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A Glossary of Mill Terms

A Glossary of Mill Terms


Also see: A Glossary of Water Wheel Terms

Apprentice furrow- the third largest furrow in a quarter of a millstone in quarter dress pattern, parallel and immediately adjacent to the journeyman furrow on one side and the butterfly furrow on the other side.

Arc of stone or wooden placed behind a pitch back or beast shot water wheel to prevent water from spilling from the buckets of the water wheel before arriving at the lowest point of the fall.

Arms- Spokes extending from the main shaft of a water wheel, that in turn support the shrouding or rims of the wheel, or spokes of a large gear wheel.

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Back edge- the straight "back" edge opposite of the grinding edge of a millstone furrow. It is also called the holding edge.

Back water or watering- is a condition when the stream rises during a flood and the bottom of the water wheel becomes covered in water. This is a greater problem with overshot water wheels than other types because the water exits the wheel. With the overshot water wheel, water and sometimes air becomes trapped inside the buckets when the water is suppose to exit the buckets and retards it turning motion.

Bails- Large iron tongs suspended from a crane, used to lift off the upper stone of a pair for dressing or to make other adjustments to the stones.

Balance rynd- curved iron bar that crosses the eye of the runner millstone, fitting into slots or pockets on either side. Also called millstone bridge or crossbar. Also see rynd.

Bed stone- the lower stationary millstone in a pair of millstone.

Big wheel- see master face wheel.

Bill- see mill bill.

Bill thrift- a wooden handle with a slotted or mortised top into which a mill bill can be fitted for use in dressing millstones. Usually the mill bill is held tight into the slot by two small pieces of leather positioned on the top and bottom of the slot against the metal of the bill.

Bins- storage containers for grain, usually on the upper floor of a mill, from which grain could be fed into millstone hoppers. Also called garners.

Bist- a cushion usually made of a partly filled sack of meal or bran, used as a cushion by a worker (millstone dresser) when dressing the millstones.

Blades- in general, panels attached to a shaft to harness water or wind power. Also used to refer specifically to the panels attached to the spindle of the early Greek type of water mill. Also called vanes.

Blue stone- see Cullin stones.

Bolter- a type of flour dresser machine that can have a varity of different sleeves.

Bottle weight- wooden shaped piece of turned wood. It is attached to a leather strap that is wrapped around the tentering staff and holds the staff in a constant position to maintain the grind. Also see tentering staff.

Bolter- a machine used to sift flour into lots of different textures or degrees of fineness.

Bolting cloth- cloth of varying weave used to sift flour into lots according to texture and size. Sometimes made of silk, and thus called "silks."

Bran- the outer coating of a grain of wheat, rye, barley, or corn. Oats and buckwheat have an outer coating that is a "hull."

Bray or brayer- a linkage connecting the tentering staff and the bridge tree. A lever beam on which the bridge tree rests thus creating a compond lever.

Breast shot water wheel- a water wheel powered by a head of water striking the wheel at the point from one-third to two-thirds the height of the wheel, causing the wheel to revolve in a direction opposite to that of the flow of the water in the sluice way or mill race.

Bridge- a metal bar cemented into eye of runner stone to act as bearing for the top of the spindle.

Bridge tree- an adjustable beam upon which the millstone spindle is supported. A tree lever beam which carries the lower end of the spindle and thus bears the weight of the runner stone. It may be raised or lowered to alter the distance between the grinding surfaces of the millstones in order to produce a finer or coarser meal. Also see tentering staff also called a lighter staff.

Bridging box- a housing, mounted on the bridge tree that contains footstep bearings supporting the millstone spindle and ensuring that the spindle will run perfectly upright. Also called a tram pot.

Buckets- the blades or enclosures formed by blades, around the rim of a water wheel, against which or into the water flows. They called floats or paddles when they are a single flat blade or surface. They generally called elbow buckets or buckets if they are formed from a front plate or blade and a bottom plate or bucket. The back of the bucket or enclosure is created by the soling or drum boards.

Bucket water wheel- a water wheel using an enclosed bucket, rather than a simple blade or float, to harness the water power.

Butterfly furrow- the smallest of the four millstone furrows in one quarter of a millstone in quarter dress. Also see fly furrow.

