Hydraulic turbine for sawmill
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  1. #1
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    Default Hydraulic turbine for sawmill

    Hi

    I am writing from Quebec Canada. I am trying to locate some good resources for my superior who is helping a local history group set up an old sawmill.
    I am researching historic hydraulic turbines to power the sawmill which will be on display at a museum. We are looking for an historic turbine if possible or if we have no luck with that route we would go with a new one around 40 horsepower. I thought this would be a great place to post. Does anyone know of any resources we can explore for historic or new turbines? Is there a Canadian chapter of this group? Thank you

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    Welcome. Where in QC are you from? No Canada chapter of this forum but the 'mericans seem to tolerate us for the moment.

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    Might start with the common name, Pelton Wheel...phil

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    When you say "hydraulic turbine", do you mean something powered by water from a dam? If so, the most important thing to know is what your water source is. Pelton turbines work well with a modest amount of water but a lot of pressure so a lot of elevation (tall dam, or feed pipe coming from somewhere way up the hill). There are other turbines that work with large flow at low pressure - big creek with a relatively low dam. Until you know what water you are feeding it you can't even begin to pick out a turbine.

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    No disrespect, but a Pelton Wheel is used for very high head applications. Sawmills with mill dams were what are classed as 'low head' applications. A Pelton wheel is primarily an impulse type of turbine. Low head turbines are reaction type, a whole different animal. Older sawmills used a variety of reaction type turbines, usually mounted with the shaft vertical. These turbines were similar to, or were, what is known as "Francis turbines". Various manufacturers designed and built low head/small output reaction type turbines for use in mills. The 'runner' or 'water wheel' was fairly similar in design from one manufacturer to the next, with the major differences being in the design of the wicket gates (which controlled the flow of water admitted to turn the runner) and in the setting. A lot of mill turbines were ordered for 'open flume' installation. No casing surrounded the turbine. There was a "stay ring" which contained the control gates (some makers used 'drum gates' to keep it really simple, some used wicket gates, some used a single 'butterfly' type of gate). This stay ring could be set at the bottom of a flume and bolted to the bottom of the flume. The water entered the turbine horizontally and was directed into the 'buckets' of the runner tangentially. The water passed through the buckets, and was discharged out the bottom of the runner. A 'Draft tube' was often used to provide a syphon or suction action and discharged into the tailrace.

    Marlene: Welcome to our 'board. I've spent a good chunk of my career around hydro turbines, and do volunteer work as a mechanical engineer for a working museum in NY State called Hanford Mills. In the past, as a consulting engineer, I have designed hydro turbine installations for restored or re-created sawmills. One such mill is located in Wisconsin and was funded by Kohler (maker of plumbing fixtures and generating sets). Kohler wanted a re-creation of an 1840's sawmill with a 'sash saw' and sent a semi load of 'artifacts' from old sawmills to a local mill restorer/millwright. He, in turn, called me in to handle the engineering. The power for this sawmill was provided by a new Francis type open flume turbine. This was designed and built by The James Leffel Company of Springfield, Ohio. Leffel is still in business, and is now run by a man named Anders Dynge.

    Another job where I did the engineering was for a mill using a 'chest' with an open flume hydro turbine mounted inside the chest, draft tube below the chest. The chest is made of heavy oak planking and held together with tie rods. A bolted and gasketed manway is provided to enter the chest (when it is unwatered) to maintain or inspect the turbine. The turbine shaft as well as the wicket gate operating shaft pass out of the shaft thru stuffing boxes to seal them.

