Grain Mill construction. : LUSENET : TimeBomb 2000 (Y2000) : One Thread

Is it time we started thinking about building our own grain mills?

I have no ideas on exactly how one would do this yet but do know how they used to be built. A wheel shaped stone with a large hole through the hub area is the main item. This stone wheel lays flat on another stone surface and it is revolved. The bottom surface of the stone wheel has grooves cut into it, radiating out from the center hole. The grooves are wide and deep near the center and gradually become smaller until they disappear near the outer edge. The grain is poured into the center hole and slides into the grooves. The wheel is revolved and the flour is collected as it comes out from under the wheel.

Anyone have any suggestions on how to go about this everyday items? "Homemade" is the word for the day.


-- Floyd Baker (, November 15, 1998


... Idea #1 concrete. Build wooden forms to the size you require, pour the concrete after hard sand to a smooth surface.???Would it work ??

-- just quessing=) (, November 16, 1998.

Floyd! You read my husband's mind! He asked me yesterday if I could find instructions for building a grain mill....

Y'know, there's a farm about 8 miles from here that has a mill stone (the one with radiating groves) in it's front yard as a decoration. Looks wicked heavy, it must be 4 feet in diameter.

My husband wondered if we could chisel groves in a sharpening stone (round kind, of course!)? I don't even know of a mill around here that might be resurrected, except for a cider mill about 40 miles away. That'd be a long haul with the grain :) !

-- Arewyn (, November 16, 1998.

A homemade grain mill wouldn't have to be a commercial size by any means. Even as small as a 1 foot stone wheel would probably suffice for home use. Concrete could be used for the flat surface and perhaps for making a wheel or maybe a stone coffee table top could be modified for such a use. I'd want to know what "simulated" slate or marble tops were made of and if hazardous for human consumption. A certain amount of wearing away of the wheel will occur and that dust would be part of the flour. I think that some type of round stone could be found and groves chiseled or ground in. If it was too heavy for revolving by hand on a flat surface, if might be inclined slightly with rollers at the bottom to take some of the weight. That would also help to bring the flour to an exit point with a container below.

Are there any other thoughts on converting hand operated meat grinders or other mechanical devices that might be available. How fine does grain really have to have to be ground for its various uses? Bread for instance? Is a powdery flour consistancy needed absolutely or is something less than perfect still usable?

-- Floyd Baker (, November 16, 1998.

1) Find creek (Best with waterfall but serious drop would be OK)

2) Build small (or medium sized) dam.

3) Build millrace/spillway from small opening at top of dam out until you have room to build wheel underneath.

4) Build wheel, diameter equal to distance from the top of dam (or bottom of the previuos structure) to surface of water in about to be filled pond (may need some digging here before the water flows)

5) Sink LARGE timbers to mount wheel on and set bearings of your choice of type under the structure in #3.

6) Set wheel shaft on timbers and secure.

7) decide on power transmission device (gears, leather belts, braided panty-hose) and install power transmission train to drive wheel/gear.

8) Drive wheel/gear should be mounted at side of either VERY large, dressed flat rock, or VERY smooth concrete pad.

9) Mount either a dressed (with grooves) sandstone wheel weighing in the neighborhood of 14 hernias and a boy in center og rock or pad.

10) Decidde on drive train/belt/shafts/gears to millstone and connect.

11) remember to include a clutch at the water wheel end, and at the millstone end of power transmission train.

12) Hang scavenged downspout over center of millstone to drop grain into hole in center of stone (may require skyhook if mill built before mill house)

13) Hire 43 boys to collect flour as it works to the outside of millstone.

13)(alt) Hire gravity to collect flour by mounting the millstone on pad at angle (30-35 deg ought to do the job nicely).

14) Bag flour in . . . . Oh DAMN Forgot to build loom to weave bags!!

Sorry folks, I just could NOT resist.


-- Chuck a Night Driver (, November 17, 1998.

On a much more serious and, hopefully responsive note, you will probably not be able to convert meat grinders to grain as the meat "grinder" is truly a meat "cutter" with cutter blades that both move and are stationary. Yes, they work for dried bread and make bread crumbs but we're talking a couple orders of magnitude in both hardness and in required fine-ness of product (refinement? smaller granularity? It's been one a' them days!!)

the sandstone sharpening wheel being re-dressed, and mounted on another wheel, powered by a variation on the treadle sewing machine or the sharpening stone drives sounds like the best bet but I have NO IDEA who is going to dress the stones the first time. You probably would want to go to your neighborhood stone shop and pay the exhorbitant charge for the grooving of the cutter wheel and the dressing of the base wheel/slab/pad. I would not give a plugged slug for my ability to carve th erequired grooves in the sandstone.

PS I talk about sandstone for a reason (or 2). First, I have seen a number of mill stones, and ALL have been sandstone. Second, you would rather use two relatively soft stones than two hard stones as the likelyhood of fracture is greaater the harder the stone and as the two softer stones wear, they dress each other and get better at their job of grinding.


-- Chuck a Night Driver (, November 17, 1998.

