An Unexpected Find

| March/April 1997

  • Mill

  • Mill

  • Mill
  • Mill

Ā 1425 Kristle Lane Lake Charles, Louisiana 70611

While shopping on the Strand in Galveston, Texas, back in August of 1995, I found an old grist mill. Now of all places I'd expect to find any old iron, this was not one of them. But there was one shop down toward the end of the row of shops that had a couple of pieces of rusty iron out front. So naturally, it attracted my attention. My wife and I walked inside and right inside the door, sitting on the floor, was an old grist mill. I bent down and started looking it over. It was in real bad shape. It wouldn't turn over and the hopper was full of holes and, in fact, sitting off to the side of the mill. Several small parts were missing, but otherwise it was fairly complete. It had a tag on it marked 'make offer.' About that time the owner of the store came over and politely informed me that it was an old meat grinder that he recently bought at an estate sale. I told him that it wasn't a meat grinder, but a corn grinder. I guess it kind of surprised him that I knew what it was. To make a long story short, I made what I thought was a reasonable offer and he said okay.

I brought the mill home and right away started working on it. I discovered that it was a C. S. Bell mill. It had 5 inch cast iron burrs. I cleaned it up a little, freed up the shaft, rigged up a tensioning screw, and ground a little corn with it just turning it by hand. Once convinced that it was restorable, I disassembled it. The burrs were in amazingly good shape, just needed cleaning up. The shaft was pitted real bad, though usable, but a friend of mine got me a piece of cold rolled steel and cut it to length for a new shaft. I discovered that the C. S. Bell Company was still in business. I found their address and phone number and gave them a call. Turns out that though they no longer manufactured my particular mill, they had parts for a newer model mill that would fit mine. I ordered all of the parts I needed from them over the phone. They also sent me a bunch of literature describing their current line of mills.

I went through the normal steps of cleaning, sandblasting and painting. The Bell company didn't have a replacement hopper so I made one out of wood. I reassembled everything and ended up with a really nice looking mill.

But now, I needed an engine to power it. I had a couple of 6 HP Fairbanks-Morse engines, but the mill really needed something a little smaller to look right together. I also wanted something that would be a little easier to maneuver around. About a month later was my birthday. My wife gave me a little spending money as a birthday present. To make another long story short, I found a 1.5 HP Hercules engine that I thought would be perfect to power the mill. I spent the winter months rebuilding that engine, anxiously awaiting the time when I could belt it up to the mill. That time finally came and I discovered to my disappointment that the engine just wasn't powerful enough to do a dependable job turning the mill. I guess the Bell company knew what they were talking about when they said the mill needed a 3 to 5 HP engine for power.

So began my quest for another engine, one in the 3 to 5 HP range. In the meantime, I built a stand and sifter for the mill. I built a mechanism that attached to the mill's shaft with a pulley and v-belt arrangement. The belt turned an auxiliary shaft and an eccentric that attached to the sifter by way of a mechanical linkage to wobble the sifter. I had to experiment with several different size pulleys before I got the sifter to wobble at the right speed when the mill was turning at its optimum speed. During this experimenting stage, I powered the mill with one of my 6 HP engines.

Several months later, I found a 3 HP Fairbanks-Morse type ZC engine that I was able to purchase. It was in fairly good shape and was an easy restoration. The only problem was it didn't have a pulley. I posted a message to the stationary engine list on the Internet and found a pulley in short order. In fact, I found two of them. I belted the engine to the mill and started it up. Again it took a little experimenting to get the optimum engine speed, mill speed, and sifter speed. But once I found them, the engine, mill, and sifter worked great. The 3 HP engine was just right. Under a full grinding load the engine purred along with hardly any strain.

The only thing left was to build a cart that I could mount everything on. The pictures included with this article show what the finished product looks like. A year and two months elapsed from the time I bought the mill and finished the project. It was a labor of love.


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