News

The nuts and bolts of keeping the mill running

By Margo Metzger
Yates Mill Associates Board of Directors

Yates Mill 1980s by Gaylen Daves

Yates Mill looked pretty rough in the 1980s, before restoration began.

When we ask you to make donations to help us keep Yates Mill running, what exactly do we do with your gift? There’s daily maintenance, of course – checking for wear on the machinery under and inside the building, keeping an eye out for any signs of decay in the dam, lubricating moving parts, and simply turning the waterwheel once a day to even out its exposure to water and weather. Sometimes, the work is a little more complex.

Historic Yates Mill County Park has now been open for six years, and that’s meant the mill has regularly been turned on for visitors to enjoy and for Yates Mill Associates to grind the delicious cornmeal you can buy at the park. In fact, we probably run the mill more often now than it was ever operated during the years it was a commercial enterprise.

That steady wear and tear means that significant repairs are coming due. In the past year, head miller William Robbins has laid the groundwork with some important fixes to keep Yates Mill operational and open for tours while we raise funds for bigger projects.

Hurst frame repairs 2011

Cutting away at the rotting timbers of the Hurst frame, the first step in repairs

In June 2011, the mill was briefly closed for tours while William repaired rotting timbers in the Hurst frame – the wooden foundation that supports the waterwheel and mill machinery next to, but separate from, the mill building. This February, before the 2012 tour season began, he fixed damage to the waterwheel’s hub and axle.

The Hurst frame is a massive wooden structure that supports the millstones and all of the gearing that connects them to the waterwheel. It was rebuilt in 2000 when Yates Mill Associates restored the entire mill. At that time Yates Mill had not operated for nearly 50 years, so it was unclear how much the wood would be exposed to water. Turns out this area gets wet regularly and that caused the timbers to rot. In order to resist further damage caused by water, treated wood was used to replace the damaged timbers.

Repaired Hurst frame beams

Sturdy new beams of the Hurst frame, with metal reinforcement, on the side nearest the dam.

The waterwheel’s hub and axle were rebuilt in 1994 and installed in 2000, using the axle shaft and cast iron hubs that were left at the site when the mill was last operated. Over the years the center hole in one of the cast iron hubs became very worn, causing the hub to move too much on the axle with each revolution of the waterwheel. This damaged the waterwheel’s wooden clasp arms and broke off one of the teeth on the cast iron segmented ring gear.

The ring gear, which circles the outside rim of the waterwheel and connects to the drive shaft via a smaller gear, is actually constructed in 18-inch segments – not a single piece of metal. Luckily, one extra segment of the cast iron ring gear was left from the 1994 replacement and was used for the repairs. Shims were fabricated, installed and welded in place to eliminate the movement of the hub on the axle; and new larger bolts were installed in the clasp arms.

Repaired ring gear and spout boards

Look how shiny! Freshly repaired spout boards over the top of the waterwheel, with the new section of ring gear just touching the pinion gear and drive shaft.

William also repaired the control gate that regulates the flow of water onto the waterwheel because the blocks that hold it in place had decayed. Finally, the spout that delivers water onto the waterwheel was replaced due to weathering and damage caused by trespassers climbing on the structure.

Yates Mill Associates financed these repairs solely from gifts raised by generous neighbors like you. More and bigger repairs are coming when tours end this fall, so please make a gift to help us and ask your neighbors to do the same. Yates Mill is a community treasure that we’re proud to make available to you – help us keep the wheel turning!

To make a tax-deductible gift, please click the “Donate” button on the left side of this webpage or mail a check to Yates Mill Associates, PO Box 10512, Raleigh NC, 27605-0512. Thank you for your support.

 

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