Smith Mill, a rebuilt grain mill run by a water wheel located in rural Rinard, just south of the Wayne County line on Bluemound Road, will be open to the public for the first time ever this Sunday, May 6, from 1 to 4 p.m. The event is free of charge.
The mill was constructed by Bob Smith and is a labor of love that has taken him over 25 years to put together, using components from a Newport, Pa. mill which Smith salvaged after he purchased the contents of the building it was in back in 1986.
“It was built in 1875 and had an 18-foot diameter by five-foot wide wheel,” said Smith. “I had to rebuild the wheel anyway, so I decided to narrow it down to 38-inches.”
Smith is retired from his occupation as an engineer. He worked for Sparton Manufacturing in Flora and at Airtex in Fairfield. Smith’s extensive experience has plainly come in useful for this project, which he says takes as much time as a full time job.
“I had to retire before I had time to do anything,” says Smith in a not-at-all joking tone. “The last two years, I’ve worked seven-days-a-week.”
“The gears are original...all the sheet metal I built last winter in my shop,” Smith says. The wheel has 64 buckets, all made and formed by Smith and then bolted into place.
“4,000 bolts,” Smith says looking at his handiwork. “That’s a whole lot of wholes and whole lot of lining up.”
While mills like Smith Mill are known for grain grinding, which this one was used for, they could be used, “For anything you need power for,” said Smith. “They ran sawmills, and lumberyards. Henry Ford built several as power for factories.”
Also speaking to the versatility of a water mill is the sheer number of different tools that Smith can attach to run from the mill’s power. Along with the mill stones, there are grain shakers, numerous augers and much more.
The mills take the motion of something large and relatively slow, the water and the wheel and using gears and attachments, a miller can turn all that available torque into speed if needed.
Smith would like to use the mill to educate children on what life used to be like.
“I’d like to eventually be able to take school children out here a busload at a time,” said Smith.
But what of Smith and this decades-long labor of love? Is he crazy for putting all of this time and effort into a project like this?
“To those who think that I must have lost my mind to build Smith Mill,” Smith says on a card on display at the Mill, “I can only reply that this is my hobby and it was built while you were watching TV and involved in sports.”