Craft:Millstone dressing

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A millstone is the grinding tool driven by the water or wind mill to pulverise grain. The face of the millstones is cut with ridges so that the ground corn will be pushed out of the centre of the stone and to provide numerous grinding surfaces. A tough stone will last about 10 days before needing to be re-dressed (i.e. cut deeper to account for the wearing away of the stone), a quartz-stone may last three weeks to a month. Stones may be hewn from a single piece of rock, or made of carefully interlocking pieces of stone bound in iron.
All millstones are 'doughnut' shaped, the bed stone (the bottom stone) is held in place by a post through the hole and does not move, when new the stone is 15 inches thick. The runner stone (the top stone) is 12 inches thick when new and is driven by a driver which is attached to the water wheel or windmill by a number of gearwheels. The driver leaves a hole down which the kernels of corn are dropped, the stones then grind the kernels and the resulting flour runs down the grooves cut in the stones and falls from the edge of the stone where it can be collected.
Dressing patterns vary from culture. The Khinasi prefer a spiral design of curves lines radiating from the hub to the circumference. The Anuireans prefer several triangular 'harps' of ridges, while theBrecht use a series of radial lines each with a fork about half the way down leading to the circumference.
As the stones do not wear evenly, for example wearing more at the circumference than the hub, there are a number of steps to the dressing process. A bedstone lasts 20 - 25 years, as it is worn out it is replaced by the runner stone and a new runner stone is bought.
  • 1. A jack-stick is put in the bed stone, the jack-stick is a wooden gauge with two parts, one part goes in the hole and the other sweeps out over the stone.

  • 2. The sweeping part of the jack-stick is moved around and shows the miller where the stone is too high and needs to be chiselled down. The hub should be slightly lower than the circumference by the end of the initial chiselling.

  • 3. A staff is smeared with red ochre and passed over the stone ? the raised parts are smeared with the ochre showing the miller where he needs to remove stone.

  • 4. If need be, the furrows of the millstone are deepened.

  • 5. The raised stone between the furrows is now dressed, tiny furrows are cut into the sone as closely together as possible. These grooves will cut the bran cleanly away from the grain.

It takes about 2 days to dress the stone, a large mill with 4 or 5stones therefore needed a full time stone dresser.

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