    A group whom you might contact is known by the acronyn of "SPOOM", which is short for "Society to Preserve Old Mills". Spoom has a quite a membership and their organization might be able to put you onto a suitable used/salvageable turbine. Hydro turbines are a different animal than gasoline, diesel or steam engines. Asking for a 40 HP turbine is kind of like asking for a 4 cylinder car. What type car, what body style, type of drive (2 wd or 4 wd), etc. A hydro turbine of 40 HP would need to have additional data such as:

    -available head (height of water behind the dam and down to tailwater elevation, taking maximum and minimum levels behind the dam into account). Turbine runners are designed to operate using water with a specific range of heads (minimum and maximum 'pond' elevations if installed on a mill pond with a dam). The runners are also designed to turn at a fairly narrow speed range. It is up to the owners of the mill to provide suitable gearing to use the turbine's best output speed to drive the mill machinery. Other specifications are whether the turbine is to be furnished with a 'scroll case' ( a casing sort of like a centrifugal pump casing, resembling a the spiral of a snail's shell), or whether the turbine is to be mounted in an open flume installation. Draft tube details also are required- will a simple cone type draft tube be used in conjuntion with a formed concrete 'syphon bend', or will a draft tube with a syphon bend made of steel plate be required ?

    Between Anders Dynge at Leffel, and SPOOM, you should get a good start in your search. Also contact Hanford Mills, they have a website. We have a few small 'relics' of vertical hydro turbines on display in the mill.

    Be forewarned: if you do come across a used hydro turbine, it is more often than not a mess of heavily rusted parts. Often, putting an old small hydro turbine back into use requires reverse engineering a lot of the parts and having them made. The runner, and parts of the stay ring and control gates are usually together, but are more often than not a solid chunk of rusted machinery. I've worked on a few turbine restorations, and we sent a lot of work to the local machine shops. Stuff like wicket gate linkage pins, new turbine guide bearings (which are often water lubricated and may have had Lignum Vitae- a tropical hardwood- shoes), boring and bushing the stay ring for the wicket gate stem journals, and on it goes. Back in the days when mills used small hydro turbines for power, there was no stainless steel, no plastics, and very little use of bronze. The result is that parts on old hydro turbines are often rusted solidly together. Cast iron was the principal material, along with wrought iron or steel for the mechanical linkages and smaller working parts. Then, there is the situation where the turbine was removed and cast aside years earlier, and the result is some of the cast iron parts are broken or missing altogether. As long as there is a runner and stay ring and some remnants of the control gates, an old hydro turbine can usually be restored and put into operating order. The trick is determining the operating head the runner was designed for.

    I'm happy to help you, as your project develops. Again, asking for a '40 HP hydro turbine' is like asking for a 4 cylinder car. Aside from specifying that you want a car and a 4 cylinder engine in it, think of all the other variables you need to consider if you were specifying that car. Hydro turbines are, as I noted, designed for fairly specific operating conditions. It is not like getting a 40 HP gasoline or diesel engine where you put fuel in the tank and know that the engine will start and run. Even then, you would need to know the output speed or governed speed of the engine at which it develops best torque, and the required rpm for the machinery you want the engine to drive. In between, you might wind up having to design some belting or a gear box to drop the engine rpm to the required rpm for your application. Hydro turbines are a bit more specific, since they rely on the 'head' of water to provide the energy. It comes down to head and available flow of water at your site. Get that data (or some reasonable engineering estimate of it) and you can determine if any used hydro turbines that you come across will work for your site.

    Good Luck with your project-
    Joe Michaels, P.E.

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    The Isaac Ludwig Mill in Grand Rapids, Ohio has an operating water powered sawmill in Northwest Ohio near Toledo. If memory serves, it it has a 160hp turbine with a 10 foot head of water supplied by a dam upstream. The mill also has large water powered millstones for grinding grain which I believe are powered by a separate smaller turbine. Information, photos and videos can be found here: Get Outside Yourself | Metroparks Toledo Look under Providence Metropark.

    The mill also generated electric power for the local community. Parts of the mill can also be powered by steam including a machine shop.

    Bob
    WB8NQW

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    Quote Originally Posted by dundeeshopnut View Post
    Welcome. Where in QC are you from? No Canada chapter of this forum but the 'mericans seem to tolerate us for the moment.
    We are located about 1/2 way between Montreal and Ottawa in the Outaouais region.

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    thank you . I will check it out for sure

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    Mr. Michaels,

    I thank you so much for taking the time to write this message and for sharing with me this wealth of information. At present, I have been assigned the task of looking for leads and resources when it comes to hydraulic turbines that would be available to further this project of re-creating the sawmill. I thank you for the resources you suggested of the Leffel Company and of the group SPOOM which I have been in contact with. I will also check out your suggestion of having a look at the Hanford Mills website. I sincerely appreciate all your advice, and offer of assistance. I will definitely pass this message on to the committee.

