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Major Milestone

The Windmill Got The Shaft—the Wind Shaft that is! It Arrived!

Late Christmas Eve, a visitor from afar left a package at the Danish Windmill in Elk Horn. Instead of Santa, it was historic millwright Ben Hassett from Louisville, Kentucky who delivered the Windmill’s long-awaited new White Oak wind shaft!

The wind shaft is one of the components of the historic restoration project underway at the Windmill so it can return to being a functional working mill. It also includes replacing the timbers for sail arms, repairing the brake wheel and fan tail and replacing the friction drive pulley for the sack hoist.

The old wind shaft had been repaired/patched at critical areas in the past. Knowing that someday it would be needed, the Windmill had purchased a white oak timber that Ben has been storing for several years. When the inspection showed rot and decay present in the sails as well as the wind shaft, it was deemed time to replace them both as well as make the other repairs.

New Shaft arived on Christmas Eve

In May 2016, the Danish Mill Board of Directors launched an appeal to raise $200,000 to fund this major restoration project which includes the millwright’s estimate of $146,700 and an additional $50,000 as a contingency fund. Thanks to individual and corporate donations, grants, fundraisers and with the major gift from the Mike and Lou Howard Foundation the project is fully funded.

Late last December, Hassett came to Elk Horn for a week to dismantle and remove the sails and secure the cap frame for winter. Removal of the sails which are nearly 67 feet, tip to tip, was the urgent concern in order to avoid structural collapse because the condition and weight of the timbers posed a safety risk to both persons and property.

Since then, Hassett has constructed the new gears and wind shaft at his workshop in Kentucky by using the original parts as a pattern the way craftsmen did when the Mill was built in 1848. The new 67’ long sail timbers arrived from Oregon in summer 2016 had been drying since then but they needed more time to reach an “air dried” moisture content before being tapered into final form.

With all the components ready to go, the plan had been to install the wind shaft this week prior to the arrival of the new 67’ sails. Due to the extreme cold weather forecast, for the safety of the volunteers, carpenters and equipment, the decision was made to postpone it until March.

If 70 is the new 40 then...

The restoration is a major milestone in the life of the 1848 Windmill. The sails that are being replaced were installed as new when the Mill came to Elk Horn forty-one years ago. The wind shaft, brake wheel, and other parts date back to when it was in Denmark.

Windmills are very complicated pieces of machinery and since our Mill is close to being 200 years old, a millwright with expertise in historic restoration and preservation was needed to get it turning again. Ben Hassett, owner of B.E.Hassett-Millwrights, Inc., has extensive knowledge of mills and completed many historic mill restorations across the country. Hassett worked on our Mill as an apprentice to Derek Ogden, the world-renowned millwright that did the initial maintenance plan, blue prints and rebuilt the Mill’s cap frame in 1995.

This major overhaul will restore the Mill’s structural integrity. It will still be an old mill and require ongoing care, but the investment in restoration and preservation being made today will help to insure its future well-being for many years to come. We look forward to seeing the Windmill turning again soon.

Contact Info |

The Danish Windmill

P.O. Box 245, 4038 Main
Elk Horn, Iowa 51531
(712) 764-7472