The Millwright’s Apprentice

Building the New Water Wheel.
18
Mar

We’re Back!

Hello again! Gabe Christy, maintenance assistant and apprentice millwright here.

Here are just some of the staff and volunteers from the Millwright shop with the new wheel in the background.

First and foremost, I’d like to apologize to our readers for our extended hiatus. Unfortunately, other projects took priority over the blog for the past few months, but now those of us in the Millwright Shop want to share the amazing progress we’ve made since we opened in September of 2018.

We dubbed this stage of the process “Millhenge”

One of our first steps was to build a layout table for the wheel. This consisted of a series of white oak frames arranged in a circle around a center post which was fixed to the floor. Across these frames we laid a work surface, initially 1/8” plywood, but then we came to our senses and remade it out of 2 x 12 lumber. This gave us a flat enough surface to scribe out the outer and inner circumference of the wheel, ensuring that the final product isn’t too far out of round.

Tony uses a trammel to lay out the wheel

Once we had our layout table constructed, it was time to start cutting!

In the photo below (left), I’m sawing out the inside radius of a rimboard. The layout lines are just barely visible on the face of the board. Using our frame saw, which is based on illustrations from Joseph Moxon’s Art of Joinery and Denis Diderot’s Encyclopedie, we’ve been able to saw out both sides of the rimboards with a high degree of accuracy. In the photo on the right, the layout lines are much more visible, along with the outline for the half lap saddle joint which will join each piece together.

Once each piece is cut out, it gets planed down to the layout lines on both edges. Then we carefully cut and fit the saddle joints. The saddle joint pictured below is mirrored on the bottom side of the joint. The hypothesis is that the diamond shape will prevent the individual boards from pushing themselves out of alignment as they swell. At this point, we’ve gotten most of the rims cut out, and have started getting the first half joined and set, as the next side of the wheel will be built to the first to make sure we have a symmetrical wheel, and not a whirligig.

There’s about another 6-7 days of joinery work to make sure these are all set, and then we’ll start cutting bucket board slots and get into even more complicated shapes and joinery. But that will have to wait until our next post. While I would normally sign off by inviting everyone to come visit us, the shop is currently closed due to COVID-19. But on the upside, this means I have a lot more time to write these posts, so check back in for updates! Stay safe, and please come visit us when this has all calmed down.

If you’d like to take the next step and get involved in the shop, we’re always looking for volunteers. If interested, please contact us at:

Newlin Grist Mill
219 S. Cheyney Road
Glen Mills, PA 19342

info@newlingristmill.org

Tel. 610.459.2359

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Newlin Grist Mill

TEMPORARILY CLOSED

Recent flooding resulted in damage throughout park. Grounds, offices, & trails are closed to public. For your safety, please do not enter park.

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For more information, please read this message from our director. (Updated 9/1/20)