A couple of years ago my wife and I enjoyed a couple of weeks in the New England area, particularly Vermont. In my opinion, Vermont is an artist’s paradise and I have since created several paintings depicting our visit to that state. One of those paintings is shown below…the grist mill in Weston, Vermont.
Now, I have to admit, when I’m traveling I’m thinking of paintings…and when I’m thinking of paintings I’m thinking of light, value and composition. So when I discovered this wonderful grist mill and found it visually appealing, it never occurred to me to go inside and actually see its operation. It’s embarrassing to say this, but for all I know it may have been just an interesting facade. So now I’m full of regret for my oversight of not going inside to check it out.
How do grist mills work and what exactly do they do? Inquiring minds need to know.
Vertical water wheels were in use in the Roman Empire as far back as 100 BC, so they’ve been around a long time. A “grist mill” can really be any type of mill that grinds grain, but we think of them as the type seen here…a multistory structure with a vertical wheel located near water.
Mills were of great importance to the agricultural economy of America. Usually built and supported by local farming communities, farmers would bring their grain to the miller and receive back ground meal or flour.
Classical mill designs are usually water powered, though some are powered by the wind or by livestock. For those powered by water, a sluice (a water channel controlled at its head by a gate) is opened allowing water to flow onto or under a water wheel, causing it to turn. It appears to me that in Weston, water flows in and propels the wheel from below.
The water wheels turn at about 10 rpm. That energy is transmitted to the mill stones through a series of gears, and a drive shaft. This increases the mill stone rotation to 120 rpm. Two circular stones, laid on top of one another, do the work. The bottom stone is fixed and is called the “bed” stone, while the top rotating stone is the “runner”.
Grain is lifted in sacks, by a hoist, onto the “sack floor” at the top of the mill. The sacks are then emptied into bins and the grain falls down through a hopper to the millstones on the “stone floor” below. The flow of grain is regulated by shaking it in a gently sloping trough from which it falls into a hole at the center of the runner stone. The milled grain (flour) is collected as it emerges through grooves in the runner stone from the outer rim of the stones and is fed down a chute to be collected in sacks on the ground or “meal floor”. It’s all a very interesting and ingenious process, proving man’s creativity and ingenuity.
Weston Grist Mill is available through the Roux and Cyr International Fine Art Gallery. HERE
If you are interested in learning more about grist mills and hearing a great explanation of how they work, here’s a great video.
To view his art and bio, please click HERE