How do you look after 400 years of cultural heritage?

The Schermer windmills are all national monuments. At the time, natural materials were used for its construction. No stones or hardwood frames, but lots of reed and pine. Vulnerable materials too. Fortunately, all mills have been thoroughly restored over the centuries. But that does not mean that nothing needs to be done, because without proper maintenance this precious heritage would be lost.

Some maintenance jobs are so specific that they can only be performed by experienced millwrights. Three North Holland mill makers are active in the Schermer. For example, they can replace the huge (centuries-old!) oak beams or the wooden mortar. The maintenance of the blades is also millwork. The rods – two blades together form one rod – are made of steel. They are checked every two to three years. If the steel rusts too much or the steel is no longer sturdy, the rods are replaced. Today, the rods are galvanized, which means they last up to forty years. The shaft head and the sleeves through which the rods pass are also regularly checked and tarred. Everything to keep the mill running!

Sailmaker's work
Sails are on the blades. Customization, which is provided by a sailmaker. In the past, the sailcloth was completely made of cotton, nowadays it is semi-synthetic. This also extends the lifespan, to an average of ten years.

The ropes must also be checked and/or replaced regularly. Most millers maintain their ropes themselves, with material from the sailmaker.

Carpentry and painting
Except for the Museum Mill and the De Otter flour mill, all Schermer mills are inhabited. The millers do a lot of maintenance themselves. Carpentry jobs, such as replacing rotten frames, doors or shutters, are performed by two carpenters. But the painting, which has to be done every two or three years, is done by the miller himself. Only for the high parts there will be a painting company with a cherry picker.

Thatching work
A large part of the mill is made of reed. Standing reed lasts an average of fifty years, the lying reed of the hood has to be replaced after thirty to forty years. If there is storm damage, it must of course be repaired immediately. Otherwise there will be leakage, with all the consequences that entails. Thatching is also craftsmanship, which is carried out by professional thatchers.

Major maintenance
Once in a while, major maintenance is also required. For example, in 2016/2017 the pot rods of flour mill De Otter were restored and in 2019 the ironing mill K was made fully millable again. In 2021 the Museum Mill was given a new mortar and a new sail cross. Due to all this maintenance, our mills are in good condition.

The maintenance of the mills is partly financed by the government and the province. Furthermore, various private funds and the income from the Museum Mill contribute to the cost of maintenance.
A special committee – four millers and a financial expert – is responsible for the maintenance of the mills. Based on a professional inspection report, they plan what needs to be done, when and by whom, over a period of six years.

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