Ye Olde Geekerie: Water Mill

Reading Time: 3 minutes

A recent family outing to an old, but operating, water-powered grist mill made for a great Geek outing. Geekery didn’t start with computers or even electricity. You can find proof of that inside these old mills, which have got enough gears, belts and levers to make a Lego Technics builder swoon. And they really work — turning huge stones and spitting out various grain products. Add in the flumes and mill race which carry the water and you’ve got great Geeklet-appeal.

Photo: National Park SevicePhoto: National Park Sevice

Photo: National Park Sevice

Mabry Mill on the Blue Ridge Parkway in Virginia has been photographed by trillions of tourists, but if they would just zoom in a bit they’d get a keepsake photo of a gorgeous gear ratio:

The big gear is smaller than the waterwheel, but still enormous. The little gear connects to the grain grinding machinery inside.The big gear is smaller than the waterwheel, but still enormous. The little gear connects to the grain grinding machinery inside.

The big gear is smaller than the waterwheel, but still enormous. The little gear connects to the grain grinding machinery inside.

I was delighted when my 3-year-old geeklet included the little wheel in his drawing of the mill:

You're never to young to learn about gear ratio.You're never to young to learn about gear ratio.

You're never to young to learn about gear ratio.

The visit inspired a waterwheel in the back yard. The dream, of course, is a big wheel capable of turning a little generator and lighting an LED or two. In the meantime:

Egg carton pockets, duct tape, Capsela wheels and a coat hanger made a quick backyard wheel.Egg carton pockets, duct tape, Capsela wheels and a coat hanger made a quick backyard wheel.

Egg carton pockets, duct tape, Capsela wheels and a coat hanger made a quick backyard wheel.

Depending on the age of your Geeklets, you might want to follow up with Richard Scarry’s “What do People Do All Day” (a must-have book for any young Geeklet) or Howell and Keller’s “The Mill,” a hardcore look at how it all works….

Detail from Richard Scarry's "What Do People Do All Day?"Detail from Richard Scarry's "What Do People Do All Day?"

Detail from Richard Scarry's "What Do People Do All Day?"

millbookgearsmillbookgears

Detail from "The Mill" by Charles Howell and Allan Keller

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