Mill wheel makeover

I was checking Pinterest tonight and found this site who had a board of  water wheels, water mills and grist mills and it was beautiful.  It inspired me to show you what I made from a grist mill wheel that I salvaged from a fallen down meal on the last homesite we lived on before we moved to the farm.  The mill was built soon after the house was built which if I remember correctly was 1805.  Anyway, it hadn’t been used for years not had the barn on the property and every thing was built of logs.  The mill roof and floor timbers were decayed really bad and it hung over Snodgrass Branch  which probablyaccelerated the decay.  When we were tearing apart the damaged building we found all types of milling tools, horseshoes, handmade nails and other relics of that sort which made us think there was probably a blacksmith shop on the farm also.   My major find was the gorgeous, intact mill wheel.  It was dirty, bruised but intact and I knew it was going to be my next project and it had to go into my house.  Somewhere in all of the thousands and thousands of photos I have not scanned yet are the pictures that would completely tell the story of the reincarnation of the mill wheel.  I, so far, have only been able to find one.  I will try to tell in as much detail the steps I took to bring the mill wheel back to life but reincarnated as a household item.  First you have to have an idea of what a mill wheel looks like to know what I’m talking about.  Mine didn’t look exactly like this one but it will give you an idea.  Mine was also inside the building running the grinders, it wasn’t a water wheel like this one.

Great Smoky Mountains National Park, Tennessee

This wheel was made of beautiful maple which I found once I gave it the first bath.  It was  twelve inches deep, four feet across and had wooden spokes in the middle of the wheel.  It also had a cast iron plate in the very middle with huge cast iron bolts and nuts on it.  It was not easy to handle but I did have a breezeway on the back of the house which was perfect for the challenge I was about to undertake.  It  took several soft baths to clean off the years of grease and dirt and of course, drying good between baths.  THEN I decided to make it into a coffee table with a glass top.  Next step was to decide on a base for the very heavy top.  We had a huge maple tree blown over from a storm on the family farm and the stump was the perfect size.  Hubby took me with him to cut off the stump and see if it was solid and what kind of shape it was in. The bark fell right off of it and it was solid as a rock, I’m in luck!!  We took it home and I cleaned it up, and  did a little sanding. It matched the wheel perfectly and I set it up to dry really good.  Next morning, I put the first coat of polyurethane on the wheel and let it dry.  Checked out the stump and all of the plastic that I had sit it on was covered with little tiny bugs.   What the heck?????   Hubby checked it out and said the bugs were probably inside the tree and the washing and sanding brought them out.   I put the stump in a plastic garbage bag and sit a bug bomb in the bag too.  I sit off the bomb and closed up the bad and left it for two days and thought sure it would kill them but better wash again and let sit on the plastic and wait.   Next day, more bugs!!  Then I decided to freeze it a couple days in my deep freezer.  It took a few days to thaw and the bugs came out again.   I was ready to cry not knowing what to do.  Hubby suggested I bake it and I looked at him like he was crazy!!  He took it to his hunting lodge where they had a huge wood cook stove and the stump just bearly fit in the oven.  He started a small fire and let it cook but watched it carefully and he baked the stump for me three or four times slowly and on a very warm heat but not hot enough to catch it on fire.  It never smoked and the bugs were no more!!!  By this time I had put several thin coats of clear polyurethane on the mill wheel, sanded the cast iron plate and bolts and painted them glossy black.  The iron plate and bolts is what I would use to attached the wheel to the base/stump.  This is what I had at this point:

Mill Wheel coffee table almost completed.

Mill Wheel coffee table almost completed.

Now that the bugs are out of the base I started the polyurethane coats and applied the same amount to base as the wheel.  Hubby helped me put it together and drill the holes for the bolts.  Wait a minute, what’s the top going to be.  We racked our brains, looked at magazines, window shopped furniture stores and nothing popped out at me.  Then Uncle Bill came to visit and was totally awed at what I had done and decided nothing could cover the looke of the spokes, cast iron plate and base and the only top that could be put on it was glass.  DUH!!! Why didn’t I think of that!!  Uncle Bill wanted to be a part of the project and he bought me a piece of beveled glass 3/8″ thick and pretty little brass L-shaped brackets to hold the glass up off the spokes and plate.   We put felt rounds on the brackets so they wouldn’t scratch the glass as they set on top.  The entire project was beautiful and the table was perfect for my huge 18 x 32 living room space which also had maple flooring.  I was so proud!!

When we moved to the farm we live on now I didn’t have room for it and my Mill Wheel coffee table went to live with Uncle Bill and he was as proud as if he’d built the whole thing from scratch.  Three years ago Uncle Bill  passed away and the table came back to live with me and I MADE room for it until just recently.  It is now retired into a storage building on the farm until I decide to re-decorate the living room again.  Here are a couple pictures of it in our existing house and will give you an idea of how big it is but still beautiful:

Mill wheel in a country sitting.

Mill wheel in a country sitting.

There's about 2 1/2 fit between the edge of the table and the wood stove to pass through to the kitchen.

There’s about 2 1/2 fit between the edge of the table and the wood stove to pass through to the kitchen.

It’s so easy to decorate for the different seasons and holidays.  It can also be a catch all for everything imaginable.   I love this kind of project!!

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