May 11th is National Windmill Day

Windmills are quite possibly the most interesting buildings made by humans. They reflect our human ingenuity and beautifully display our ability to work cooperatively with nature.  A curious mix of building and machine, windmills are a showcase of math, engineering, and refined carpentry skills!

Plan for the 1972 Steinbach Windmill
At 28 years old, summer 2000.

The Dutch, of course, are famous for windmills and rightly so.  While windmills were built around the world by many civilizations, it was in the Netherlands that they reached their highest point of technological achievement. Today, there are still hundreds of them in the Netherlands, mostly dating from the 1400’s to 1800’s and many are still operating, pumping water, grinding flour, and cutting lumber.

Technology travels well.  The Mennonites who settled in Steinbach, Manitoba in the 1870’s, built a windmill based on knowledge handed down through generations.  It only served a few years before being replaced by a steam powered flour mill. A replica mill, built in 1972 at Mennonite Heritage Village, was destroyed by fire in October 2000. That was a big shock to the community.  Thankfully, the Steinbach windmill was rebuilt over the next year by Cornerstone Timberframes and the Dutch millwright company, Verbij Hoogmade. As you can see in the photos below, it was a fun and challenging project!

Windmills are a joy to see operating, the sails swinging through the sky, wood gears and shafts spinning and the sound of the big millstones grinding wheat into flour. There is a real beauty to be found in things that are well-made and that serve a good purpose.

July of 2001: the windmill tower is up!
August: the 12,000lb cap is installed.
Freshly ground flour is sold every summer at the Mennonite Heritage Village in Steinbach

Of course, windmills need regular maintenance. With so many parts being made of wood, like the Steinbach mill, there is no end to the cycle of painting and refurbishment.

Cornerstone maintains a close connection to our local windmill.  Our technical services leader, Gary Snider, spends many hours a month, checking, lubricating, adjusting, and repairing.

This week we are joined by Gerard Klein and Lucas Verbij, Dutch millwrights who will undertake the specialized work of adjusting the mill’s windshaft and running gear.

Gary checks on the condition of the sails.
The big spur gear up in the cap is a marvel.

Happy Windmill Day! 

Cheers and hats off to the people who keep these magnificent building-machines alive for all of us to enjoy. Head on over to our Instagram to learn more!