Hands On:


| March 2001



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Bolting wheel

Restoring a windmill? Any windmill scheduled for restoration must have all the iron present, and at least one wheel section to use as a pattern for duplicates. Sources like the Panhandle Plains Museum in Canyon, Texas, or the American Wind Power Center in Lubbock can help with parts lists and, in some cases, locate illustrations from original advertising to indicate the proper color.

A sectional wheel windmill is assembled on the tower. Most of these were erected on wooden towers, though it is entirely proper to use a good angle iron tower.

The tower we built for our Yale windmill was assembled out of timber cut from used telephone poles. A 10-foot diameter mill needs 5' x 5' leg timbers. Cross members should be at least 1' x 5'. The leg spread varies with the owner's preference: 3:1, 3.5:1 and even 4:1 ratios are common. A 3:1, 21-foot tower has a bottom leg spread of 7 feet.

You will be standing on top of the tower you build, so make it strong and sturdy. Bolts are better than nails. If you paint the tower, paint all components before assembly.

Anchor post holes for a 10-foot mill on a 21-foot, four-leg tower, either wood or steel, should be at least 4 feet deep. Steel towers use angle iron anchors. Wooden towers should use cedar for the anchor posts. Pick pieces that are larger in diameter than the tower legs. Drill the anchor holes, put in the cedar posts (with no backfill), stand the tower up, and then bolt the cedar to the tower legs. Leave 4 to 6 inches between the bottom of the tower leg and the ground. The Wind Power Center uses a combination of concrete and tamped earth to pack in anchor posts after the tower has been leveled and plumbed.

Lift up the windmill's main casting and insert it into the tower. Attach the other iron components. Most sectional mills have a counterbalance weight. If it is hollow, fill the cavity with rock, steel balls, or sand to a weight that will counterbalance the wheel. If you don't, the windmill will not orient properly and it will wear out the tower cap bearing.