Monday, October 14, 2019

How It Used To Be Done

     The world I grew up in and took for granted has nearly vanished.  Skills and technologies that were once commonplace have become the stuff of museum exhibits.

     Such is the case with Ben's Mill.  Ben is gone and the place has been cleaned up, whitewashed and now gawkers walk through, looking at all the funny old gadgets; but once, and not too long ago, it was a man's workplace, and a short documentary was made about it.

     It's worth watching.


Douglas2 said...

His horizontal-shaft water turbine is something I'd still consider high-tech, although I'm suspecting at the time of that filming he was really using a tractor PTO to power his shop just due to the hassle and labor of maintaining the dam and millrace.

Every so often I see reports of someone "inventing" an undershot water-wheel as (supposedly) appropriate and sustainable technology for the developing world or prepping, and I think to myself that it's like they missed the whole second half of the 19th century.

I've replaced a bunch of faucets because, when faced with choices that include calling a plumber to fix it, buying the tools to refurbish the seats of a good but old faucet, or buying a new stylish no-maintenance quarter-turn cartridge faucet, the last choice was the least expensive per-time. Now that a friend has given me their household tools in the clear-out before retiring to sunshine, I'll use the good old tools in the old way for their intended purpose. I'm kind of thinking the same way about a lineshaft woodshop -- by golly I'd use it and maintain it if I happened to buy a property that had one, but I wouldn't go our looking for one.

Seeing the way he uses the table-saw gives me the heebie-jeebies, and he's even much more casual around the belts than I would be.

Roberta X said...

"Using a tractor PTO?" Based on what? He was certainly appearing to be cranking the gate open and shut to regulate the turbine driving the line shafts. That handwheel sticking up through the floor wasn't decorative.

Douglas2 said...

Based upon a vague recollection of reading about his operation in a book, which I've now gone and found: The Workshop Book
By Scott Landis

"the mill hasn't run off water since 1982, when a flood swept away one end of the dam and part of the penstock" "The machinery is now powered by a small tractor, which is belted to the mill's main line shaft"

Another water-turbine woodshop that I've visited would also demonstrate opening the gate with a non-decorative handwheel, but would not actually run the machinery for real from the water source - because while their millpond has the head still, it doesn't get replenished quickly enough. So it didn't strike me as odd that for filming one would show the turbine working even if a gas engine was used for motive power for the actual use of the machinery.

But as it happens, my vague memory, insufficiently attentive viewing, etc. missed the timeline and it was only shortly after that documentary was made that he stopped maintaining the weir and penstock, not before.

New Jovian Thunderbolt said...

Oh, that's lovely.