As most of you can tell by now I love old mill buildings and grist mills are right up there on my list. I had been wanting to make up a set of mill stone patterns so I could make castings and sell them. So, I had to do some research. Since grist mills were nearly in every early American town and many survived well into the 20th Century I figure it would be a good idea to post some of the things I’ve found out about them over the years. What’s the use of modeling an item if you don’t know anything about it, right?
So, what is grist?
Grist: a: grain or a batch of grain for grinding b: the product obtained from a grist of grain including the flour or meal and the grain offals
Simply put crushed and ground grain.
How do you grind grain?
In a stone mill. Well, stone was used since it was a durable and fairly available commodity around farms at that time, but hard cast iron “stones” are now common in industrial mills. However, there has been a resurgence in stone ground grain for those who like to bake their own bread and some small mills still use actual stones. Even though redressing mill stones is a lost art, there are those who still do it out of necessity and do it mostly on a volunteer level. I don’t know if there are traveling stone dressers, nor do I know if it would be a lucrative business. I myself would rig up some sort of mechanism to take the drudgery out of it because I couldn’t see myself bent over for hours chipping away at a stone wheel like that. I’d never be able to get up.
Here’s a link to a mill where they are dressing a stone.
Some Stone Terminology:
Modeling mill stones. (Or, milling mill stones)
So, now that I knew the whats and whys of stone dressing I decided to make some for sale. Although there are a few different furrow patterns, I opted for what I consider the standard pattern as seen above. I’ll probably make some spiral dressed wheels, one of these days. They are pretty cool looking. I drew this up in my trusty 10yr old copy of AutoCAD then loaded it up into my Cut2d program that is specifically designed to generate code for my CNC router. My first tries didn’t work due to my own fault, but I figured that and used it as a test to get all the depths and tooling right. I found that I could use a .020″ endmill (carbide burr) for most of the O-scale stones, but still had to use a modified engraving bit for the smaller HO scale stones.
Sorry, but I didn’t take any pictures of the router operations.
Mill Stone Jewelry
What? Yeah, I know, but when you have a handful of mill stone castings and another handful of jewelry components the natural thing to do is to combine. Actually, I needed a Secret Santa gift and decided to make mine this year instead of giving a gift card or finding something for $20. I hate shopping, unless it’s for tools, so I went to work. Honestly, by the time I finished this set of necklace and earrings value out at more than $20, so someone got the better deal. 🙂
Of course, I had to make a set for my wife Tina.
More mill pictures.
Even though this page is mainly about mill stones, it would be useless if I didn’t have some pictures of how it all goes together. Unless you are building a detail interior, most people would be happy to have a couple of stones laying around a model and call it quits, which is fine, but not knowing how it works is doing Henry Ford and all of those millers a big dis-service. As usual, you’re gonna get more info from me than really needed. Here are some pictures of the inside of the mill building. If you do want to build a mill with a detailed interior I do have many more pictures of this particular mill and I will put them into a gallery for your enjoyment and use.