    Marlene

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    Hello Marlene:
    I am glad to be of help to you. My experience with hydro turbines ranges from ancient to modern, from small old mill turbines to large hydroelectric turbines. I do enjoy old mills and old machinery, and have done a few engineering jobs along those lines. Another thought came to me: try to contact Rondout Woodworking. Jim Kricker, the owner of Rondout Woodworking is a well know restorer and builder of water driven mills. Some of these mills use turbines, some use water wheels. Jim has a shop near Saugerties, NY where he and his crew prefabbed timber framing for the mill projects as well as working on the mill machinery, including turbines. Jim may have a line on some smaller old hydro turbines for a low head installation. I've done a few jobs with Jim Kricker, where I've done engineering and design work on restorations or re-creations of water driven sawmills.

    If you hunt around on - line, you may be able to get reprints of the old James Leffel Catalog and the Fitz water wheel catalog. Leffel and Fitz were competitors. Leffel was strictly a turbine builder. Fitz built high efficiency water wheels for low head applications (we have a steel Fitz wheel at Hanford Mills), and also offered their own line of small hydro turbines. Reprints of the catalogs from these two firms will have a lot of good information, and contain some engineering data as to 'stream gauging' to determine approximate flowrate, and offer some insight into types of turbines for small/low head applications.

    In the mid to late 1800's in the USA, there were two sources of power for mills and similar: steam and water power. Steam engine designers and manufacturers were given to making claims as to the efficiency of their engines, annual savings in cost of coal (the only fuel available in large quantities in those days for larger steam plants). Similarly, the race was on with hydro turbines. Turbine manufacturers were fairly numerous, offering low head turbines for driving sawmills, grist mills, and other applications. No hydro turbine was any better than the design of its runner ('water wheel'). Runner designs were tested using 'hydraulically similar' models at test flumes. The gold standard for testing and determining efficiency and performance curves for turbine runners was the hydraulic lab and test flume at Holyoke, Massachusetts. There is quite a bit of mathematics and science involved in designing a turbine runner. Any reputable builder of hydro turbines would publish the performance curves and test data for their runner design.

    As time went on, the number of hydro turbine builders dwindled until only a very few remained in the USA. James Leffel and Company was perhaps the best known, since they built a wide range of Francis-type turbines, from small capacity to some larger ones for power generating plants.

    Sawmill hydro turbines were most usually vertical units, and were quite often ordered for open flume installation. The turbine and its stay ring were bolted to the bottom of a flume, and the turbine shaft and gate operating shaft (to control the turbine) passed up through the water in the flume to some level above the high water level in the flume. The turbine shaft, being vertical, had to be geared to drive horizontal line shafting to run the sawmill machinery or other machinery. This was done using bevel gears. The gear on the top end of the turbine shaft was the 'crown gear', and was made of cast iron with dovetails at each tooth location. Wooden teeth were inserted in these dovetails and wedged in place. The crown gear drove a bevel gear pinion on the horizontal shaft. This pinion was usually cast iron, with 'as cast' teeth. No machining of the teeth on the bevel pinion was done. At most the teeth were cleaned up using hand chipping and filing, but were run with no machining. The cast iron teeth running on the hardwood teeth of the crown gear 'wore into it' and a good running set of gearing resulted.

    Often, in finding remains of old small hydro turbines, the crown gear will still be attached to the turbine shaft. The wooden teeth are usually long gone, rotted away ages ago. There are slots where the wooden teeth were inserted. Finding the bevel pinion and crown gear is quite important if you find a vertical turbine.

    I do not know if you are planning to re-create a working mill, or simply have the turbine on display. Hopefully, a working mill is the objective !

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    Marlene,

    There is a turbine collection in a Watertown, NY museum that might make for a nice educational field trip. Sounds like a few hours from you.

