Assembling the Gear Stand
July 3rd, 2008
  • Ready for Action...
  • In preparation for the Independence Day premiere of the Yorktown Windmill's gear assembly, our intrepid volunteers came out over the course of two weeks to attach the massive gears to a display assembly.

    Here you see some of the assembly crew before the start of work. By the time this part of the project is over, they will have moved, arranged and linked more than 2000 pounds of wooden gears.

  • Mounting the Spur Wheel and Wallower Gear
  • In reality, the great spur wheel and the wallower have nearly 20 feet of axle between them. The wallower is in the cap of the windmill and receives its power from the brake wheel. The great spur wheel is on the first floor and drives the stone nuts and millstones. Of course in this display, size is of the utmost importance. So in order to reduce the overall height (and weight) of the gear system, we cut the main shaft length to a mere 2 feet. In the actual mill, a full length main shaft will be used.

    Here you can see the assembly team using a system of levers to raise the 600 pound spur wheel and 250 pound wallower onto the frame. Although we all said this was a task that we'd never want to repeat, destiny had a different plan.

  • Mounting the Brake Wheel - A Massive Undertaking
  • In order to appreciate the grandeur of the next operation, you must recognize that the brake wheel is an 800 pound behemoth of solid white oak. This wheel must be raised four feet off the ground and mounted in a saddle at the top of the gear stand.

    Our first challenge was to stand the gear up and roll it off its storage dolly.

    In an approach that we learned from the Pharoahs of Egypt
    (specifically in the classic movie, "The Ten Commandments") we wrapped a system of ropes around the axles of the wheel. With our younger members at each end of the ropes and the elders on the ramp, we were ready to heft the gear.

  • A Sudden Realization...
  • Although weeks were spent calculating gear ratios to ensure that all of the teeth would interlock correctly, the gear stand was more of a 'back of the envelope design'. Once the brake wheel was atop the assembly, we realized that the saddle was three inches too high --- and the brake wheel couldn't be engaged.

    You can almost smell the frustration in the picture below...

  • Owen Dwire and the Dull Handsaw
  • Now, for anyone who has found themselves assembling a hobby horse at 11:45 PM on Christmas Eve, you'll appreciate the cold, hard temptation to stuff all of the broken pieces back into a box, hide the box behind the washing machine and then gift wrap the clock radio from beside your bed...

    There comes a point when enough is enough...

    So as we all stood there, scratching our heads (and what-not), I began to ponder aloud the possibility that the gears didn't REALLY need to turn together on the display. After all, we were running out of time.

    It was at this point that I recognized that the sort of madness that convinces a fellow that he can rebuild a 70 foot windmill on the Yorktown waterfront is contagious. The volunteers immediately began pulling screws, pins and axles from the stand and completely disassembled the gear system. Minutes later, Mr. Dwire emerged from the workshop with a handsaw that was missing at least half of its teeth and he began to slowly chew away at the central shaft.

    Less than an hour later, the axles were shortened and all of the gears were creaking and grinding together in unison... It was a moment of sublime perfection.

    My compliments to everyone that was there that night for not settling for less than excellence from themselves (or from anyone around them).

  • The Last Details...
  • As the sun began to set on Independence Eve, our youth volunteers took the time to replace all of the pegs and pins that had come loose during the disassembly and reassembly process. By 9:30 PM the gear system was installed in Yorktown and ready to greet visitors.

    Special thanks for the tireless effort of the volunteers who came out to assist with the gear assembly:

  • Ben Tyree
  • Troop 123 of Seaford, Virginia - Boy Scouts of America
  • Ryan Snyder
  • Troop 123 of Seaford, Virginia - Boy Scouts of America
  • Daniel Akers
  • Troop 123 of Seaford, Virginia - Boy Scouts of America
  • Stephen Ingalls
  • Citizen of York County
  • Brendan Fisher
  • The Fifes and Drums of York Town
  • Abbie Dwire
  • The Fifes and Drums of York Town
  • Christian Allen
  • The Fifes and Drums of York Town
  • Cody Gregory
  • Ross Davenport
  • Thomas Nelson Community College
  • Madelaine Akers
  • Old Dominion University
  • Mr. Owen Dwire
  • Citizen of York County
  • TSgt. Dan Gregory
  • United States Air Force
  • MSgt. Chris Wellman
  • United States Air Force
  • Mrs. Evelyn Akers
  • Jefferson Lab/The Celebrate Yorktown Committee
  • Mr. Walt Akers
  • Jefferson Lab/The Yorktown Foundation

    For additional information, please contact Walt Akers.