Mankind has been using wind to create power for centuries, and one of the most effective and lasting means of harnessing the wind has been the windmill. According to Mark Berry with Windmill World, The Netherlands was one of the two places in which windmills reached their highest peak in the age before the steam engine (the other being England). You can preserve the romantic image of the old Dutch windmill through the creation of models.
Draw six identical polygons (four-sided shapes) on the balsa wood sheets. These should measure 4 1/2 inches on one side, 6 inches on the opposing side and 10 inches on the remaining two sides. You also need one hexagon (six-sided shape) with 6-inch sides and five squares that measure 4 inches per side.
Cut out the shapes using the artist's knife or box cutter. Michael Lastufka with Lastufka Labs recommends holding the knife blade at a 45-degree angle and skimming over the lines to set the pattern. Continue tracing until you have cut through the thickness of the wood.
Cut four of the dowel rods to 8 inches. Cut eight 1-inch segments from the dowel rod remnants.
Drill a hole through the centre of the wooden cubes. Turn one cube so the holes are on the side and drill another hole through the centre of the cube. Drill a final hole through the top to the point where it intersects with the previously drilled holes.
Measure 1/2 inch from the centre edge on two of the 4-inch square wood pieces and drill a hole through both.
Tape the four-sided polygons together along the 10-inch side. Be sure that the 4 1/2-inch side is at the top. It will make a six-sided column that is wider at the base than at the top (tape on the outside). Check to be sure the base stands solidly or trim as needed.
Glue the pieces together from the inside using the glue of your choice. Garrett Boon of Model Bridge Design recommends using thin glue for porous surfaces that sets quickly. Remove the tape once the glue sets.
Center the hexagon shape on top of the column and glue into place.
Tape the wooden squares together to make a box. Make sure that the two pieces with holes are on opposite sides and the holes are aligned at the top. Add the fifth wooden square as a roof. Once you are satisfied the box is balanced, glue the pieces together but do not attach to the base.
Glue a 1-inch dowel rod to each short end of a piece of fabric to act as a brace. Glue the short dowel rods and one long edge of the fabric along each of the four 8-inch rods to create the windmill blades.
Insert the empty end of each windmill blade into one of the opposing holes in the five-holed wooden cube. The posts should be held firm by the tightness of the fit. Adjust the sail angles.
Insert the uncut dowel rod into the final hole of the blade assembly. Make sure the fit is tight and add a drop of glue to secure.
Push the blade assembly rod through the holes in the 4-inch square box. Holding everything together, adjust so the blades will turn easily without striking the base. Use masking tape to mark where the dowel rod comes out of the back hole, leaving extra space for the addition of a washer and glue plug. Remove the wood box and cut the dowel rod to the appropriate size.
Reinsert the rod into the front of the wood box, then slide two washers and the other wooden cube onto the post. Push the post through the back hole of the wooden box.
Glue the first washer to the rod just inside the front wall. Slide the wooden cube to the back inside wall of the box and glue the second washer to the rod just in front of the cube. Finally, glue a washer to the rod on the outside back. In all cases, make sure the rod can still spin.
Attach the wooden box with the blade assembly to the centre of the hexagonal platform using glue.
You may opt to use additional dowel rods or other materials to create a small handrail around the protruding edges of the hexagonal platform for a more realistic effect. Acrylic paints can be used to give the windmill a more finished appearance. This is generally easier to do prior to full assembly.
The extra wooden cube will act as a counterweight to the windmill blades. If the blades still won't spin correctly, you may need to add additional weight to the cube to reduce drag. Be careful when cutting the balsa wood. There is a strong tendency to want to exert extra pressure to make the cutting process faster, but this leads to potentially dangerous slips.
Things you need
- Several sheets of balsa wood
- 2 wooden cubes approximately 1/2 inch square
- 5 wooden dowel rods 1/8 inch to 1/4 inch in diameter and at least 12 inches long
- 3 metal washers to fit dowel rods
- Drill with drill bits to match size of dowel rods
- Small hand saw
- Masking tape
- Straight-edge ruler
- Box cutter or artist's knife
- 4 pieces of lightweight canvas or other fabric measuring 6 inches by 1 1/2 inch
- Vice grip or other stabilising woodworking tool (optional)