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Rope as brake construction

Posted by Ruurd Jakob Nauta 
Rope as brake construction
August 20, 2010 01:42PM
In the book "The Mill" by William Fox, Bill Brooks and Janice Tyrwhitt is a topic about the brake of windmills in North America. In the text there is spoken about a brake, which works with a rope around the brake-wheel.

The text says:

When the miller wants to stop gronding, he pulls down the lever at bottom left, which tightens a rope that runs in a groove round the brake wheel, bringing it to stop and, with it, the sails.

I am wondering if there are still windmills who work with this construction? Maybe there is anybody who has pictures of it? Maybe the members in North America know more about this interesting topic.

I hope someone of you can tell me a little more about it. At the Dutch Mill forum, nobody gave a reaction on this topic.

Kind Regards,
Ruurd-Jakob Nauta

Edited 1 time(s). Last edit at 08/20/2010 01:43PM by ruurdjakob.
Re: Rope as brake construction
August 20, 2010 04:41PM
I have forwarded your question on to an American Mill expert on old Farm Windmills.
Re: Rope as brake construction
August 23, 2010 07:14PM
Please find below a reaction from Derek Ogden on this issue, which I have cut and pasted from an email :

It appears the question involves American windmills of the traditional European type.

As Professor Job would say - it all depends upon what you mean by Brake or is it Break. The English language is very confusing when trying to answer questions from another Continent but I will have to assume Brake as in brake wheel in a windmill. I have never seen rope used to slow a windmill in America but no doubt someone has tried it at some time in the past, but then there are so very few windmills here.
Wood or metal are the usual options. But it would be possible to use a rope to slow a windmill in an emergency by using a suitable length of strong heavy rope and carefully wrapping it around the moving shaft. It was a trick used by engineers in the early years to stop rotating shafts in a similar way to that applied to dynamometers. The procedure is to wrap the heavy rope around the shaft at least twice and in the same direction as the rotation. One end is secured to a suitable and convenient post or beam and the other end is free. When pulling on the free end, the pressure exerted will apply great force on the shaft and slow it down. It has a self servo action and is similar to early braking systems on motorcycles such as the 1928 Douglas. Any owner of such a machine will tell you how incredibly effective they are ! Of course the
rope generates lots of friction and thus a lot of heat, so it is important to prevent a fire - which is probably why rope was never seriously used in windmill brakes. I suppose a rope could be wrapped around the rim of a brake wheel but it would have to be fitted with flanges to prevent to rope falling off. Much better to stay with wood or metal brakes.

I used such a method many years ago in UK when I was called out in the middle of the night by Police to stop a fantail rotating on a windmill. The fan had broken loose in a high wind and stripped its driving gears and was making such a noise the local inhabitants had not slept for three days. I wrapped a rope around the rotating axle of the fan and slowed it down by the above method. A big cheer went up when it was finally stopped. I was paid for the adventure but not asked to repair the fan !!

Hope this might help but if the word is Break I do not have a clue.

Best wishes........................... Derek
Re: Rope as brake construction
August 23, 2010 08:52PM
Thanks for the comment on my question. Indeed I ment the word brake, as in brake wheel.

To make this topic more clear, I have made a scan from the illustration which is placed in this book. You can find it in the link below.


The illustation suggests that this windmill (probably a post mill) only has a brake, which is made out of a rope. That means that there is in this situation no brake made out of wood or iron.

All the windmills in The Netherlands have a brake made out of wood or iron. My own windmill has a brake out of wood. But It keeps me wondering, if there are any mills left in North America, who have a brake which is made out of rope. I hope that there is anyone who can tell me that. And if someone has pictures or illustrations of it, please let me know.

I don't think it is possible that the writers of this book, just made this story up, without having proof for this situation. So there must be something known about this topic. I hope!

Ruurd-Jakob Nauta
Miller at "Rispens" at Oosterend, NL
Re: Rope as brake construction
September 06, 2010 10:38PM
Hello Ruurd-Jakob,
why don't you try to contact the writers of the book directly ??
And of course keep us informed.
Best regards

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