We recently were contracted to carry out high spec wood repairs to the sails, or ‘sweeps’, of this beautiful windmill and private home. The spec was to include chopping out failed wood sections, replacing with external-grade plastic wood, painting with wood hardener to any softening wood, sanding down, lining with external-grade mastic and painted with a base coat to the limit of the allowable budget.
Day 1 on site, materials and tools in hand, and everything changed.
Within the first abseil drop, the WallWalkers team found the true nature of this windmill’s condition to be far worse than expected. All soft wood sweeps had completely rotted though at various points, particularly where the bracing sections joined the main stocks to act as stabilisers for the extending sails.
We put together various report videos and photos which were sent to a specialist windmill sweep designer and engineer. The inevitable response came back – repair just wouldn’t be an option. Each sweep would need to be dismantled and removed from the windmill entirely.
This was of course a big blow to the client, so we sought to keep as close to the initial budget as possible, putting the funds to greatest use. The team continued to work tirelessly to remove all sections of wood safely, using haul systems with the rope lines to gently rotate the sweeps with the aid of the mill’s internal break mechanism. This mechanism involved a wooden wheel, whereby you ‘pump’ the wheel around using a large wood beam and gradually move the sails inch by inch.
It’s a great shame to have to take the sails down from such a beautiful windmill, not to mention remove a key piece of character from someone’s home. But the works will allow for replacement sections to be made up before any further issues arise and we are now in talks with the client and windmill engineer to establish a method of installation for the new sweeps, utilising our rope access systems and knowledge of the site to return the mill to its original beauty.