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The interior of a functional water mill
The basic anatomy of a millstone. Note that this is a runner stone. A bedstone would not have the "Spanish Cross" into which the supporting millrynd fits.
Grinding maize in a working watermill, Thethi, northern Albania.

Millstones or mill stones are used in windmills and watermills, including tide mills, for grinding wheat or other grains.

The type of stone most suitable for making millstones is a siliceous rock called buhrstone (or burrstone), an open-textured, porous but tough, fine-grained sandstone, or a silicified, fossiliferous limestone. In some sandstones, the cement is calcareous.[1]



Millstones used in Britain were commonly of two types:

  • Derbyshire Peak stones of grey Millstone Grit, cut from one piece, used for grinding barley; imitation Derbyshire Peak stones are used as decorative signposts at the boundaries of the Peak District National Park. Derbyshire Peak stones wear quickly and are typically used to grind animal feed since they leave stone powder in the flour, making it undesirable for human consumption.
  • French burr stones, used for finer grinding. Not cut from one piece, but built up from sections of quartz, cemented together with plaster, and bound with iron bands. French Burr comes from the Marne Valley in northern France.

In Europe, a third type of millstone was used. These were uncommon in Britain, but not unknown.

In India, grinding stones (Chakki) were used to grind grains and spices. These consist of a stationary stone cylinder upon which a smaller stone cylinder rotates. Smaller ones, for household use, were operated by two people. Larger ones, for community or commercial use, used livestock to rotate the upper cylinder.


Millstones used in a grinder for olive oil extraction.
Making furrows on a millstone
Millstone with furrows
Dressing a millstone

The surface of a millstone is divided by deep grooves called furrows into separate flat areas called lands. Spreading away from the furrows are smaller grooves called feathering or cracking. The furrows and lands are arranged in repeating patterns called harps. A typical millstone will have six, eight or ten harps. The grooves provide a cutting edge and help to channel the ground flour out from the stones. When in regular use stones need to be dressed periodically, that is, re-cut to keep the cutting surfaces sharp.

Millstones come in pairs. The base or bedstone is stationary. Above the bedstone is the turning runner stone which actually does the grinding. The runner stone is supported by a cross-shaped metal piece (rind/rynd) fixed to a "mace head" topping the main shaft or spindle leading to the driving mechanism of the mill (either water or wind powered). The pattern of harps is repeated on the face of each stone, when they are laid face to face the patterns mesh in a kind of "scissoring" motion creating the cutting or grinding function of the stones.

Millstones need to be evenly balanced, and achieving the correct separation of the stones is crucial to producing good quality flour. The experienced miller will be able to adjust their separation very accurately.


A millstone around one's neck is a Biblical metaphor meaning a burden or large inconvenience one has to endure.

Ancient history

Abandoned millstones at Drumcastle in Scotland.

Neolithic man used millstone functionality to process grains, nuts and other vegetable food products for consumption. These implements are often called grinding stones. They used either saddlestones and rotary querns turned by hand. Such devices were also used to grind pigments and metal ores prior to smelting.

See also


  1. ^ Bucksch, Herbert (1997). Dictionary Geotechnical Engineering, Vol. 1. Springer-Verlag. pp. 80. ISBN 978-3540581642. 
  2. ^ "Peak District Millstones". Stephen N Wood. Retrieved 11 August 2009. 

External links

Bible wiki

Up to date as of January 23, 2010
(Redirected to FLOUR (Jewish Encyclopedia) article)

From BibleWiki

The finely ground substance of any cereal. The earliest and most simple way of crushing grain consisted in pounding it in a mortar, producing a coarse flour, or rather different grades of grits (comp. the preparation of the manna, Num 11:8). In order to obtain fine flour the grain, it seems, was pulverized between two stones (see illustration in Erman, "Aegypten und Aegyptisches Leben im Altertum," p. 268; Bliss, "A Mound of Many Cities," p. 85). But as far back as can be traced the Israelites used a mill for preparing fine flour. A small hand-mill was used down to a late date, but in the Gospels mills worked by asses are mentioned (μνλος όνικáς, Mt 13:6, R. V., margin). Each household prepared its own flour - hence the prohibition to take a hand-mill in pledge from the poor (Deut 24:6); the heavy work of grinding was the task of the women and the female slaves (Ex 11:5; Isa 47:2; Mt 24:41), or of captives (Jdg 16:21; Lam 5:13).

The ancient mill could hardly have differed from that now used in Palestine, which consists of two circular stones ("pelaḥ"); hence the designation "reḥayim" (lit. "the two millstones"; comp. Deut 24:6; Isa 47:2). The mill is also known as "ṭaḥanah" (Eccl 12:4; "ṭeḥon," Lam 5:15). At present these stones, generally made of basalt, are about 40-48 cm. in diameter and about 10 cm. thick. The nether stone ("pelaḥ taḥtit") is fixed and is especially hard (Job 41:16). It is somewhat convex, with a small plug of hard wood in the center. The upper stone is correspondingly concaved on the nether side, with a funnel-shaped hole in the center, into which the plug of the nether stone is fitted. On the edge is a peg ("yad") used as a handle. The upper stone is turned by the grinder around the plug of the nether stone; hence its name "pelaḥ rekeb," or merely "rekeb" ("the wagon"; Jdg 9:53; 2 Sam 11:21; Deut 24:6). The grain is poured by hand through the funnel-shaped hole of the upper stone, and the flour, dropping from the edge of the nether stone, is collected on a cloth spread beneath.

Grain Used.

The grain commonly made into bread was barley and wheat, especially the latter, spelt ("kussemet") being evidently used in special cases only (Ezek. iv. 9). Wheat bread was the superior article, barley bread being the food of the poor. In the ritual, barley flour was used for the offering of jealousy (Num 5:15). Wheat flour was prepared in two different grades. The flour that was generally used for baking was called "ḳemaḥ," being fine or coarse as it fell from the mill; and from this a finer flour (which is probably the meaning of the term "solet" = υεμίδυλις) was separated by means of a hair-sieve. This fine flour, the "fat of the wheat" (Deut 32:14; Ps 8117, Ps 14714), was worth twice as much as barley (2Kg 7:1, 2Kg 7:16ff; comp. Erman, l. c. p. 266, as to the two kinds of flour imported from Syria into Egypt). With the one exception mentioned above, the use of fine flour ("solet") is prescribed throughout in the ritual; the conclusion is not warranted, however, that the ordinary flour used for daily consumption was not employed for sacrifices in ancient times.

This entry includes text from the Jewish Encyclopedia, 1906.
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