Eling Tide Mill

Dressing the stones

July 2015

Bright and early on a Monday morning Geoff Wallis arrived to help me do some stone dressing. This task requires determination, a steady hand and left me with some aching muscles. The purpose of dressing the stones is to redefine the furrows and to ensure that the grain is being ground correctly. We had initially planned to spend Monday to Thursday on the stones but hoped (correctly) that some extra-long shifts would help us to finish a day early and catch Wednesday evening’s tide to try and do some milling.

The tools we used included; a staff, a proving staff, some thrifts and tungsten tipped mill bills (with some spares). The purpose of the staff is to check for high spots on the grinding face, but as the stone is very hard it wears away the surface of the wood so we needed to use a wood chisel to keep it level. The first job was to lift the runner stone - for this we needed to use the stone crane. Once the stones were apart the next job was to investigate the pattern upon the bedstone, where the grain is turned into flour. This gave us a good indication of how much work was needed. Once we had cleared all of the flour off the bedstone it was time to use the staff to check for high spots. Historically the staff would have been reddened with red ochre but nowadays we use food dye, which leaves a red stain upon the stones on all of the points which need work. Once we had chipped away at these high spots we started the process again to get rid of the next highest spots. This was a lengthy process and blunts the mill bills very quickly.

Late on Wednesday afternoon, after numerous cups of tea and stone fragments in the eye, we were finished and put the grinding stones back together. Then, by opening the sluice gate a small amount to get the machinery turning, we checked that the stones were equally balanced. If one side was heavier than the other then the stones would rub, undoing all our hard work. Fortunately they were well balanced.

The last task was to put the wooden tun cover and the furniture back over the stones and, once we had hoovered up all of the mess, we attempted to do some milling. It was a relief when good quality flour started coming down the chute. We shut down the machinery, had one last tidy up and congratulated ourselves on a job well done.

Thanks Geoff.

Matt Painter