Highest Rated Comments

Virgadays542 karma

On the days I work on the mill I realize I work with all my senses instead of just my eyes when working on a pc.

Early morning I hop on my bike and on my way to the mill I start looking at the weather, trying to figure out what kind of cloth I shall carry on its sails, and if there is enough wind to do certain tasks. After preparing the mill for work the sound a mill produces is important to check if the mill is working properly and can indicate failures early on.

Because the mill has a central position in the village I myself have grown as a member of the community, people recognize me now as 'the lady of the windmill' which to me is very fulfilling compared to my faceless deskjob. I also love showing around visitors if I can spare the time and help them experience the mill a bit by allowing them to stop the mill using a series of ropes and levers and perhaps take a tour through it's cap. Now and then I receive technical personell such as aircraft mechanics who are amazed by how much thought out down to the details this seemingly primitive machinery is.

Virgadays470 karma

In the lower parts of The Netherlands where the drainage mills stood, milling was historically seen as a woman's profession. The reason for this was that a family couldn't make ends meet from the salary the water board gave a miller, so the husband often went out fishing or worked for a farmer while the wife tended to the mill.

In the higher parts of The Netherlands, A corn mill often stood a couple hundred yards from the village not to be hindered by structures for catching wind. It was often accompanied with an inn providing lodging to travellers. In such a situation the husband often took care of the mill, while the wife ran the inn. A village's appearance was often dominated by the churchtower and the windmill, which also signified a cultural divide. The church was God's place, while the windmill -far away from the church's reach- symbolized earthly needs and pleasures. This is why the mill was often accompanied by an inn which also served as a brothel and casino.

Virgadays432 karma

While this differs a bit for each type of windmill, there indeed is a point at which the mill has to be stopped to prevent damage.

For Dutch cornmills, the maximum sailspeed (depending on their transmission which ranges from 1:5 to 1:8) is about 20 rpm or as millers say: '80 sails'. If the mill starts turning faster it becomes harder to produce good quality flour.

Drainage mills on the other hand can often turn as fast as their structure allows, sometimes reaching 30 rpm or 120 sails. The main risk from such high speeds is the friction generated by the brake (visible in the proof picture as the wooden blocks pressed against the wheel) when stopping the mill. Sometimes this friction generates so much heat that fire becomes a risk. Many mills have burned down in the past because of this.

To regulate the rpm of the mill, a miller can adjust the amount of cloth covering the sails by reefing or unfurling, much like on a sailboat.

windmill with '4 full sails'

Windmill with '4 half sails'

Needless to say a good understanding of the weather is important to a miller.

Virgadays295 karma

I think the most common misconception is that a windmill would be an archaic, primitive machine.

People tend to forget that windmills have underwent an evolution of half a millennium driven by trial and error as well as knowledge of materials. For some reason that escapes me many also think of people from the past as 'stupid' or 'less intelligent'.

Whenever I suspect such a sentiment from a visitor I try to point out the clever details in its construction such as for example the fact that 2 gears that are connected to each other never have a number of cogs that can be cleanly divided. This is done to prevent uneven wear and tear, the same principle is found in modern day gearboxes.

Virgadays251 karma

That reminds me of an American couple that visited the mill I was working on at the time. It was a 17th century post mill constructed from parts of even older mills. The woman complained about how 'rickety' the mill felt (post-mills wobble a bit when turning, much like a ship on the waves).

The only thing I could say was: "Ma'am, this mill is older than your country is."