Heritage - News

Compagnes Drift Mill

5th January, updated 19th January / 26th January

Jump to the update;

5th January 2008

Hello all,

Firstly I have to report on the passing of paterfamilias of Compagnes Drift, Raoul Beaumont in this last week. He had been gravely ill and in hospital for nearly two weeks and gave up the struggle on Thursday. In him I have lost my No 1 fan of these reports. He hung on every word I wrote, always saying how much he enjoyed reading them! His last year was buoyed by two things; one his Harley Davidson and getting well enough from a previous set-back to be able to drive it again. The other was progress on his mill. I am pleased that we had reached the milestone of finishing the planks on the water wheel in time!

General View of the Water Wheel and Lister CE engine. The fitting of new planks is now complete

This Saturday was spent with the cup-brush on the angle grinder, polishing up the remaining four pairs of spokes and the hub, chipping away at deposited cement and painting them. The last part of this was tricky because there was nothing to stand on which wasn't freshly painted. I then re-painted the outer ends of all the planks and the outside faces of all the shrouds of the wheel. So now from the stream side, the wheel is looking really smart! I expect that we will have interested people wandering around next Saturday when the family is holding a Celebration of Raoul's life, on the farm.

New paint on the hub and spokes of the Water Wheel

I had an order from home for more stone-ground whole-wheat meal (remember, it's only called 'flour' after it's been separated into cake, white, brown and bran), so I 'conditioned' a batch of grain, started the engine and ran that through the Stamford Mill. I always sift out the biggest bran with a round sieve made from mosquito netting. This still has a small amount of unground wheat with it, and if I'm doing multiple batches, this gets fed through the mill once again. The bran is always saved for rusk making.

Milling with the Stamford Mill

Two visitors at lunch, Niekie Rust who I understand, but didn't confirm, took part in the re-enactment of the ox wagon trek over the Hottentots Holland Mountains and then through here and beyond with Hercules Wessels several years ago, and family doctor, Isak van As, came down to the mill afterwards, and I turned the wheel by muscle power again, while they watched inside. It's good to see the pressure faces of the teeth on the wallower pinion starting to shine!

Shiny faces on the Wallower pinion of the Vitruvian Mill.

That's a reminder to get the beeswax out and apply it to the Pit Wheel cogs!
In the evening an interesting visitor arrived, Pieter de Kock. When he introduced himself, I immediately asked if he was descended from the original Servaas Daniel de Kock. Yes, he is a direct descendant, he said, and that was the reason for his visit, on this the exact 201st anniversary of the Battle of Blaauwberg. Onder Kaptein Servaas de Kock acquitted himself so well in the battle (although the day was carried by the British) that General Janssens rewarded him with the farm Compagnes Drift! Pieter brought with him his prize posession, the sash worn by the Onder Kaptein at that Battle, which has been handed down in his family, in a glass case, which he has had made:

Jayne Beaumont and Pieter de Kock, with the sash worn by Servaas Daniel de Kock at the Battle of Blaauwberg on 5th January 1806.

Also in the case is a Cape Silver Christening cup marked SDK. Legend has it that it was made from melted down silver stirrups! Pieter left the case with Jayne for a while, and Jayne lent him her extensive file on Servaas de Kock and the early history of Compagnes Drift farm. Here is a detailed picture of the plaque inside:

Plaque and detail of the sash: 'Servaas de Kock sash worn by him at the Battle of Blaaubergstrand 1806

A last picture of the new 'vernacular' walls being built by the farm staff, and the earthworks, making walking between the front of the mill to the wheel much easier and the bridge across the mill stream.


Update 19th January 2008

The brief at the moment is to get the Mill ready for the Open Days in two weeks time. This includes making the most of the area of the water wheel itself.

That digitally enhanced red input pulley made me realise that I could make some improvements, so I set to with the cup brush on the small angle grinder, as well as a strip of emery tape. Anyone who has restored a spoked wheel will know how much work is involved! There's always a patch you haven't polished, primed or painted!