I'm not sure whether this would be feasible for the small homestead, but possible for a small intentional community, or cooperative. Maybe for a VERY motivated group. Anyway, I was perusing the book section at Jade Mountain, and found a book called " Small Scale Milling" which looks like it covers the plans and everything you would need to build your own village type grain mill. I think primarily set up for small scale third world situations, but maybe this would answer your questions. It is 29.50. Just go over to Jade Mountain, click on the Books section, and then go to the Do It Yourself section, it is there, along with many many other useful books.

-- Damian Solorzano (, November 17, 1998.

Just do what some of my ancestors did. Find a nice medium sized tree limb coming out from the trunk about 12 feet above the ground and the size of your arm at the elbow. Cut it off about 7 to 10 feet from the trunk and trim off the branches to make a wood spring. To the end of the spring tie a heavy, dry, hardwood log weighing at least 70 or 80 pounds so that it is suspended about three feet above the ground. Drive a heavy dowel through the log at a convinent height for whoever is gonna use this thing. Smooth off the bottom of the log, and put under it a block of hardwood with a bowl shaped depression in it bigger than the end of the log. Fit the log end and the block together so they are the same shape. Pour in a couple quarts of grain, and pound the h**l out of it. Not elegant, but it works. BTW - the lower down the log you put the handle/dowel the easier it is to control.

-- Paul Davis (, November 17, 1998.

I like the thought of having a stream. Used to look for homes that had one. We found one and then got worried the toddlers would take premature swims and so we passed it by. They are married off now and I'm still sorry we didn't buy that house..., even though it wouldn't have powered a mill...

What about hooking up a stair climb or bicyle exercise machine for power. Just as mentioned for running a generator/alternator?

As for the tree "thumper", I like that. I can think of a whole lot of variations on that one. Good to know the grain isn't going to get out of being modified, no matter how its done.

As for grooving the stone, I thought that if you found one, hopefully sandstone or equally soft, or made (is concrete an alternative?), it could be laid on the ground and chisseled on. If it was tougher than sandstone, one of those rental concrete saws might be used to perform the cuts. Of course, I suppose it would cost an arm and a leg for the hour you would need it. BTW; maybe some of you remember, they used to make curbes out of (reddish) sandstone. Slabs on edge were sunk into the ground along the edge of roads. Any of those still around? :-)


-- Floyd Baker (, November 17, 1998.

I can produce the required geometries in your stones.

Provide the center hole diameter, outside diameter, thickness, material, weight, quantity, 'required-by-date' and phone number for a quote.

Other Y2K design, manufacturing and problem-solving services available; prototypes to production - check my website.


Perry Arnett

fax 435-586-1097

-- Perry Arnett (, November 17, 1998.

I came across someone on the net who says he uses a coffee grinder to grind his grain...

-- Vicki (, November 17, 1998.

Floyd-- what you described in your original post is a quern. Not sure how it would work, but here are some suggestions. Use common grinding wheels for your stones (these are typically made of aluminum oxide); try to find a metal fabricator, machine shop, or foundry near you where they use large (12"-18") grinding wheels and ask one of the workers to save some worn out ones for you. You can soak them with detergent, then pressure wash them for cleaning.

To cut grooves, you must have the wheel resting on a flat, very rigid surface, like a concrete floor. Place several sheets of newspaper underneath the stone. Draw the grooves on the wheel with a large felt tip marker. To cut the grooves, use a light hammer with a small chisel or flat tip punch to "peck" at the wheel; the material is porous and a small amount will crush under the blow. Wear safety glasses while doing this. Patience is required because this operation will take some time.

Be aware that you may need some low-friction way of locating the stones relative to each other, otherwise the upper stone will tend to "walk" off to one side while rotating. I think you will also need to prepare the stones by rubbing in some flour or corn starch before you can begin to turn your mill by hand-- abrasive against abrasive makes for tremendous friction. You will also need to "break it in" because when it is first used it will shed some abrasive grains and these would be very bad for anyone's teeth.

(in case you might be worried about the "aluminum" in aluminum oxide: AlO is a ceramic, and has very low chemical reactivity)

-- Max Dixon (Ogden, Utah USA) (, November 20, 1998.

Thanks to everyone for all the info and advice on this. I'm sure others found it useful also. I've spent the last couple of days trying to locate a used grinding wheel as described above by Max. That seems to be the stone that is needed. Up to 6 inches in diameter they run about 12 to 15 dollars new. Anything bigger gets costly quickly. I found two 12 inchers that were ordered but then not bought, at 150.00 each. For me to take them off the dealers hands now would cost me the bargain price of $50.00 each. Hmmm. Still cheaper than a bought mill.

The diameter would determine how many revolutions were required for a certain quantity of grain but otherwise any size should work. One wheel would be fixed in place and some assembly to hold a shaft and the revolving wheel could be devised. Something similar to the rear tires and axle taken from a childs wagon. It could be modified so that one tire was replaced by the grinding wheel and the other end of the shaft bent into a crank handle. By enclosing the lower end of the shaft around the center of the wheel, with a collar or funnel assembly, one could feed the grain into the wheel.

Just one possibility of construction. Any others? Anyone going to build one? I'll let you know of any progress here.


-- Floyd Baker (, November 22, 1998.

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