I do a lot of baking, which means lots of flour – and since I grind nearly all of the flour I use (I do use commercial flour to cut my whole grain flours when I bake for friends) the homebuilt homestead grain mill gets a lot of use. Now, I regularly run through a loaf worth of grain by hand… but more often I grind up quantities of flour using the simple power drive.
It is a simple drive, a 1/4hp archaic electric motor whose speed is reduced (and torque increased) with pulleys and an intermediary pulley set on pillowblocks. All of this setup is mounted to a wood frame that allows me to clamp the grain mill to the base.
The drive was put together using what I had on hand and has worked very nicely. But, the belt on the grain mill was originally one that was pulled off of my snowblower when it became too worn to serve in that capacity. Snowblower belts are heavy duty, but it was frankly very worn, and worn unevenly. Still….it worked as the final drive belt for the mill for about a year.
But, by last week it was pretty clear that the life was pretty much gone from the belt, so this weekend I decided to get a new replacement belt.
I had been putting the grain through to pastry flour fine in three passes in order to keep the belt from slipping. I started to adopt the same strategy when I finished swapping in the new belt, but, change a variable and you change the outcome right. In this case two things became apparent. The overall pace at which I could process the grain could be boosted with the new belt, and rather significantly, which wasn’t unexpected since the new belt would have a much greater contact area with the pulley sheaves therefore transferring more torque to the grain mill. But, something else changed too. The old belt had been unevenly worn which introduced a bit of shaking, the new belt didn’t do that so the feed rate for the grain though the mill was reduced… so instead of three passes it now makes sense to grind to pastry flour fine in just two passes. That reduces the necessary adjustment, which while quick and easy is still an extra step, so all in all a nice bonus and one that I hadn’t really counted on…. now to get baking…