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Cant- a segment of one of the rings which form the rim of a water wheel or wooden gear wheel. In a water wheel the cant is the piece that has the mortise cut into it to hold the ends of the water wheel float or bucket.

Casting- see stone case or vat.

Circular furrow dress pattern- see sickle dress pattern.

Cockeye- a socket at the center of a balance rynd, which serves as supporting bearing for the runner millstone and at which the point on that it is balanced on.

Cock head- a pivot point at the top of the millstone spindle which fits into the cockeye.

Cologne stones- see Cullin stones.

Conical quern- a quern composed of two conical shaped stones. The top portion of the upper stone being the hopper shaped for feeding the grain between the grinding surfaces. The upper stone was turned by a lever. Also called hourglass mill or Roman mill.

Control gate- a gate at the end of the flume or sluice box nearest to the water wheel, used to control the flow of water from the box to the wheel. Also called a shut.

Counter-gearing (counter gears)- a system of two-step gears using a combination of face or spur gears and wallowers to drive millstone spindles.

Cracks- fine lines cut into the face or land of a millstone in the areas between the furrows.

Cracking- cutting the fine grooves (drills, feathering or stitching) along the lands of a millstone.

Cirb (cribbing)- a track plate on which the millstone cover fits enclosing the millstones and adding in directing the ground meal down a chute. The curb is made in wooden sections fitted around the lower bed millstones and is nailed to the flooring. Between the edge of the millstone and the curbing is usually stuffed with form of caulking and rags.

Crossbar- see balance rynd.

Crown wheel- a horizontal gear wheel engaging with the vertical gear wheel.

Cullin stones- German millstones of dark bluish gray lava with even pores. The name is derived form a corruption of Koln, the German name for the city called Cologne in English. The millstones are also known as Blue stones, Cologne stones, Dutch or Holland stones, or Rhine stones.

Custom mill- a relatively small milling operation that ground enough flour and meal to satisfy the needs of a local community. The miller is paid in kind, keeping a percentage of the ground meal for himself. The "miller toll" is set by law and ranged from 10 to 20 percent. These small mills became known as custom mills and thus grinding for the custom of their customers whether it was coarse to fine grinding.

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Damsel- a square or round shaft made of either wood or combination of wood and metal and it may be made of all metal. It has squared section of a rounded shaft, or forked iron shaft fit over the top of the millstone spindle, which in rotating taps against the shoe, thus feeding grain into the millstones. A contraption above the bridge on under-driven stones which cause the shoe to wobble, shaking grain down into the eye.

Draft- the radius of the draft circle.

Draft circle- an imaginary circle around the eye of a millstones, from which the master furrows radiate tangentially.

Drawing out- the process by which mill bills are thinned out at their chisel ends.

Dress- the layout or pattern of furrows on a millstone. Also used with respect to flour to mean "sift."

Dresser- the name of the person who works on the millstone furrows or cracking. Also used as the name of the machine that bolts or sifts flour as in dresser or dressing machine.

Dressing- the process of cutting grooves (cracks or furrows) into the face of the millstone, in order to provide a shearing action in grinding, or sharpening the existing dress. Also called facing.

Driver- a cast iron bar that has been worked by a blacksmith to fit onto the millstone spindle. The ends of the driver fit into slots or pockets in the eye of the runner stone thus connect the runner stone to the spindle and causes it to turn or rotate.

Drum boards- see sole.

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Ending stones- a pair of small diameter millstones used in a form of cleaning grains by rubbing before common usage and invention of cleaning machines. They were used to remove dirt, dust, fungus, smut or anything that might be attached to the surface of the grain. Then sifting was necessary before actual grinding.

Esopus stones- millstones produced by the Esopus Millstone Company, composed of Shawangunk Conglomerate Grit.

Eye- the center hole in a millstone. In the runner millstone the eye us always round and the in the bed stone the center hole may be either round or square depending upon what type of millstone bearing housing is used.

Eye staff- a shorter type of paint staff, usually about two feet in length, used to test the surface of the millstones around the eye.

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Face gear (face wheel)- a gear wheel with cogs mortised into its face, usually used in conjunction with a lantern pinion.

Facing- usually, dressing around the eye section of millstones. Also see dressing.

