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Waterpowered sawmill
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 Posted: Sat Aug 29th, 2009 03:21 pm
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Herb Kephart
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Neither prototype railroad, nor model, but Dave D thought that there would be some interest in the following.

In Bowmansville Pennsylvania there is a water powered grist (grain grinding) mill with a sawmill attached. The first mill on this site was built in 1740 and was log construction. It was replaced in 1780 by a larger mill which burnt in the late 1840's, a common occurrence, often caused by letting the feed of grain to the grinding stones run out. This lets the stones rub on each other causing friction, heat, and sparks, which ignite the ground product.

In 1850 Henry Von Nieda rebuilt the mill in stone, with two enclosed water wheels and four sets of grindstones. In 1860 he added a saw mill structure with its own water wheel to the complex.





The sawmill being the red building on the right.

Last edited on Sun Oct 31st, 2010 03:56 pm by Herb Kephart



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 Posted: Sat Aug 29th, 2009 04:09 pm
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Herb Kephart
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The mill finally shut down, in 1950, when the last of the Von Nieda's died. I had the opportunity to see a note book that was kept during some of the mills last years. It seemed to a random record of things with entries about amounts paid to non family people  for part time labor, cutting ice off the mill pond, helping saw timber for township bridges, etc. Knowing that one of the Von Niedas had been killed in the 1940's when he got caught in one of the revolving wooden shafts, I went through the book to see if there was any entry concerning the accident-- there was-- "paid to undertaker-50 cents"

The mill fell into disrepair, but all the machinery remained inside. It was bought by Stewart Keen, who contacted a millwright who learned his trade in England, with the idea of rebuilding  it. The millwright, Derek Ogden, had an interest in old British motorcycles, and through this my sons and I met him. He was well into the restoration at this point, but had more mill work than he could handle at the time, so my oldest son, Ken, and sometimes I, would go on weekends and finish things up. Derek asked if we would rebuild the sawmill machinery, the structure that it was in having been finished at that point, and also most of the drive mechanism under the saw mill floor.



Derek had built and installed the large wood pulley/flywheel on the left and built the wooden gear on the right, which Ken helped him install. The waterwheel is on the far right Waterwheels were originally built of wood, but had a limited life due to rot. In the 1880's, the Fitz Waterwheel company of Hanover PA, started making metal wheels, which were a replacement in nearly all the mills in a large area. All three wheels at the Von Nieda mill are Fitz.

Since the waterwheel only goes about 40 RPM, a large increase of speed is needed.



The smaller gear is cast iron, but the shaft it is on is wood. It is centered and locked to the shaft with wood wedges.



Here the wheel has just had its buckets painted- hence the plastic tarp- it looked like rain. We had just installed the (also just painted) the device that controls the amount of water that falls on the wheel. The tank above the wheel is called the forebay.


Last edited on Sun Oct 31st, 2010 04:05 pm by Herb Kephart



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 Posted: Sat Aug 29th, 2009 06:17 pm
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Herb Kephart
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The sawmill "building" is more like an open shed. This is the end where the cut lumber would come out. Rather high for loading into a wagon but it is the only logical way with the existing layout, which is an exact copy of how things were.




But things get worse! The next is a shot inside, at the far end. The opening (on left side of building in the above view) is the only one on ground level, and is where the logs come in--




Notice what's wrong? The logs are on the WRONG side of the carriage!  DUH! We made an overhead wooden bay crane to lift logs over the carriage track. Not original, we have NO idea how the previous operators handled this. Simply rolling the logs over the carriage track would have destroyed it in a short time
This, and following pix were taken a few years after the restoration- we had everything painted and shiny. We took all the above floor parts to our place, sandblasted, and painted, the castings, replaced almost all the wood (because of rot) and all the shafts (rust). The handle high up with the loop on the end is pulled towards the operator to move all three uprights a predetermined amount to give the desired thickness to the board being cut. The upright round wheel on left controls the speed at which the log moves into the saw. The opening to the far right is a duplicate of the (shown) other end, but is even higher off the ground, with the spillway directly below it. The spillway is where water coming down the head race excess to the needs of the mill overflows




This it the adjustment for the board thickness. By moving the block along the serrated arc, the thickness can be controlled



This is the speed control for the carriage. The now rusty cast iron wheel, driven by a short belt from the saw spindle, has two friction wheels that run against it. The far one runs the carriage on the return for the next cut. The near one is adjusted by the upright wheel (two pictures above) across the iron wheel--near the center is slow, moving across the wheel to the edge is faster. Note that the reverse wheel is at the other edge of the iron wheel, which gives the fastest speed, and also reverses direction The black object on the left is a cast cover to keep wood chips out- certainly not to keep fingers out-- there are lots of ways to get hurt besides this!




