Large Scale Central

ARTICLE: Building a Stone Mill

When I started thinking about a stone mill, I decided to build a mock up first so I could better visualize how it might fit in the garden. I used Precision Panels Perfic Panels which can be easily cut with a sharp knife.

Mock Up

The wheel was bought from Stoneworks. It’s cast in resin and requires only minimal assembly. I think that the roof is too steep, so I’ll reduce the angle on the model. I also think that I’ll skip the roof over the door.

There will be a small pond in front of the mill to take the output from the sluice and wheel. A small hill will be located behind the mill to hide the water return from the pond. A small preformed plastic pond is used for the pool.

My next step was to decide on the stone. Although cut stone is probably more prototypical, I decided to go with a fieldstone look and ordered the stone pieces from Stoneworks, along with some accessories: a weather vane, a grist pulley, and some molded sluice pieces. The stone is shipped in a plastic basket.

Stone and accessories

I also bought a stone cutting tool from them: ceramic tile nippers which allow me to cut the pieces to a smaller size.

Since I had never worked with stone before, I first made a small test wall - in this case the outside piece that will support one end of the wheel.

Wheel support

That worked out well, but how did I do it? Let’s take a look at how a wall is created.

Each wall requires a mold to hold the walls in place. I used the pink styrofoam insulation panels available at places like Home Depot. I cut strips to delineate each wall and used the same foam to make plugs for the windows. The strips and plugs are held in place with “T” pins. You don’t have to make everything watertight, as the cement tends to not slip through the cracks. It’s important to square the strips, as this form will govern the final shape of the building. This is the front wall, so it has a door plug, plus a large plug in the “attic” for a loading door.

First Wall

Before proceeding, I sprayed the mold with WD-40, to act as a mold release. The stone comes in slabs about four inches across, but is easily cut to size with the ceramic tile nippers. You can see a few of the pieces cut to size in the mold.

As I continued to fill the mold with stone, I made sure that I put in some vertical pieces around the plugs and the edges - these will from the corners for the openings and the building itself.

Filled with stone

Next, I cut some hardware cloth to shape. This acts as rebar and will be used for each wall. Openings are cut in the hardware cloth for each window or door; I left a few inches on either side to help connect the adjacent walls.

Hardware cloth in place

Now it’s time to pour the wall. I used Quikrete Vinyl Concrete Patcher and I mixed it to about the thickness of pancake batter.

A poured wall

The mix will fill the gaps between the stones. I held a small orbital sander against the foam to help eliminate air bubbles. It is best to let the concrete mix set up for 12 to 18 hours before trying to unseat it from the mold. The concrete is still “green” at this stage. What’s that mean? BE CAREFUL! You can still crack the wall. But, it’s the best time to really clean off all the concrete that ran under the stones you carefully put in place.

Here’s a look of it after it’s been removed and cleaned up. I used a combination of a metal pick and an old toothbrush to clean the concrete off the face of the stones.

The first wall

Changing a few plugs gives me the mold for the other end of the building.

Both end walls

The wall on the left is not quite as dry as the other one. The walls lighten as they dry.

Now comes the hard part. I’ve got to pour a side wall, while attaching the end walls at the same time.

First, a new mold is created for the side wall. Again, plugs are used to create the openings needed.

Side wall mold

I add the stone to the mold and then position each end in position. They don’t want to stay in place, so I built up some braces to hold everything square. Notice that I’ve glued some wood strips on the end walls for reinforcement. The wood strips on the side wall are an attempt to hold down the hardware cloth in place.

Side wall ready

That seemed to work. Here’s a shot of how it looks when you first take it out of the mold. Yes, there’s some cleaning up to do. I had to knock out some of the plugs with a hammer.

A green wall

It does clean up quite nicely.

Cleaned Up

Now, it’s getting harder to move. Not only is it heavy, but I’m still a bit concerned with the corner connections.

The final side is completed the same way, but this time I don’t need to make such a complex frame to hold the walls in place.

Time for a roof. It’s easy enough. I just used two sheets of the Precison Products Perfic panels. They were framed with styrene strips to cover the edges and then glued in place.


I poured a small slap to support the wheel, and also poured some concrete steps. I built a cupola from styrene. Note that I’ve put lines on the roof to help place the shingles.


Before I put the shingles on, I decided to build the windows. First, I built a 6-pane jig out of wood. Then I used styrene strips to build up each window. I only needed 22 of these assemblies!

To the right, you can see the assembled window. I built up a frame to hold the window halves. I’ll insert this into each opening and trim around it.

More details are here . They’re easy to make and look good.



The windows are glazed and then glued in place. I use silicone adhesive for attaching everything.

Applying shingles is rather tedious. They’re done one at a time, starting at the bottom edge of the roof. The lines I drew earlier show me where to place the top edge of the shingle.

Applying shingles

But, eventually it’s complete. The windvane is added on and the pulley is in place. It’s almost ready to put outside.

Completed mill

Before the mill goes outside, I need to create the sluice. This will have water in it almost constantly, so I decided to make it out of styrene instead of wood. I bought one frame from Stoneworks and then used it as a master to cast additional parts.

Beginning the sluice

I added a spillway to handle any overflow and painted the sluice. The sluice controls work, but only by sliding the plastic boards up and down - I didn’t bother to thread the rods.

Painted sluice

A supporting framework was also built from styrene. It is offset at one end to clear the wheel.

Supporting framework

Putting the mill in place also involves a lot of work. I first dug a hole for the pond, making sure that it was level. I used sand to support it. Then I built a small hill from some rocks I had.

Placing the mill

Once completed, it looks like it’s been there all along.


Other side

When I rebuilt my layout, I ended up moving the mill so it could have a proper siding. Notice how the cedar shingles have weathered over the years. I have had to replace a few, as they get hit by falling acorns and attacked by squirrels.





Though you had shared parts of this article as commentary on at least one of my builds, I had never seen the whole article.

Very, very nicely done. Your techniques are well thought out and the result is spectacular. I’m glad this found a new home.

Well done!

I am constantly amazed at the skill of the modelers here….

Wish I had seen these pics before I located the mill. I like how you hid the water source. I was thinking I would need to have topography that would support a creek and a waterfall. Now I might just have to move it!

I have almost given up on a water feature, due to garden bed size limitations until I saw this today. I’m not sure what it is, but it looks interesting.

Have any of you Pennsylvanians been to PEACE VALLEY NATURE CENTRE in Doylestwown, know what this little building is, and seen it from the other side?

If so, would love to see a picture then I might be able pester Bruce with lots questions related to this excellent MasterClass.

Never been to that one before however that is a spring house and VERY common in Pennsyltucky

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As a former PA Dutch country person, I will echo Rooster and say “Yes” that is a spring house. The opposite side may have a door and a window so the dairy farmer can bring his milk jugs in to cool them in the spring (and be able to see what he is doing).

Best, David Meashey

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It’s at Bowman’s Hill Wildflower preserve. The pond and springhouse were constructed in the 80’s.

This drone video gives a nice overview

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This popped up