That's a faithful reproduction of how I found it. Red where it was red, and Iscor Black where that had been used before. I didn't paint the outside of the pulley, I don't want the belt slipping off when it stays on, somehow, at the moment! With the pulley done, the upturned chassis which supports it was looking shabby, so that also got a lick of Iscor Black.

While I was waiting for the primer to dry, I got the hose out and washed the inner surface of all the planks on the water wheel, scratching out the dirt which had accumulated between the planks while the rest were being stripped. The day was fine, the planks dried nicely and I got stuck in and applied another coat of Iscor Black to the inner faces of the planks, the grooves between them and the end-grain on the wall side. I had previously applied a coat to the outer ends when I painted the shrouds a few weeks ago. There are still areas unpainted on the shrouds facing the wall which I would have painted today, but as the tail-race still has to be dug out, it meant standing in a puddle!

Between jobs outside, I managed to clear up inside quite a lot. I had decided to put the old planks from the wheel away upstairs for the day that Keith has the opportunity to make something out of them. The wood is rock hard and deep red, but so old that there is no tell-tale aroma when machining to give a clue as to what it is. This cleared out the corner where the basin is standing temporarily, so I made a bracket for that, which can be built into the uprights somehow.


The planks were stacked on end in the corner on the left here. After a bit more tidying and sweeping out, I reckoned I'd done enough of my brief!

To have got so much done meant that there were no distractions, no visitors and I didn't do any milling.

Now.... Jayne, my wife Pippa and I recently watched Guillermo del Toro's 2006 film Pan's Labyrinth recently, and I leave anybody who has seen the film to decide what this is......

Update 26th January 2008

Another busy day in preparation for the Open Days next weekend!

First some tidying and organising inside. I had brought some laminated sheets, instructions for the bread machine, explanation of the crest on the Stamford Mill, lubrication of the wooden cogs with beeswax, etc, so those were put up along with several articles which have appeared in the press about our project:


Hermann made the mistake of popping in, so he was press-ganged into helping doing some heavy shifting, including putting the stove into its place, at least temporarily:


Not necessarily at its correct height yet, but it helps get it out of the way and to make an assessment of how much to build up, if necessary. I then moved the scythe which was obscured behind the chimney:


And moved the sickle under it. The sack scale, just visible in a new position where the old planks were, made space for the big table to be moved closer to the door to make room for the person doing conditioning of the grain next weekend.

The Lister 6/1 is still in the way there, but in the process of trying to move it, Neil and the farm staff freed it off! I had thought it had stood outside and had seized up completely and would only be of any use as a donor engine for parts. Now I think we might use it for the recirculating pump!

Then it was out with the rubber gloves and the Iscor Black and I got stuck into the final painting of the water wheel. Final, it will never be! Kerry was saying I'd be pleased when it was over... not so! It's fun to slap the stuff on, it gives a pleasing lustre, and the smell makes you feel you're clearing your lungs out! In fact another 25 litre can came down in the week, there's only about 5 litres left in the first big can, so with the first small can, that means there's already 25 litres on the wheel!

First I did the tall support pillar for the launder, then the back of the shrouds, facing the wall. This was a painstaking operation, doing a bit at a time, putting the pot down, reaching up and turning the wheel a bit, then painting the next bit. Sounds easy, but the brush and pot stick firmly to the rubber gloves! The next big painting job was the outside of the planks, having done the inside last week. For this I stood on the top of the wheel (carefully making sure my weight didn't start the wheel turning!), did a few planks and the metal strips between, then allowed the wheel to turn a bit, and so on. The result is spectacular! Looking diagonally down and across:


Accross at the top:


And downwards into the tail race:


Now the wheel is ready for the buckets! The metal plates are ordered for that, as there's yet another price hike coming at the end of the month. In the end, we've decided on 1.6mm pre-galvanised sheet, and I'll devise a press tool to make the curve and then fold the end over.

