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The Water Wheel Album: Page Seven

Water Wheel Miscellany

Moffat Mill, Glen Ridge, New Jersey (coloried photo1906)
This is an example of a water wheel living on after the mill is gone.
The water wheel is a pitch-back water wheel type that is a combination
of wood and cast iron built on iron hubs slid over the old wooden water wheel shaft.

The Water Wheel at the Hagee Mill,
Elverson, Pennsylvania.

Water Wheel photo #1

Comments by Robert A. Howard, The Anchorage Productions.

Iron and wood waterwheel 16 feet diameter by 51 inches wide. Wooden buckets. THIS IS NOT a FITZ WHEEL. Casting pattern for rim boxed and in building. Condition: about 1/3 of the wood is rotten beyond salavage and the rest should be replaced if the wheel is reused. The cast iron has ever present surface rust. Cast iron arms show many repairs (of the period). End bearing and shaft end shows corrosion. No visible non-repaired damage to the iron. This is an uncommon type of wheel in that it uses cast iron arms bolted to cast iron hub with steel shaft. (most have wooden arms as the wood does not break as easily as the iron). This wheel can be disassembled for removal by removing the bolts that hold the members together. The patter is a slightly over sized wooden replica of the rim section- 16th of the wheel - and is in excellent condtion.

Water Wheel photo #3

Comments by Ted Hazen, Pond Lily Mill Restorations.

The water wheel is constructed of iron and wood. The water wheel dimensions are 16 feet in diameter by 51 inches wide. It appears to have elbow buckets and drum board that are both constructed of wood. The 8-arm hubs, arms and shrouding or rim boards are of cast iron. The later replacement shaft is made of steel. The excellent condition of this water wheel is due to the fact that is contained within an over hanging roof attached to the building.

I have seen several cast iron Fitz Water Wheels and the style of their cast iron water wheels is very different from this water wheel. A cast iron Fitz Water Wheel is on the Meadow Run Mill at the Michie Tavern, near Monticello, Charlottesville, Virginia. The mill that was constructed in combination with a store are tourist recreations. There are pieces of a Fitz cast iron Water Wheel laying next to George Washington's threshing barn stone in the Dunbarton Oaks section of Rock Creek National Park, Washington, D.C. I have seen photos of this wheel when it was a complete wheel attached to a stone pump house standing near by. I have also seen several hybrid or similar Fitz Water Wheels with wooden elbow buckets and drum boards but all of the metal work of the water wheels is of steel construction very similar to their model I-X-L Water Wheel. A water wheel of this type is on the Groseclose Mill in Wythe County, Virginia. I have photos of another water wheel of this type that was once on the North East Cider & Vinegar Works, North Mill Road, North East, Pennsylvania.

In England much earlier than in the United States they were building cast iron water wheels, but their water wheels generally have more massive size parts, such as larger arms, hubs, shrouds or rim boards and a greater number of bolts. This water wheel could have been built in England, but to my knowledge no one has done an inventory or catalog of different water wheel manufactures that would identify different styles patterns of these cast iron water wheels. I would have to sit down and pull out all of my books that show cast iron water wheels in the United Kingdom and go through them one by one. If in the early 1600's the early settlers brought complete wind mills to the colonies taken apart in kit form stuffed into sailing ships. So then it may be possible that later someone could have brought here a water wheel from England. The only problem with that theory was during the period of the two wars with Great Britain the supply of English millstones was cut off from being imported to America. It is unlikely that then a water wheel would have come here during that time period.

The water wheel at the Aberarth Corn Mill.
The present owner - Peter Davis (on the wheel)
and assistant Roy Carpenter having just removed the inner end of the axle.

I just received an e-mail from Roy Carpenter who is working with the present owner Peter Davis and they are renovating the Aberarth Water Mill, in west Wales. The water wheel on the Aberarth Corn Mill is very similar to that of the one on the Hagee Mill. The renovations photos that include the replacement of the wooden water wheel shaft can be seen at url: Aberarth Water Mill

The water wheel iron hub at Slone's Grist Mill that is mounted on a new shaft.

I became greatly interested in the evolution of water wheels from all wood to all metal several years ago when I dismantled a grist mill that was in Franklin County, Virginia. That mill is the Slone's Grist Mill and is being reconstructed in Virginia's Explore Park. The water wheel was 20 feet in diameter by 42 inches wide. It has an iron shaft and iron hubs that held a complete wooden water wheel. Each 32 inch diameter hub holds 10 arms and I located another iron shaft and iron 35 inch diameter hubs in the same area that held 8 arms and would have held perhaps a smaller diameter water wheel. These iron hubs and complete mills were more than likely constructed by the Birch Creek Works that operated from 1851 to 1880 and was located in Laurel Grove that became known as Atlas, in Pittsylvania County, Virginia. The Flippen Mill was constructed long before the Birch Creek Works was added to the business. Afterwards the mil continued to operate as the Atlas Mill, but the 170 long foundry building, blacksmith and machine shop were closed down. They made complete grist mills from the water wheels down to the millstones.