Facing hammer- a tool resembling a multiple edged chisel used for dressing or facing a millstone. This hammer take down the surface of the millstone, used in dishing the center of the millstone. Also called a bush hammer.

Fall (of water)- see head (of water).

Feather edge- the grinding edge at the top of the tapered furrow.

Feathering- see cracking.

Feed shoe- it guides grain from hopper into eye of stone.

Flour dresser machine- a machine for separating flour from the rest of the ground meal.

Flume- a trough or channel which carries water from the head race to the point where the water strikes or enters the water wheel. Also called sluice way, sluice box or lade.

Flume gate- a gate at the end of the flume nearest to the head race or mill pond, used to control the flow of water entering the flume. Also called sluice gate or head gate, and sometimes used interchangeably with control gate or shut.

Fly furrow- see butterfly furrow.

Footstep bearing- a thrust bearing, housed in bridging box, which supports the millstone spindle atop the bridge tree, or the bottom bearing of an upright or vertical shaft.

French burr (buhr) millstones- millstones composed of separate pieces (small blocks) of freshwater quarts, each piece known as a burr, quarried in northern France. The principal quarried being located in and around La Ferte-sous-Jouarre near the town of Chalons in the Marne Valley located in the Paris basin.

Furrow- a groove cut into the grinding sufrace or land of the millstone. The pattern of dress on the surface of millstones.

Furrowing stick- a wooden stick or straight edge used to mark out the line of the furrow used in dressing the millstones.

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Garners- see bins.

Grain hopper- a hopper above the vat which holds the grain to be milled.

Greater face wheel- see master face wheel.

Great spur (greater face) wheel- a spur gear used to transfer power from the main vertical spindle through lantern or spur pinions to millstone spindles in the form of two-step gearing known as spur gear drive. A spur wheel mounted near the bottom of the upright shaft, it meshes with the stone nuts to drive the millstones. Also provides drive to other subsidiary machinery.

Greek mill- a simple, early form of horizontal mill, in which a horizontal water wheel with spoon shaped blades is attached to the millstone spindle and drives the runner millstone directly, without requiring any form of gearing.

Grey stones- see Peak stones.

Gristmill or grist mill- a mill for the grinding of grain, principally wheat or corn. This term is most often referred to a custom mill.

Gudgeon- a metal journal mounted in the end of the main shaft to run in bearings mainly on a water wheel but gudgeons take on other shapes and forms mounted into small shafts either horizontal or vertical.

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Head (of water)- the difference in level between water entering the water wheel and that leaving the water wheel. Also called fall (of water).

Head water- water entering or feeding the water wheel from the stream.

Head gates- the control gates that are located at the mill dam and at the head of the head race or mill race.

Head race- a channel which conveys water from the dam or mill pond to the flume, sluice box or directly to the water wheel.

Holland stones- see Cullin stones.

Hoop- see stone case or vat.

Hopper- an open topped container tapered to feed grain into the millstones.

Hopper ladder- see horse.

Horizontal mill- a water mill whose wheel revolves in a horizontal plane but whose main power shaft is vertical in the mill. Also see Greek mill, and Norse mill.

Horse- a wooden framework on top of the millstone case or cover which holds the hopper, shoe and (the top end of the) damsel in position. Also called hopper ladder.

Hourglass mill- see conical quern.

Hulling stones- a small pair of millstones with a simple dress pattern used to separate the hulls away from the inner seed or kernel. For example hulling stones are used on oats and buckwheat to remove the indigestible hulls.

Hunting cog- a cog inserted in gearing system to avoid simple gear ratios and thereby avert potential uneven wear due to inequalities in rapidly meeting the same gear faces or teeth. It is termed hunting cog because it is always hunting for new cogs to mesh with.

Hurst or husk frame- the timber framework that supports the millstones and gears. It is mounted on a separate and independent foundation from the mill so the vibration of the machinery does not bring down the mill around it.

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Jack stick- see quill stick and trammel.

Journeyman furrow- the second largest furrow in a quarter of a millstone in quarter dress pattern, parallel and immediately adjacent to the master furrow on one side and the apprentice furrow on the other side.

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Lade- see flume.

Lands- the areas between the furrows on the grinding surface of a millstone. The high parts of pattern on the surfaces of millstones.

