Monday 24 October 2011

Meeting the Traditional Corn Millers

On Saturday 22nd, Richard, Bob and Sara Braithwaite (custodian of Acorn Bank) were invited to join a meeting of the Traditional Corn Millers Guild. They were at Little Salkeld watermill for one of their two annual meetings, hosted by Nick and Ana Jones. We met them for afternoon tea and to watch an excellent 30 minute film that they had commissioned.

On Sunday morning it was their turn to visit us at Acorn Bank. We started the mill early and set about milling our last 25kg bag of grain. Having all those experts around made it both slightly embarrassing and extremely helpful to encounter one or two new problems.

The first was that we seemed to be unable to get enough power to produce flour, until it was pointed out that the stones can be "choked" if grain is delivered too fast ("you are literally grinding to a halt!"). A reduction in the feed produced an immediate improvement. In fact we were able to reduce the water flow after the machine had "warmed up".

Secondly, there continued to be whole grains in the product. These turned out to be missing the grinding process due to scatter from the bottom of the damsel bouncing them across the top of the stone. It is strange that this has not been a problem before.

Thirdly, we continued to have difficulty with the grain feed from the hopper to the shoe - either it ran too fast and overfilled the shoe, or it didn't run at all, giving a threat of running "dry". This needs constant attention. Others reckoned that their hoppers sit in the grain in the top of the shoe and therefore don't run if the shoe is full - like a budgie seed feeder. We will try to rebuild the shoe and the support for the hopper to give this effect.

We were very pleased that the professional millers generally approved of our efforts, and Mike Thurlow, Miller at Letheringsett Watermill said "What you have done with that pair of stones is excellent - I think you all should be very proud of your achievement.". We were also very grateful for the free advice they so generously gave. Thanks, traditional corn millers!

Tuesday 18 October 2011

Odd jobs

Last Sunday was Apple Day, but was rather reduced due to the parking fields being waterlogged. However, loads of people turned up and we (Richard, Sylvia, Bob and Stuart from Heron Mill, who kindly spent the day with us) milled more-or-less all day, in spite of a slight and rather ironic shortage of water. More than 370 visitors came to see, many of them drawn by the TV coverage.

Today we did a few odd jobs.

To begin with, we tried to work out how best to modify the end of the launder to make the water fall into the wheel at the correct angle. Richard is going to make a frame from angle iron to carry the extra boards, and we made a plywood template to guide him.

The hopper lid and feed shelf

We also made a tongue-and-groove lid for the hopper, to keep the bat poo out. This will be usable both between and during millings. We also fitted a shelf in the rail between the upper and stone floors to help with tipping bags of grain into the hopper. We positioned it halfway between the No 1 and No 2 stones so that it would also serve a hopper for the No 1 (shelling) stones were it to be needed. Hopefully this will avoid tearing the bags, as happened on Apple Day.

Richard attends to the grease

Finally, we cleared out the old, waterlogged, grease from the wet-side wheel bearing and replaced it with new grease.

Monday 17 October 2011

Stars of the small screen

Here, with the kind permission of BBC Look North for North east and Cumbria, is the TV news report about the mill, broadcast on Wednesday 12th October. Our thanks go to their Colin Richardson.

Tuesday 11 October 2011

Milling again

Today we were inundated by BBC reporters, well, two of them anyway. First a radio man with a fancy recording microphone, then a TV man with a very fancy Sony camera. They both spent a couple of hours with us, interviewing, recording and watching us mill our second batch of flour - the first time we have milled on our own. The TV report was supposed to go out on Tuesday evening on Look North, but it didn't. Someone told me it went out on Wednesday lunchtime, and it certainly went out on Wednesday evening. The radio report was due to go out on Wednesday morning, but as I can only get digital radio, and Radio Cumbria only does FM, I have no idea whether it did.

The milling was successful, however, and we ended up with a few more Kg of smooth flour even after we had given samples to the BBC men.

Later, we finished the work on the new dump valve system. As the video shows, it worked quite well at first, though we later had to remove some of the rubber seal around the dump valve, as water pressure drove it into the mechanism, causing it to jam.

Tuesday 4 October 2011

Developing the water control

During the last week, Richard had fabricated a superb, flexible hinge arrangement for the new second lever on the dump valve. Today we installed the hinge, with the new lever, through a new hole in the weatherboarding wall. The hinge is mounted on the weatherboarding, which is reinforced by a large plank screwed across several boards. There is adjustment of the axis of the hinge relative to the wall, to allow for the slight skew angle of the launder.

We then made the two-piece link to join the new lever to the old, assembled the whole thing (apart from the actual shutter board) and tested it. This short video shows how the new lever moves further than the old one, as intended.
At last this damned Blogger interface has let me upload it.

Elsewhere, we also fitted a couple of small pulleys to re-route the cord controlling the angle of the shoe so that it can be adjusted from the lower floor.

The following day, Wednesday 5th October, Richard and Bob returned to the mill, lured by the prospect of a visit by the BBC - which, typically of the media, never happened. However, we did manage to test the new shutter with the board rigged approximately in place and to clear some of the woodland debris from the headrace. Richard also made a number of measurements for his ongoing home fabrications.