A great number of companies began making iron hubs that were slid onto wooden water wheel shafts and held traditional wooden water wheels. These became popular because iron hubs simply slid over the wooden shaft and there was no need to cut arm slot holes through the shaft that would cause rot and decay inside of the shaft. This is why the traditional method of attaching water wheels and gears to water wheel shafts was by the use of "clasp arm wheels." A clasp arm wheel is a timber wheel built up on a circular frame consisting of two pairs of parallel spokes enclosing the axle at right angles. In America was developed the "compass arm wheel." Here in American we had a greater supply of timber and so each time a new water wheel was constructed a new wooden shaft could be used. While in England and Europe a water wheel shaft may have been used to hold a great number of water wheels and master gears. A compass arm wheel is a timber wheel with radiating spokes, mortises to the axle. The arms pass through the shaft and are interlocked together to provide more strength in the water wheel when it is turning.

The next stage in the change from all wood to all metal was the replacement of the troublesome wooden water wheels shaft. The wooden water wheel shaft would at times have problems with the outboard gudgeon. When the wedges that held the iron hubs on the wooden water wheel shaft would become water logged or decay, they would begin to slip and the water wheel would slide sideways or spin out. The problem is identifying these water wheel hubs to manufactures. There were a great number of styles built that held the arms in different ways with different numbers of bolts. They were cast without makers names on the castings. The problem with these types of water wheel was that the arms were weak at the point that they were attached to the iron hubs. Also during this time many water wheels had the master gear mounted or bolted in sections to the inboard rim of the water wheel turning a single pinion. The changes in a wooden water wheel with is swelling, shrinking, balance problems caused problems in keeping this segmented gear running true and in perfect round.

In the classic book by Oliver Evans, 5th edition 1826 of the "The Young Mill-Wright & Miller's Guide," reference is made to metal parts used in flour mills. Appendix, A description of a merchant flour mill, on the most approved construction with the recent improvements with two addition plates, by Cadwallader and Oliver Evans, engineers; and extracts from some of the best modern works on the subject of mills, with observation by the editor." Plate XXVII, contains a Description of a Merchant Flour Mill, driving four Pairs of five feet Mill-Stones; arranged by Cadwallader and Oliver Evans, engineers, Philadelphia, Plate XXVIII, contains a description of an iron water wheel hub and the previous plate contains a description of use of metal for the master face gear wheel, wallower, great spur wheel and stone nuts (gears). Even from the early days of the 1840's Samuel Fitz was making cast iron water wheel hubs at the Hanover Foundry and Machine Shop in Hanover, Pennsylvania.

A portion of one of the hubs, of the two water wheels
at Long Pond Iron Works, Ringwood State Park,
Ringwood, New Jersey.

James Kricker of Rondout Woodworking, Inc., of Saugerties, New York, is using one of these water wheels in his new ad in Old Mill News. The water wheel is located at Long Pond Iron Works, New Jersey. The water wheel is a two section water wheel with three iron hubs that is mounted onto an iron or steel shaft.

Water Wheel photo #2

The water wheel at the Hagee Mill is of this type. It was constructed to slide onto (what appears from the photos WW1, 2 & 4) a 12 sided wooden water wheel shaft. I would say the water wheel was constructed somewhere between the period of 1840 to 1850 and possibly as late as 1860. The dates of construction for English cast iron water wheel would be earlier. From the photos (WW2) there appears to be one single remaining iron stabilizer rod between each iron hub. I believe that when the water wheel was mounted on a wooden shaft there would have been a greater number of these iron stabilizer rods.

Water Wheel photo #4

The 86 inch master gear wheel or greater face gear wheel that is in the Slone's Grist Mill is made so it will either slide onto a multi-sided wooden water wheel shaft or onto a multi-sided metal spine that is fitted onto a metal water wheel shaft. This internal gear adaption is mentioned later in the Item #12 the mill gearing for the Hagee Mill. The photo (WW4) it appears that the two round hubs or collars on the water wheel shaft are also made with the mirror image multi-sided shape of the inside of the water wheel hubs. The water wheel was then wedged from both sides so the hubs of the water wheel would hold tight onto the round hubs or collars of the water wheel shaft. My best guess is that this water wheel was installed with a wooden water wheel shaft and was later changed to the metal water wheel shaft. The original opening in the mill building wall has been changed and made smaller by the addition of latter bricks to the original rubble stone wall. The side and massive shape of the stone lintel above this opening also indicates a once larger water wheel shaft. The openings in mill walls to accommodate the water wheel shaft were made as close to the size of the shaft as possible and to still allow for its replacement. This would cut down on water, cold wind, ice, snow, rodents from entering the building.

The water wheel shaft with its two hubs or collars are fitted with key ways onto the water wheel shaft. Much later strap collars have been added both sides of these collars to prevent movement. If these improvements would have been made earlier they would have been the traditional round thrust ring collars that would be held in place by a single large set bolt. These type of thrust ring collars are used on Fitz Water Wheels and the iron water wheel shaft and hubs on Slone's Grist Mill, and other metal shafting. They would have closed up and sealed off the opening of the key way slot and prevented water from entering the key way area.

Note: Photos of the water wheel at the Hagee Mill by Robert A. Howard, The Anchorage Productions.

This page is presented by Theodore R. Hazen & Pond Lily Mill Restorations

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The Campbell Water Wheels
and then
More Water Wheel Miscellany
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Copyright 2000 by T. R. Hazen