Lantern pinion- a pinion gear consisting of round staves or rungs mortised between two discs, used either as a wallower, or as a millstone pinion or nut.

Lay-shaft- a shaft set at right angles to the master (or greater) face wheel which transfers drive to little face wheel in counter-gearing, or parallel driven shaft when master wheel is a spur gear wheel. A lay shaft can also be located on the upper floor of the mill driven from cog and crown wheels to operate the secondary machinery found in a mill.

Lesser face wheel- see little face wheel.

Lighter staff-see tentering staff.

Little (lesser) face wheel- a face wheel which transfers drive from a lay shaft to millstone spindles in counter-gearing.

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Mace- a device used to connect the quant or millstone spindle to the runner millstone in some under drift millstone drives.

Main shaft- a vertical shaft from wallower to spur wheel.

Master face wheel- a face wheel mounted on the water wheel shaft in counter-gearing; used to transfer power to the lay shafts via lantern pinions. Also called greater face wheel or big wheel.

Master furrow- the largest furrow in a quarter of a millstone in quarter dress, determining the boundary of the quarter.

Middlings- the coarsest part of the wheat meal ground by a mill; the last product excepting the bran remaining after finer grades of flour are sifted out in the bolting process. A mediocre grade of flour, or the middle grade of flour. A intermediate product from flour dressing. Also called midds. Also see sharps and shorts.

Middling stones- a small pair of millstones that operated at a faster speed to regrind middlings in a "new process" mill. These millstones often used a silent feed system rather than the traditional millstone feed of the damsel and the shoe.

Mill bill- a chisel ended tool used for dressing or sharpening the grinding surface of a millstones. Also called mill chisel.

Mill pick- see mill pick.

Miller's toll- the portion of ground meal retained by the miller as payment for his services. In the United states, usually ten to twenty per cent of the meal ground was the accepted toll. In other words one-eight for corn and one-sixth for wheat. Local law governed how much the miller could take in tolling. In England, usually it was one-sixteenth.

Milling soke- the manorial law governing ownership, building and usage of mills.

Mill pond- a body of water, usually created by the construction of a dam, which serves as a source of water for the water wheel. The mill pond may recharge itself during the night when the mill is not operating.

Millstone bridge- see balance rynd.

Millstone Grit- the name given by British millers to the rock quarried in Yorkshire and Derbyshire, England, used in making Peak or Grey millstones.

Millstone pinion- see nut or stone nut.

Millstones- the pair of stones which grind the grain.

Mortar and pestle- a simple grinding apparatus in which a receptacle (mortar) is used to hold grain while it is crushed by a club-shaped implement (pestle).

Mortise wheel- an iron wheel with wooden cogs mortised into it.

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Neck bearing- a wooden bearing in the center of the bed stone, through which the millstone spindle passes.

Norse mill- a horizontal mill similar to the Greek mill, but with straight inclined blades to facilitate the removal of ice in winter. The wheel is attached to the millstone spindle and drives the runner millstone directly, without requiring any form of gearing.

Nut- a pinion mounted on the millstone spindle in under drift millstone drive. Also called a millstone pinion, stone pinion and stone nut.

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Open stones- are coarse uncut millstones.

Over drift millstone drive-
a method of driving or turning millstones by bringing power down from above by means of a quant or millstone spindle connected from above to the runner stone. This method of operating millstones is found generally in wind mills rather than in water mills.

Overdrift mill- a mill with runner stone driven from above, most often a windmill.

Over shot water wheel- a water wheel powered by a head of water striking the wheel just behind its vertical center or just forward of its vertical center of its highest point of rotation. Thus causing the water wheel to revolve in the same direction as the flow of water in the sluice box or sluice way.

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Paint staff- a straight wooden staff to which a marking paint (raddle or tiver) is applied. It is used to test the level surface on millstones and to create the dishing effect in the center of the millstones. It uses a proof staff as a gage for its trueness.

Pair (of millstones or stones)- a set of two millstones, consisting of an upper or runner millstone and the lower or bed stone. Also called a run (of stones).

Peak stone- millstones produced from rock commonly called Millstone Grist quarried in the Peak District of southwest Yorkshire and northeast Derbyshire in England. Also called Grey stones.

Peck- see mill pick.

Pick- see mill pick.