The horizontal lever moves in the direction that you want the carriage to move. By moving it you press the appropriate friction wheel against the cast drive plate Here you can also see the saw spindle belt coming up through the floor from the large
drum below



The saw blade from the other side. You don't sharpen saws this big (and this is by no means a large blade!), they have replaceable teeth. The wheel to the right of the blade is called a splitter. It runs in the kerf (the slot cut by the saw) to keep the wood from closing the kerf and pinching the blade. Blades like this have to be periodically "hammered" This is getting to be a lost art. It is a process where the blade is places on a flat block and tapped in a circular pattern with a hammer, expanding the center and making the whole blade like the bottom of an old time oil can- slightly convex.
When the saw starts to revolve it wobbles all over the place- until the centrifugal force is enough to stretch the rim at which point the blade suddenly snaps true. If this is not done the blade will wander in the cut. Blades are hammered to snap true at whatever speed they are going to run at





a couple other overall shots- hook from bay crane hoist visible on left





Handwheel on black shaft in photo above is the control for how much water goes to the water wheel

Well, as they used to say at the end of the cartoon  That's all folks!

The mill operates four times a year and is open to the public at those times. Those of you who live close enough, can see corn being ground and logs being cut. If you like, you get a little bag of corn meal to take home. If you like you can have all the sawdust you can carry- cleaning up afterward brings a new meaning to the letters PITA!

The mill is located on PA Rte 625, at the South end of the town of Bowmansville. In the winter, when the leaves are off the trees you can catch a glimpse of it from the PA turnpike, if you know where to look (and are quick!)

The open dates are flexible, and dependent on the availability of Mason Maddocks, a fellow who operates a mill at Colvin Run VA during the week. If interested, PM me with an Email addy and I will let you know when the next date is decided---And say Hi to Mason, and the Lienbachs, father and son who do the sawing.  Look up my son Ken also, he is around whenever the mill is running, just in case

Herb Kephart---Who now has two VERY tired fingers!:old dude:


 

Last edited on Sun Oct 31st, 2010 05:13 pm by Herb Kephart



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 Posted: Sun Aug 30th, 2009 11:47 am
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Dave D
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Thanks for posting them Herb!

It's great to now be able to read the story that goes with the wonderful pictures.

Go put your 2 fingers on ice, ( my preferred method for this, is to wrap them around an ice filled glass containing an adult beverage. ) A rest well deserved!:Salute:



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 Posted: Sun Aug 30th, 2009 12:24 pm
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Paladin
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G'day Herb :-

Thank-you for this post, have read though several times and found it a good read

Now for the fun part, looking at the pretty pictures.

Don



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 Posted: Sun Aug 30th, 2009 01:22 pm
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Herb Kephart
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Thanks Dave and Don!

The ice filled glass worked to perfection last night, and this morning I made some spelling corrections,

Herbie:old dude:



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 Posted: Sun Aug 30th, 2009 02:21 pm
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ytter_man
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This is a much nicer looking, refined version of some belt powered saws i've seen in these parts and out west. I cant believe you & your son rebuilt that whole beautiful machine, the thought of trying to shim a gear with wood to get it true sounds frightening at best! :Crazy::) Not to mention hammering blades, wow.

Hands on History, for real. :bow: Thanks!

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 Posted: Sun Aug 30th, 2009 05:48 pm
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Herb Kephart
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Please don't get the idea that we hammered the blade-- We had a dickens of a time finding someone in this area that still did that- I don't think that it is that hard to do, just knowing how much to do on each side is the trick. If too much swelling is done the blade is pretty much scrap.


Herb:old dude:



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 Posted: Mon Aug 31st, 2009 12:08 am
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W C Greene
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Herbie-I finally got around to looking at this piece and all I can say is FAR OUT!!! These are some very nice detail photos of the mill and the equipment inside. This makes me want to build a sawmill except for the fact that then I would have to make trees and model water. But still .................. Wonderful photos of a real national treasure. Thank you for having a hand in saving this historic structure.

                      W C Greene



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 Posted: Sun Oct 18th, 2009 01:19 am
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choo choo 76
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Herb,
Thanks for the fine tour and history. What a great job of restoring the mill. So many are left to deteriotate and what a shame! Its living history and there aren't that many left in some places. How long did it take to restore all of it? Seeing the mill reminds me when a covered bridge in Frankfort Ky was washed away by floods, great people like yourself all jumped in to rebuild the bridge for the children of the future to see. We was able to see it before the flood, during the flood, and chased away by cops, and after the flood. Keep up the good work you do for all of us, here and places like the mill.
Choo choo :apl:



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