell
drops down into free space in the basement (more visually that by sound)
tell the miller the hopper is getting low. They were placed in the floor
so the dropping of a weight or bell would not interfere with the turning
of any of the mill's gears in the gear pit. I tried this before I installed
a warning bell, like the one the Fitz Company installed, and they worked
fine. But I though the sound of a bell ringing that could be heard on any
floor inside or outside of the mill would be more entertaining for visitors.
Unfortunately after I left the mill someone came along who thought American
mills never had warning bells and removed it. I found the evidence on the
ceiling and holes in the vertical shaft, and I have seen a photo that showed
the warning bell system. Perhaps all of the holes and patches in the floors,
cuts in beams and joists, and their former function will become meaningless
now that they are planning to replace all of the flooring and some of the
support beam systems
I have seen a warning bell in a mill in Carroll County, Maryland that warns
the miller when barrels are full and need changing. Warning bells became
cutoffs on packing machines that filled sacks and barrels by volume rather
than by weight. If I remember correctly there was also a warning bell in
the attached saw mill that rang when a cut on a long was about to be completed.
Also found in some mills are tools such as spears for catching eels,
to clean and remove them out of the water system of the mill along with
The miller's also might have several tubs and buckets. These would have
been used during the meal bin sieve era of operation and later. In early
America at least, the bin sieve was the first form of mechanical sifters.
Above the meal bins in the mill's basement would be a long sifter frame
that would run the length of the bin and have a pivot point on a movable
spring at the tail end. At the head end it hung from an adjustable leather
strap. The sifter was moved back and forth by a hinged rod that was moved
by two pegs that stuck up on top of the lantern pinion that turned the millstone.
With the coming of Oliver Evans system of milling this method of sifting
was still retained for making corn meal, whole wheat flour and custom milling.
The bin sieve changed how it operated however, the head end that was hung
on an adjustable leather strap was replaced by a turning rod. The turning
rod was mounted in fixed short beams that came off the husk frame and the
rod had an eccentric that held the head end of the sieve. Above the eccentric
was a small round wooden pulley that was turned by a larger pulley with
a bottom lip that kept a leather belt from falling off. The larger pulley
was mounted on the millstone spindle above the lantern pinion. The tail
end of the sieve frame tapered to a narrow opening that poured the tailings
into a barrel or hung sack. The sieve frame had removable screens that could
be replaced because each sieve frame would have a different mesh screen.
These sieve sifters worked fine for sifting small amounts, but when the
stones would be run at full output of 300 to 500 pounds an hour, the miller
would work full time at removing the bolted material from inside of these
The problem with these types of sifters was in the era of only soft wheats,
the soft wheat had a higher moisture content and would tend to clog the
chute from the millstone and build up on the shaking sieve and would up
and tail out of the sieve. I have used meshes in the sifter frames from
large openings to sift out the bran for corn meal and whole wheat to fine
cloths for making cake and pastry flour. I have used two meshes for sifting
out the middlings or cereal from flour with the bran or hulls tailing out
the end. You simply have a wooden box that fits into the meal bin and its
lip is placed under the separation of the two meshes. The finer product
goes into the bin and the larger material goes into the box and then the
third largest tails out of the sieve. Some millers would use wooden paddles
to help the material sift through the screens but I have learned from experience
that hands work the best.
Years later when cotton and paper sacks were no longer tied shut with
cotton string and the miller's knot other means were used. Some mills closed
their sacks that were sewn shut or closed with wire twist ties. Twisters
were used on a length of copper wire that had two loops on the ends. The
wire was bent around the top of the sack and into the two loops would be
the hook of a twister. The twister spun around and it would wind the wire
tight around the neck of the sack. The later development was a spring loaded
twister. The same process occurred and the hook placed into the loops and
the handle of the twister pulled that would pull out the spiral spring loaded
shank. When the spring retracted it twisted up the wire in one pulling motion.
Sometimes the spring loaded twister was hung on a beam and both hands could
be used to hold the sack and close the loops of the copper twisting wire.
What Oliver Evans was all about was gadgets. Why should the miller do
all of the work when a gadget can do all of the work. The miller should
be able to be at his work station on the first floor near the millstones
rather than being in the cold damp dark basement. The miller should be able
to control the mill from the first floor using leavers and rope controls
that open, close and change the path of the grain and flour within the mill.
As it was said in Oliver Evans' time little wooden millers are doing all
of the work. The miller then has more free time to learn about his trade,
keep the mill clean and make improvements in the mill's operation. The material
that mills are made out of are wood, stone and metal. Wood rots, stone wears
down and metal rust. What man does not carry off, throw out, nature will
burn up, dissolve, break drown, or the stream will loose for all time. The
millwrights and millers did not pass on all of their knowledge to future
generations, they took some of it to the grave with them.
Note: Not every mill has every thing mentioned above. Some mills may
have things that I failed to mention. A custom mill would have different
items than a merchant mill, also different are things found in a millstone
mill and roller mill. The time period and the technology as well as many
other factors influenced what the miller used or needed to operate the mill
on a daily basis. Another example is a feed mill built as a feed mill that
would have very different items in it than a flour mill that became a feed
I can't think of everything and I don't know all things. I have learned
from working in the National Park Service that if you are asked a question
and don't know the answer, don't be afraid to say, "I don't know the
answer to that question but I know who you could ask who would know (or
where to look for the answer)." I learn new things every day and all
the time about mills that I did not know before. I appologize for not having
photos or images of all the things that I have discussed in the above text.
I am working on it, it takes time to dig out some artifacts in my collection,
then to photograph and scan them.
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