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Williamsburg - Robertson's Windmill


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Robertson's Windmill (Miller)

Giant structure with simple purpose

A colonial windmill was a large and complicated machine built for the simple purpose of grinding small grains.

William Robertson's windmill in Colonial Williamsburg is a narrow, two-story house balanced on an oak post and fitted with four 26-foot frames rigged with linen sails. When the wind rose a 20- to 30-mile-per-hour breeze was best the miller pivoted the house to harness the power of the wind.

System of gears drove mill to grind grain

The sails spun a shaft mated to a geared wheel of 51 teeth called a "rack." The rack drove a perpendicular wooden cage gear called a pinion. The pinion turned a shaft that spun a running millstone against a fixed bed stone below. Wheat and corn fed through a hopper between the stones emerged as flour and meal.

Keeping everything running smoothly the running stone had to turn from 105 to 110 times a minute was tricky and dangerous. For his skill and trouble, the miller received one sixth of the grain he ground.



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