When we bought the mill in 2012, the wheel was rusted in place and many of the buckets had almost completely rusted away.
Just a few weeks after we bought the mill, nature showed us just how much water it can cope with. The wheel hasn't turned since 1987 so the cascade of water and debris over the top is dramatic and destructive.
Work started on removing the buckets, clearing up the piles of rust and scouring the wheel with a steel brush. Once the buckets had been removed, we were able to inspect the wheels to see if they are in good enough condition for new buckets to be attached. We're also able to take a closer look at the bearing.
Once the wheels have been stripped the shape of each bucket is easy to see.
Before we can work safely on restoring the wheel, we need to have better control of the water and that means installing new sluice gates. Don has designed a rack and pinion sluice gate that allows us to lift both gates simultaneously. We've re-purposed what looks like an old water-pump handle that we found lying around in the mill.
There are two parts that need to be fixed to the wheel. They are the 'sole plates' that form an inner circle and then z-shaped buckets that sit on top. Each sole plate needs holes drilling along the sides to attach it to the wheel and then needs holes drilling across to fix the bottom of each bucket. That's a lot of nuts and bolts that need screwing.
At last, all the buckets have been installed. However, the corroded cast-iron wheel has left some fairly large gaps in the middle of the wheel. They need to be blocked up so that the buckets can hold water better. Robert and Darius of Project Metalcraft clambered into the wheel to do a few spots of welding.
Each bucket has two holes designed to allow the buckets to empty even when the bottom fo the wheel is underwater. Now that the mill race has been dredged, they're not needed, so we fitted plates into each hole.
Once the buckets were on and the gaps filled, it was time to tighten all of the nuts and bolts before running. Luckily we had an impromptu team with Mark, Steve and Dave Wilcox (the waterwheel designer) all helping out.