Dempster Windmill Conversion

Learn how this old Dempster windmill was refitted and upgraded, taking it from a rusty bit of scrap to a working bit of history.

| December 2019


Salvaging a damaged mill for an upgraded classic

Sometimes, accidents are a good thing.

I bought a standing windmill, a 6-foot No. 12 Dempster, for fair money. Then, before I retrieved it, a farmer hooked the tower with his corn planter, causing rapid depreciation! I paid $40 for the fan, motor and tail, and then helped him cut up the rest for scrap.

Later, last winter, a teacher brought me a Dempster Annu-Oiled direct-stroke No. 15 that he wanted rebuilt. This would cost way more and he still would have nothing.

A bit about self-oiling direct-stroke mills. Early mills required your presence up high to grease them on a regular basis; self-oiling eliminated that chore. So, No. 1 son Matt and I took the damaged one apart, straightened the fan blades, and mounted his tail on the “new” mill, rebuilt the swivel and tower bearing, making it substantially better.


Looking at his old mill, I figured it would make a nice display for “show and tell” in our museum, especially for the younger set. I built an expanded metal guard to set over the working parts, thus keeping small fingers out of harm’s way. A wood pulley on the front will allow one turn to see how a windmill works.


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