Handmade Half-Scale Windmill

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by Jim Lacey
Detail of nice lettering cut into all four legs.

Terry Kaufman, manager of Clark Rural Water, often comes down to pick up a motor or other piece of water-related equipment for the system. Plus, we have drilled several of their wells over the years.

One day, he mentioned wanting to build a small, wooden-fan windmill. On the ground next to the shop were the remains of one I had built 20 years ago. It was nothing fancy, but the dimensions were there, which worked, allowing the fans to fold in or out in response to the wind. I gave this to him, along with a blade or two, leftover from when I built a unit. Terry also works with wood.

a scale replica of a windmill set up in a field.

At any rate, recently he came down with his girlfriend, Lorie, with wood showing over the pickup box. It turned out to be a beautifully lettered and varnished windmill tower! Then, out of the back set of doors, he brings this carefully constructed fan assembly, fan blades built from hard maple, and sets it in atop the tower and says, “It’s yours!”

Things like this make tear ducts leak a bit, knowing full well how much went into this. Then he told me as long as he was making one for himself, just as well make one for our museum! This half-scale windmill will NOT sit out in the wind.

This fan is scaled from a Model L Baker, which was initially built in the early ‘teens of the last century and was still available into the 1940s. Hence, you see scraps of them on towers, especially the cement “football” that replaced a discus-shaped cast-iron weight.

We have one in the museum, courtesy of my friend Ray Jensen (since deceased), whose grandfather, Jimmie Jensen, farmed and sold windmills on the side. A larger unit, a Model M, was called the “12-foot” and involved eight fan sections, as well as a Monitor ship skeleton made of cast iron and filled with cement (one of which we would like to have for the 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.

  • Updated on Aug 4, 2022
  • Originally Published on Jul 19, 2022
Tagged with: museum, windmill
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