Pinion- see lantern pinion, nut.

Pit wheel- a large face gear wheel (vertical bevel wheel) mounted on the water wheel shaft and located in a pit or gear pit. It drives the wallower gear on the bottom of the main vertical shaft.

Pitch back water wheel- a water wheel powered by a head of water striking the water wheel at or just back of its highest point, causing the water wheel to "pitch back," or revolve in a direction opposite to that of the flow of water in the sluice box or sluice way. This water wheels at times also have a breast or apron to prevent wind from blowing water out of the buckets.

Plumping mill- a mill harnessed the flow of water into and out of a receptacle to drive a mortar and pestle.

Pritchell- a mill bill that is pointed on each end rather than having a squared cutting chisel end. It is commonly used to dress hulling stones. Also see mill peck.

Proof staff- a metal straight edge or gage used to check the true of a paint staff.

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Quarter- a section of the surface of a millstone defined by master furrows, not necessarily one-fourth the surface area of a millstone.

Quarter dress- a form of millstone dress using a series of straight furrows, the largest of which divide the surface of the millstone into regions called "quarters."

Quern- a simple form of rotary grist mill, consisting of a stationary lower bed stone and an upper runner stone usually rotated by hand with the aid of a stick or lever fastened to the upper stone.

Quill stick- a flat piece of wooden with a hole to accommodate a feather quill in one end, and the other has a square hole that fits onto the millstone spindle. It is used to test the millstone spindle for true, upright running. Also called jack stick, tram stick and trammel.

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Raddle- a mixture of red oxide or lamp black powder and water, used on a paint staff. The material will mark (indicate) the high spots (raised areas) on a millstone. Also call tiver.

Rap- the block on the shoe against which the damsel strikes (causing shoe to agitate) to ensure an even flow of grain from the hopper to the millstones. This is usually made of hard wood while the shoe is made of soft pine. It is replaceable so the whole shoe does not need to be remade when the rap wears down. At times the rap is covered with a leather strap to quilt the sounds of the damsel against the shoe.

Rhine stones- see Cullin stones.

Rim- see shroud.

Rim plate- the outer covering of the sandwiched sections of the felloe, cant and shroud boards. A piece of either wooden or metal plate molding that cover the outer edges to protect the wood and its layers from damage by water and ice. This covering is either screwed down or bolted down tight against the circumference of both rims of the water wheel. This covering also keeps the front bucket board in place.

Run (of stones)- see pair (of stones).

Runner (mill) stone- the upper, moving millstone in a pair of millstones.

Rynd (rind)- a crossbar containing the bearing on which the upper runner stone of a pair of millstones rests and is balanced.

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Sack hoist- a method of hoisting sacks or barrels vertically in a mill using a gear driven system or a windlass barrel hoist system. It was used to lift sacks from carts, wagons, boats, and lower floors of the mill. At first sack hoist were simple and eventually became quite elaborate with wooden friction clutches or slack leather belt mechanisms, which permitted engaging or disengaging by control ropes from the point were the sacks were taken into the mill or from any floor. Also see windlass barrel.

Saddle stone mill- a simple grinding apparatus in which meal is ground between a saddle-shaped stone and a rounded stone which is rolled over it.

Sapling mill- a form of plumping mill in which the resiliency of a sapling is used as an aid for driving a mortar and pestle mill.

Secondary furrows- furrows shorter than and running parallel to the master furrows in a quarter dress.

Shaker arm- the long arm (end) attached to shoe which contacts damsel.

Sharps- see middlings.

Shoe- a tapering trough vibrated (moving) to feed grain into the eye of the runner stone for grinding and then between the two millstones.

Shorts- see middlings.

Shroud (shrouding)- the rim of a water wheel, which forms the sides of the bucket enclosures.

Shut- see control gate.

Sickle dress- a form of millstone dress using a series of semi circular furrows of the same radius as the millstones. Also called circular furrow dress. This is the most common millstone dress used on Rhine stones.

Silks- see bolting cloth.

Silk machine- a flour dresser with a silk sleeve.

Skirt- the outer edge of the grinding surface of a millstone.

Slip cog- a removable cog (or series of several cogs) in a pinion gear to take a gear out of mesh or to disengage one gear from another.