We needed to build up some fresh stock of meal for the first buyers next weekend, so I conditioned two batches and milled them, feeding the siftings through twice. In the end I had 11½kg of meal and less than ½kg of bran.

A good day! Now we're ready for the Open Days!

One further word, last week I said I was being watched. Some people could not even see the well-camouflaged grasshopper, but one of our readers, Stephen Morley did, and offered this:

Regarding your critter, it appears to be an Orthoctha dasycnemis, of which there are 17 similar species in the genus. (Grasshopper)

See Struik's field guide to insects, 2004 edition, page 104, number and photograph 4, common in areas of thick tall grass, feeding on tough and soft grasses.

Somewhere in my past insects had some draw, my specific interest was praying mantises !

Thanks, Stephen, you are a man of many interests! The reference to the film Pan's Labyrinth, was that the star, young Ofelia was contacted from the world of the Faun by very similar looking insects which vibrated and turned into fairies. The creepy thing about this film (not for the faint-hearted) is that it was set at a water mill!

Update 25th March 2008

Stephen Sokolic came and helped today with the making and fitting of more buckets to the water wheel. When we were carrying out the un-bent sheets, he asked how many to bring. I thought 12 would be a good idea, based on what I'd managed to do on my own on the prebvious two Saturdays. I had an idea Stephen was eyeing the pile of un-bent ones during the day as we progressed, and they didn't seem to be getting any less. The reason was, while he wasn't watching, I was adding more to the stack!

We split the chores of making and fitting them between us, and it saved a lot of time. He had the messy job of fitting them, lots of Iscor Black on his hands from the partly painted buckets and the bolts and nuts which we had soaking in the stuff. I had the cleaner work of shaping the buckets, cutting out the corners and centre-punching and drilling.

One big difference was, when visitors arrived and I gave them the usual tour, production didn't stop! Stepen just kept beavering away, fitting those sticky bolts and nuts!

We worked around the wheel first, filling some gaps from the last two weeks, until we had every third bucket fitted. Then we did the two between them in one place, then turned the wheel to the diametrically opposite side and did two more there. Then 90 degrees apart, and opposite that also. Then we started widening the fours. Now we have two opposite runs of ten new buckets in a row, as well as two fours. In the end, we'd made and fitted 19! That means that there are only 18 more to do! Things are suddenly moving fast!

There's still a lot of painting to do, but they are painted where it matters, where the metal sheet is in contact with the 'starts' as well as against the wooden planks, and on the cut edges, including the bolt holes.


I had tried in the week to get bolts without modern markings on their heads. Two places in Cape Town promised they had them, but when both parcels arrived, they had TP m and CW 4.6 respectively, prominently raised on their heads. We had managed to get un-marked cup-squares for the planks. We're already compromising by using Metric bolts, but I'm not prepared to advertise the fact! There was nothing for it except to grind the markings off..... 250 bolt heads! Unfortunately this means the galvanising has gone too, but they were immediately dipped in Iscor Black and will get many more coats in the future.

On Friday I had time to do more on the bottom of the main elevator at home. I'd made the basics of the new box last week, now I had to mark and drill the correct place for the shaft of the pulley to pass through. Once that was done, I could dismantle the remains of the old box. Well, it fell apart! I removed the bearings and the wooden spacer blocks behind them which were nicely preserved with oil, and transferred them to the new box, lining them up with the new holes I had just drilled.

I could then turn my attention to the shaft ends of the pulley which were badly worn. It fitted nicely into my lathe here at home, and to give an idea of the wear, the shaft was originally 1" in diameter, it's now a little over ¾"!


The cast iron bearings will now need bushing to size, no problems expected there.

I could then cut, mitre and fit the old Oregon skirting I'd found, to form the strip to attach the box to the base of the vertical trunking for the continuous belt with the buckets on. In the end, I had this to show for my efforts:


Here are the remains of the old box and next to them, the pulley with machined ends on the shafts.

