Using reclaimed millstones in the garden

As we have recently got a large group of reclaimed millstones in stock I thought that now would be a good time to explore some of the more popular uses for these items.

History of millstones

Millstones or mill stones are stones used in grist mills, for grinding wheat or other grains. They have been used in one form or another since neolithic times, to make otherwise inedible grains into useable foodstuffs.

The items that we know today as millstones come in pairs, although it is rare to find the two together outside of a mill.  The base or bedstone is stationary. Above the bedstone is the turning runner stone which actually does the grinding. A runner stone will be concave, whilst the bedstone is convex. This disparity helps to move the ground flour to the edges of the stones where it can be collected.

The runner stone is supported by a cross-shaped metal piece, which gives a way of identifying stones, all runner stones will have a cross shaped mark in the middle where the drive mechanism would have been fixed.

Reclaimed sandstone millstone
A good view of the patterns in 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. The grooves provide the cutting edge and help to channel the ground flour out from the stones. The furrows and lands are arranged in repeating patterns called harps. A typical millstone will have six, eight or ten harps. The pattern of harps is repeated on the face of each stone, when they are laid face to face the patterns mesh creating the cutting function of the stones. When in regular use stones need to be dressed periodically, that is, re-cut to keep the cutting surfaces sharp. These patterns are still visible today, where they add a pleasing geometric influence to the stone.

Uses of millstones today

millstone water feature
A simple millstone water feature

Today these stones are mainly used as garden ornaments, where they make a magnificent statement piece for the center of a garden. If the lower edge is sunk into the ground to a depth of 14″-18″ then they can be self supporting, although some form of brace is a sensible idea, especially in exposed gardens.

Another popular use for millstones in today’s gardens are as water features. These can look lovely in the right location, but care must be take to limit the force of the water to prevent premature erosion. Often stacks of graduated stones are used to create a cascading water feature, although finding enough stones for this use can be tricky.

The other very popular use is as name signs. In these cases the stones are normally stood outside a house and the name is engraved by sandblasting. We can provide this service if required, please contact us for a quote.

The main issue to consider when deciding how and where to site ones of these magnificent features, apart from how it will look, is the practicality of installation. These stones often weigh upwards of 500kg and therefore specialist lifting equipment needs to be used to move them. Whilst this is not an issue if there is vehicle access and we can use one of our HIAB lorries if you want a stone in the back garden then a crane may be required and this will add a significant amount to the cost. We are happy to advise on delivery and installation issues, just give us a call.