Pedal Powered Grain Mill

LeadDog's picture

This is a story of a long jorney but first I think a picture is needed.

My Great Great Grandfather was a miller in England.  He chose to move his family to the United States and ended up here in Paso Robles, California.  He was the miller here in town and the building that he worked in still stands.  Now that I'm baking bread I wish I could talk to him about milling but that isn't possible since he has long since passed away.  I have asked other relatives if they have any of the milling knowledge from him past down to them and so far there is none.  There is this part of me that wants to keep the milling aspect part of my family heritage alive.

One day I'm surfing around the internet and I found this flour mill.  This is a hand crank flour mill.  I really liked the design so I did some more exploring to see if I could alter the design and figured I had everything I needed to power it with a motor so I ordered the mill.  When I got the mill I milled about 1,000 grams of winter red wheat and it took over an hour.  I could see that if that was the only way to make flour I would do it but now I motivated to power it with an electric motor.  I started looking around the place here and I had motors, pulleys and other junk needed to most likely to get the job done but it was getting really complex with having to do a major gear reduction of the motor.  There had to be a better way.

I'm a cyclist, I used to lead bike tours in Alaska, and figured that would be a simple way to power my mill.  First off I needed to take the handle off of the mill and get a bike gear put on the mill.  I went to the local bike shop and told them that I was looking for junk.  Then told them I wanted a steel chain ring and what I wanted to do with it.  They gave me three three chain rings from BMX bikes.  The hole in the chain ring of the BMX bike gear is almost the perfect size for the shaft of the mill.  I had my brother in law weld a nut in the gear and then threaded it onto the mill.  Next I asked a friend of mine if he had a bike that he didn't want any more and he gave an old junkie mountian bike.  I did some test runs with the mountian bike to see if it looked like this was going to work  and the results were good.

I took a bunch of scrape metal, the mill, and bike over to my neighbor and we weilded up this pedal powered mill.

I'm really surprized at how well the contraption turned out.  I don't think I could have purposedly designed a better pedal powered mill.  Yesterday I ground about 1,000 grams of red winter wheat in the mill and it took 35 minutes.  This is twice as fast as hand powered milling.  The pedal stroke is a little different feeling than riding a bike because there is constant preasure for the pedals all the way through the stroke.  The flour is the very light and fluffy and sucks up the water more than regular flour.  I have increased my hydration for my current loaf by 5% and I'm thinking I might even need more water.

To finish the pedal powered mill I had to figure out how to sit and pedal the mill.  I finally hooked a chair with an adjustable strap to the mill.  You can see the strap in the above picture.  I then sit with my back to an object and pedal away like I'm out for a bike ride.  Now I will get even more exersice every week.  Here is a picture from the front of the mill so you can see the chair.

The flour flows out of the mill and ends up in the 5 gallon plastic bucket.  There are definitly some minor modifications that I'm planning on making but as it currently sits it gets the job done very well.


TeckPoh's picture
TeckPoh 2009 February 15
A very nostalgic story. Well done on all your tweaks and effort. Your reward is not only great bread but I think you can see the old man smiling and probably winking at've done him proud!
LeadDog's picture
LeadDog 2009 February 17
Thanks both of you.  I did a bread from a milling run this weekend and even though I increased the water by 5% over my normal recipe it still was a bit stiffer than what I have been making.  I think a little bit more water next time to see what happens.  The flour is so fluffy and soft and feels really different than the flour you get from the store.  There is some information out on the net that says stone ground flour's particles are shaped like flakes and suck up more water.  That really seems to be the difference that I'm noticing.
I ground up some Spelt for the Spelt starter that I'm building and Spelt seems to grind a lot easier than Hard Red Winter Wheat.  Maybe I'll end up making Spelt Bread instead of Wheat.  Another idea is to make a blended flour by using different grains.  The Whole Wheat seemed to develop a very tight gluten so maybe some other grain flours will loosen it up and change the flavor.  Could be a whole new playground to explore if I like that idea.
The mill is a Schnitzer Country Manual Grain Mill.  They claim on the fine setting that you can get 80 grams of flour at 80 turns per minute.  I did 950 grams in 35 minutes so you see I got a lot less output than they claim.  I don't think I was pedaling at 80 RPMs but I wasn't very far off from it.  I have meters on my bikes that tell me my pedaling RPMs so I have a good idea what range I was pedaling in.  This doesn't bother me at all because as I get accustom to pedaling the mill I will get better out put for my effort.  The mill heats up as I'm pedaling and the feeling to my hand is that it is very warm but not hot.  This had me concerned because I don't want to heat my flour up.  I stuck my hand into the fresh milled flour and it was cool to my touch.  Still really happy on how it is working.
Maybe the next time I run the mill I'll make a video of it.  I'm fascinated by the way the flour just pours out of it.
Millciti's picture
Millciti 2009 February 18

Hey you can grind great flour and keep in shape for cycling season at the same time!

By any chance is the Tour of California - Cycling - passing through your area?




LeadDog's picture
LeadDog 2009 February 18
The Tour of California has a stage finish here on the 19th and you bet I'm going to watch it live.  This is the biggest thing to come to town since Paderewski came to town but that was before my time.
Here in California cycling season is year around.
CB 2009 February 21

You've made my dream flour mill.  Maybe one day you could make a business out of selling this invention of yours?  In the photo though, the bike chain looks a bit too rusty.  I'm concerned that some of the rusty dust might drift over into your flour batch.  That would not be very healthy for your consumption.  It shouldn't cost too much to replace it with a new chain, right?
LeadDog's picture
LeadDog 2009 February 21
The bike chain is rusty.  I did think about lubricating it but was afraid of getting lubrication in the flour.  I'm not concerned about rusty dust.  What I was more concerned with was the time I started pedaling and I saw something from my shoe fly into the flour.  One of the modifications that I made is an enclosure to keep junk out of the flour and to put the flour into the bucket.
Pictures from the Tour of California are here.
Tom 2009 February 23


I am thinking about buing country mill. Could You tell me it is a good choice?

LeadDog's picture
LeadDog 2009 February 23
The Country Living Grain Mill or Schnitzer Country Manual Grain Mill?  I have never seen the Country Living Grain Mill.  I do like the flour that comes out of my stone mill better than the flour that came out of my metal burr mill.  The Schnitzer Country Manual Grain Mill is a stone mill and the Country Living Grain Mill is a metal burr mill.  Both of them are manual mills and I would think you would have to have the right frame of mind to want a manual mill.  I knew when I bought mine that I would make it a pedal powered mill sooner or later so I am happy with the way it works.  I can imagine that many people would lose interest in a manual mill so make sure you are the kind of person who will put in the work needed to make the flour.
Anonymous 2009 March 25

i have a survival ark mill. something different to this and i just motorized it with an old motor i was given. its 1/6 hp but does the job fine. i think i may need an intermediate gear or another set of pulley's to slow it down more though.


Joe M 2009 May 28
Nice job!   What mill are you using?  I have a Country Living Grain Mill and it is built to be motorized, may try it some day.  Looks like you have a good thing going there.

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