On Saturday evening, after fitting all those buckets, there was still time to offer this up in its new position and to work out how the end under the big grain hopper must look. As it happens, all of the excess at the sloping end can be cut off flush. The mouth of the hopper is just there, level with the ends of the vertical trunking. Easier than I thought! There's also just enough space to fit it between the concrete floor of the 'sump' below the grain hopper and the bottom of the trunking.

Progress! We're starting to discuss the launder and tailrace!

22nd April 2008

I think I can now say the water wheel is fully restored! Painting inside and out wasn't as straightforward as I thought, besides, 48 buckets X 2 is a lot of painting. Also half the buckets had a lot of oak leaves stuck on previous paint and these had to be scraped off first. The inside of the buckets I did standing in the tailrace where we'd done the assembling, the outside I did at the top, sitting on the support for the launder, painting one bucket, then pushing the wheel away with my feet, one bucket at a time. By the time I was nearly finished with this I was stretching my neck, hoping that I'd start seeing the freshly painted ones coming up. Eventually they did, then there were five to go then four, then three..... then they were all done!


The Iscor Black has a lot of surface tension and on the shiny galvanised sheet it makes a hammertone finish, with speckles of shiny metal showing, after the first coat. However, with a second coat, these cover and the resulting rough effect is pleasing. One is now less aware of the slight ridges of the curve caused in the bending process.

But before I started painting the buckets, I had to empty the bucket I'd brought, of the ABE product 'Super Laykold', a water-based tar emulsion, used for waterproofing dams, etc. I attacked the mill-house wall, from the centre of the wheel to the right and down, with it. I reckon it's the right product for this job. It binds loose plaster and at the same time makes a waterproof layer. Some tar-based product has been used on this wall before, there's even evidence of it behind the whitewash higher up. The whitewash will have to be removed if we apply another coat of tar there. There is also some pointing to do in the plastering, but not much (see patch in painting below).


So this is the view from the tailrace:



I then did some measuring for the section of launder above the wheel which Keith is suggesting (and I agree) should be made of wood in a traditional design. The remainder will be a corrugated iron trough as Manie Muller remembers it being from his childhood. Those sheets are on their way, steel is going up in price so fast, you just have to close your eyes and order! The sheets will be 6.5 metres long, I was hoping to get 13 metre sections, but the delivery would have been too complicated. Five of these lengths joined will reach from the top of the garden to over the last stone-built support, where it will run into the wooden one with an adaptor of some kind.

I had an order for meal, so I did a batch and a half and got 10 kg. I altered my method a bit and exchanged bags half way through the first batch and sifted it quickly. I didn't waste time weighing and bagging it at that stage, but threw the siftings back into the mill with the un-milled grain as soon as I could. I repeated that several times, changing bags, sifting and throwing back. At the very end, I threw back just the siftings and ran them through again on their own. The result was that when all was weighed out there were ten 1kg bags of meal and less than ¼kg of bran which hadn't passed through the mosquito-netting of the sieve.

There was still time to climb into the sump under the main hopper and offer up the base I'm making up for the elevator. I made a miscalculation with the position of the centre of the pulley, which means that the metal strip I've rolled up protrudes below the bottom of the box. However, I'm going to turn this to my advantage and make small hinged trap-doors through which I can remove the last grains which are not picked up by the buckets at the end of a demonstration. There will be room, I discovered, to pass in a baking tray underneath, to catch up the remaining grain, which I hope will be dislodged by the passing of the buckets.

The gap:


The flap closed:


The spring will hook into a similar hole in the flap on the other side. And open:


I had to machine away a bit of the cross-planks on each side to allow for the curve of the metal lining. I have to trim the width of the curved lining before fitting the other side. I would like to fill the gap between the wooden box and the curved liner with a space-filling foam, just to completely prevent grain getting in there and attracting rodents.

Oh, on that subject, when I opened up in the morning, in the Mill to greet me was Handbag the cat. Handbag? You ask? His tail is so long that it reaches his head in a big semi-circle!


Click here for The Mill index page