    Kinne Water Turbine Collection

    Keep us posted.
    Eric

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    How old is old? Are you wanting to recreate a mill from the 20th, 19th, or 18th century?
    The following link describes turbines chiseled from a section of a tree trunk.
    JSTOR: Access Check
    The advantage of these "tub wheel" turbines was that the RPM was high so reasonable hp could be realized without needing a gear-train which could handle high torque (relative to overshot water-wheels). If the saw or mill could not be run at wheel speed a belt could be used to to optimize rpm.
    Last edited by Dr. Hillbilly; 07-29-2021 at 07:48 AM.

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    thanks for the links. We are pursuing all avenues and yes of course , our objective is a working mill! Following your suggestions, I checked out Rondout Woodworking. Their work is very impressive and a good resource indeed! I also found some fantastic historical information and pamphlets on Leffel and Fitz which I have passed onto the engineer. Great stuff! thanks again.

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    Quote Originally Posted by esbutler View Post
    Marlene,

    There is a turbine collection in a Watertown, NY museum that might make for a nice educational field trip. Sounds like a few hours from you.

    Kinne Water Turbine Collection

    Keep us posted.
    Eric
    Wonderful link. Thanks. They better open up the boarder soon!

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    Quote Originally Posted by Dr. Hillbilly View Post
    How old is old? Are you wanting to recreate a mill from the 20th, 19th, or 18th century?
    The following link describes turbines chiseled from a section of a tree trunk.
    JSTOR: Access Check
    The advantage of these "tub wheel" turbines was that the RPM was high so reasonable hp could be realized without needing a gear-train which could handle high torque (relative to overshot water-wheels). If the saw or mill could not be run at wheel speed a belt could be used to to optimize rpm.
    Now that is old!

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    Marlene.

    As far as heritage turbines go if you haven't already tried them you could perhaps try emailing some of the other water powered mills and museums in that are within a couple of hours drive of the Outaouais .
    Many of the mills are grain mills or woolen mills rather than saw mills but they may know where there are some pieces of turbine related machinery that maybe available.
    I would imagine some of them have collected or received donated turbines or parts over the years that perhaps they would be willing to share.
    The Canadian Museum of Science and Technology may also have some items in storage that they might be willing to share with another museum.
    Here are a few links I looked at in case you haven't seen them before.
    The Martintown Grist Mill

    Old Stone Mill - Let's Get Grinding - Operational Restoration of the Mill

    Watson's Mill – A fully operational 1860’s water powered grist and flour mill.
    Liste des moulins a eau du Quebec — Wikipedia
    There are some old magazine that may have ads for turbines and other mill machinery that was made in Canada.
    Internet Archive Search: Canadian Miller
    This old mill at Fassett was a little east of the Outaouais
    https://archive.org/details/canadian...iew=theaterhis

    https://archive.org/details/canadian...p?view=theater
    http://outaouais.quebecheritageweb.c...-fassett-c1915
    I see Spoom has a Canadian Chapter
    http://www.spoomcanada.ca/
    There were a lot of mills on the Mississippi river in Ontario
    This museum may be able to offer some suggestions
    https://mvtm.ca/mvt2/
    This company also located on the same Mississippi river in Almonte makes larger modern turbines but if they can't supply what you need may be able to offer some suggestions or know where there is some older turbine machinery available.
    https://canadianhydro.com/contact-us/
    Jim

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    Marlene,

    I thought a few pictures from an on-going restoration of a grain and sawmill here in Sweden might be of interest to you.
    dsc00514.jpg
    Low head makes Francis type turbines most suitable for the job.
    dsc00515.jpg
    The old rotor was corroded beyond repair. A new one was cast.
    dsc00518.jpg
    The 80 HP turbine with cylindrical sleeve valve regulation. Some newly cast regulator parts lying on top awaiting assembly.
    dsc00516.jpg
    The smaller turbine with newly made wicket gates and linkage
    dsc00519.jpg
    Bevel gear to main shaft with slots for wooden teeth.A special cutter was ground in order to mill new teeth to the correct profile. In the background, the smaller bevel gear and regulator shafts.

    A lot of work remains but we hope to make a test run before the end of the year.

    Good luck with your project.

    Lars


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