Burr Mill Back to the Grind

Restoring a wind-powered burr mill

Restored Aermotor burr mill in our nine-sided granary

Restored Aermotor burr mill in our nine-sided granary.

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Those of you who read Farm Collector regularly may remember the story of our “Power” windmill (Rare Windmill Gets New Life, Farm Collector, March 2010, pages 16-17). It gets better. A friend of mine, Bill Lee, commented that he had some cast iron that looked like it belonged with our mill. This is a good thing, as pieces that small generally got sent to scrap drives during World War II. 

Bringing the piece – a burr mill – back to life was not hard (surprise!). Opting for bronze bearings, I had a couple machined and pressed them in on the shaft needing them, along with building a new shaft, which was not rocket science by the way.

Pressing in new bronzes, we discovered that machining tolerances “back then” were not as tight as they are now. You must remember that these were set up for poured babbit bearings, so there was plenty of room for error and still plenty of room for the shaft. My brother, Mike, went back to his shop, picked up a hone and we proceeded to get the bearings and shaft in agreement with each other and turn smoothly as well.

In real life, this small grinder was wind-powered by a vertical shaft coming down from the forementioned windmill. Rather a clever little burr mill, it was set up in such a fashion that centrifugal force would throw grain into the burrs, as needed, but not enough to jam the unit so it would not rotate. The shaft at a right angle to the downshaft is for taking power off to run a saw or a cornsheller when the grinder is not already in use to grind corn. One of the big selling points was telling a prosperous farmer that he could use wind power to keep his hired men busy during the winter.

Practically speaking, these units enjoyed a relatively short period of usefulness, sort of like steam engines. Something much better came along. At any rate, we are happy to have it in our museum. So it goes. FC 

Jim and Joan Lacey operate Little Village Farm, a museum of farm collectibles housed in 10 buildings at their home near Dell Rapids, S.D. Contact them at (605) 428-5979.