Sluice- a wooden box that is held together by a series of wooden frames. It is often mounted on a wooden piers and carries water over valleys to maintain the height of the water from its source to the water wheel.

Sluice box- see sluice.

Sluice gate- see flume gate.

Sluice way- see flume and sluice.

Sole (soling)- the inner lining of a water wheel, forming bottom of the bucket. Also called drum board, sole boards.

Spindle- the shaft on which the runner millstone rotates.

Spur gear (spur wheel)- a gear with cogs mortised or cut into its edge.

Spur gear drive- a system of two-step gearing using a system of face gears, spur gears, and lantern or spur pinions to drive millstone spindles.

Starts- the short spurs or arms projecting from the rim of a water wheel, to which the floats are fastened.

Stitching- see cracking.

Stone case- a circular wooden enclosure around a pair of millstones. Also called casing, hoop, husk, tun, and vat.

Stone dresser- a man whose profession it is to re-sharpen or dress millstones.

Stone nut- a pinion wheels mounted on a spindle which are moved into gear with the great spur wheel to drive the millstones.See nut.

Stone pinion- see nut.

Sweep- a staft connecting mortar to a box which fills with water in a water-driven plumping mill.

Sweeper- a device attached to the runner stone outer lower edge which sweeps meal from between the edges of the stones and the stone case and carries the meal around to the chute opening inside of the case.

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Tag- or sweepers are attachment to the edge of the runner stone which sweeps the meal in the vat into chutes to bins below.

Tail race-
the lower portion of a mill race or channel. It is the section that returns water back to the mill stream after is has flowed through the water wheel.

Tail water- the water leaving the water wheel and returning to the stream.

Tentering- the process of adjusting the distance (gap) between the upper and lower millstones by raising or lowering the brayer and consequently the bridge tree which rests on it, carrying the lower end of the spindle. Also called tentering staff.

Tentering screw- used for adjusting distance between the stones by moving tentering mechanism by hand. It came into usage during Oliver Evan's time.

Tentering staff- A beam, or handle connected to the bridge tree by the brayer, permitting the bridge tree to be raised or lowered and thus adjusting the distance between the upper and lower millstones. Also called a lighter staff. Also see bottle weight.

Thrift- a handles to hold mill bills.

Tide (tidal) mill- a water mill harnessing energy from tidal water which floods basins or river valleys at high tide.

Tiver- a red ochre used for marking millstones. See raddle.

Tracer- a wooden staff used to check true movement of spindle. See quill stick.

Trammel- see quill stick.

Tram pot- see bridging box.

Tram stick- see quill stick.

Trundle- a lantern pinion on a millstone spindle in counter-gearing, or a pinion resembling a smaller version of a face gear.

Tub mill- a water mill with a horizontal wheel enclosed to its full depth with a wooden casing or open top and bottom tub.

Tun- see stone case.

Two-step gearing (two-step gear train)- a system of interlocking gears designed to permit several pairs of millstones to be driven from a single water wheel.

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Under drift drive- a method of driving or turning millstones by bringing power up from the below by means of a millstone spindle connected from below to the runner stone through the eye of the bed stone. This method is only found in a few wind mills and is more common in water mills.

Under shot water wheel- a water wheel powered by a head of water striking the wheel at the point near the bottom of the wheel, causing the wheel to revolve in the direction opposite to that of the flow of water in the sluice box or mill race.

Upright shaft- see main shaft.

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Vat- see stone case.

Vertical mill (vertical water wheel)- a mill with a vertical mounted water wheel on a horizontally mounted axle. The undershot, breast shot and over shot are the forms of this type of water wheel.

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Wallower- the first driven gear wheel in a water or wind mill, driven by a gear wheel mounted onto the main water wheel or wind shaft.

Warning bell- a bell (once found in many early American Mills) which rings when the grain content of the hopper gets too low.

Windlass barrel- this is a continously turning round barrel shaped shaft in which the rope is slack and turned around the barrel. The other end of the rope is over a pulley unually on the underside of a beam which is projected from the gable end of the roof under a hood and over a series of doorways on each floor. Also see sack hoist.

Wire machine- a machine for separating flour from the rest of the meal and is covered with mesh wire.

(Wooden) proof- a wooden level for checking surface of millstones. See proof staff.

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