WATER-WHEELS TO POWER YOUR HOMESTEAD
(Adapted from an article by Joseph Henry Adams)
There are three kinds of wheels, the overshot, breast, and undershot. The overshot is the most powerful, for it is not only moved by the weight of water that it holds but also by the force of the onrushing water from the sluice arranged to feed it. The breast-wheel is the next in power and is used where the fall of water is not so great. The undershot wheel is employed in a rapidly running brook or stream where there is no dam or body of headwater. This form of wheel is the least powerful and the most unreliable, for the height of the watercourse is liable to change according to seasons and storms. While at one time it may be flushed up to the hub, at another the water may hardly touch the blades of the wheel.
These forms of old-style wheels have become almost obsolete now as the modern turbine has superseded it as a means of employing water as a motive power. Less than one-quarter of the surface of the old-time wheels would be actively engaged at any one time, and the waste of power was appalling as compared with the sluice-box and pen-stock of the modern turbine where every drop of water is lending its influence to the blades. A turbine, however, is rather beyond the ability of the average homesteader to properly construct, and so we do the best we can with the old-style wheels.
In the accompanying drawings several ideas for waterwheels are shown, and among them a boy should be able to find one that he can make from boards and sticks, at a slight cost, and which if properly rigged and adjusted will develop a considerable amount of power.
A Simple Paddle-wheel
The simple paddle-wheel, as shown at Fig. i, is made from an axle three inches square, four spokes, and four boards. For a wheel of medium size that will develop about one-eighth of a horse-power the axle should be four feet long. One end is rounded for a distance of four inches as shown at A, and with bit and chisel two mortises are cut in opposite directions as shown at A. These holes are one inch and a quarter wide and three inches long. Into them the spokes are driven and held with screws or iron pins. Another pair of holes are cut thirty inches from the first and two more spokes driven in them. The spokes are thirty inches long, thus leaving thirteen and a half inches of each one projecting beyond the axle or hub.
The paddle blades are boards thirty inches long, ten inches wide, and seven-eighths of an inch thick. They are attached to the spokes with carriage-bolts and washers.
A rounded bearing two inches wide is cut in the axle beyond the spokes so as to correspond with the other end, and beyond this the axle is left square. Bearings for this wheel are made in the edge of a stout plank notched as shown at B, and held in place by iron straps as also depicted at B. Long screws or screw-bolts, commonly known as lag screws, will hold the strap in place, and from the square end of the shaft the connection is made for power. In place of the iron strap another piece of wood may be cut and clamped down over the axle end as shown at C.
A Wagon Wheel
Another variety of water-wheel may be made from the hubs and spokes of two old wheels, preferably those from a buggy or light wagon. Fig. 2.
Remove the iron boxes from the hubs by driving them out, then cut a hole in each hub with a chisel and mallet, as shown at A, so they will be at least an inch and a half square. From hickory or other hard-wood make an axle the size of the holes and arrange the hubs on it so they will be thirty inches apart. One side of each spoke should be cut as shown at B in order that the blades may rest against a flat place instead of a rounded surface. The blades should be from thirty to thirty-six inches long and ten or twelve inches wide,and held to the spokes with carriage or tire bolts. This wheel may be swung in bearings as described in Fig. i, and from the square end of the axle the power can be taken.
Both of these wheels may be used as over or undershot but not as breast-wheels, for a breast-wheel must have pockets to hold the water, and the overshot-wheel should have them too if all the available force and weight of water is to be employed.
A very simple and efficient device is shown in the drawing of a barrel-wheel (Fig. 3). This consists of an old barrel having tight ends and staves, or a modern steel or blue plastic barrel, a number of blades, and some siding-boards.
The blades are of hard-wood ten inches wide and the length of the barrel. One edge of each blade is cut to conform with the bilge of the barrel as shown at A, and with three or four long screws each blade is made fast to the barrel at the middle. The ends of the barrel are replanked so as to build their surface even with the projecting edges of the staves, and then some matched boards are nailed or screwed to the heads to bind together the ends of the blades. Screws are passed through the boards and into the ends of the blades to make them secure, and in this manner a hollow wheel is made with pockets around the outside.
A square hole should be cut in each end of the barrel and into them an axle is driven. It is provided with rounded bearings and square end. When swung in a carriage and connected a powerful wheel will be the result if the force of water is sufficient to drive it.
For a brook an undershot-wheel can be made with two round ends and ten or twelve blades according to the size of the wheel. For an efficient one the wheel should be thirtysix or forty-eight inches in diameter and thirty inches wide. Two ends are made from matched boards held together with battens as shown in Fig. 4 A. These are arranged on a square axle and the blades are made fast between them with long screws or steel nails. Fig. 4 B.
To utilize the power from a rapidly running brook place two tree-trunks across the brook about six feet apart as shown in Fig. 5. On top of these timbers attach two spruce beams eight or ten inches wide and two inches thick, and anchor them well with spikes and check-blocks. At the middle and on top of both timbers cut notches for the axle to fit in and provide them with metal straps to hold the axle in place. A long axle leading to the land can be supported on a short timber attached to stout stakes driven in the ground, and another bearing and strap will hold this from jumping with the rapid revolutions of the wheel. A wooden pulley may be arranged at the end of this axle, and from it the power can be taken off by means of belting or rope.
Another arrangement for this wheel will be to swing it in a cradle or frame so that one end of it may be lifted to reduce the speed or power of the wheel, the other end being securely attached to a tree-trunk with hinges.
The water from a wide, shallow brook may be directed so as to throw its full force against the blades of a wheel by digging it out at the middle and damming it at the sides as shown by the diagram of a modified brook (Fig. 6). The dams should be solidly built and if possible cribbed to prevent their washing away.
An electrical generator
From the shaft ends on each of these water wheels a pulley for a belt driven generator can be attached. These generators can be bought specifically for this purpose, or in a severe melt down situation you can adapt generators from other units as well. For instance, a generator/alternator from an automobile or truck can be attached to give you 12 volt power. You’ll need to ascertain the correct rotation of the unit to get the proper output, but you can wire in a voltage converter for low wattage AC power as well with this setup. It will allow you to charge your cell phone or run a laptop for instance, as well as allowing you to charge up any rechargeable batteries you have.
You can also pull a generator from a self standing genset when fuel is no longer available to run the generator. Make sure you ascertain the correct rotation of these generator units before attaching it to the pulley from this water wheel set up and you can have your own power company up and running in no time. Of course, it will hardly provide a commercial level or quality power supply, but it may be enough for you to power your survival homestead in the coming times.
Explore the concept, play with the possibility and you may just find yourself surprised with the potential you can find in yourself when the going gets tough.