DIY Wooden Windmills

Building a wooden windmill can be a straightforward project or a complex one, depending on whether you want a decorative model or a windmill that generates real power.

Windmills use the power of turbines to generate energy.Windmills use the power of turbines to generate energy.
But even a working windmill is an achievable project over the course of a few afternoons, with the right tools and know-how. No matter what kind of wooden windmill you want to build, construct it in a place with free, unobstructed access to the wind.

Construct the alternator for the windmill. Fit the eight neodymium magnets together to make a ring. Measure and cut pieces of lumber, using the wood lathe, to match the diameter of the ring. Glue pieces of wood together as necessary until you have a cylinder of wood several inches wider than the magnet ring on either side. Cut a slot the width of the magnet ring all the way around the cylinder, and drill a 3/8-inch hole lengthwise all the way through the center of the wood cylinder. Press or glue the magnet ring in place around the slot and press or glue the 3/8-inch steel shaft through the hole in the center.

Construct the wooden pillow block bearings for the alternator. Cut rectangles of lumber a little higher than the dimensions of the alternator. Lathe the top edges to a semi-circular shape if desired, or leave as a rectangle. Drill holes in each for the steel shaft, a little under 3/8-inch diameter. Heat the shaft using a stove until it is almost red-hot, and force the ends of the shaft through each hole to attach the block bearings on either end. This hardens the wood and makes for a tight fit. The end of the steel shaft should extend out at least 5 inches from either end. Drill a small hole in the top of each bearing block so the bearings can be oiled later if necessary.

Construct the stator to wind the coils of wire. Cut two pieces of 2-by-4 lumber into semi-circular pieces to form a hollow cylinder that will fit around the alternator. The inner diameter of the stator should be half an inch larger than that of the alternator. Attach thin plywood pieces to fit around the sides of the stator, with three evenly-spaced holes on either side around each half-circle for winding the coils of wire. The inner diameter of the plywood pieces should be just barely larger than the diameter of the alternator. Wind the coils with 22-gauge enameled copper wire.

Swipe a magnet over your yard and driveway to collect dirt containing magnetic particles. Mix dirt with epoxy to form a paste. Spoon the paste inside the hollow of the stator. This dirt will help attract a magnetic field.

Assemble the generator. Fit the stator over the alternator fitted with the bearings on either end. Cut a rectangle of lumber and attach to the bearings on the bottom of the generator to form a base. Set aside.

Make the propeller for the windmill. Cut sheet of plywood into eight sails, about 2 inches by 12 inches each. Cut a circle of wood about 6 inches in diameter. Use a pencil to draw lines dividing the circle in two, then four, then eight equal sections, and mark each line on the width of the circle as well. Drill a 3/8-inch hole in the center of the circle, and make the hole as straight as possible so the windmill doesn't shake as it rotates.

Turn the circle over and make a mark half an inch to the right of each mark made on the other side, visible from the very edge of the circle. Draw lines from these marks to divide the circle again into eight equal sections that are slightly askew from the marks on the other side. Connect these sets of marks with slanting lines along the width of the circle, and draw one last line parallel to the slanting line with a gap just wider than the width of the sails.

Use a saw to cut along both slanting lines to a depth of one inch, all the way around the circle. Use a screwdriver or chisel to knock out each piece of wood left between the saw cuts. Insert each sail into the grooves in the circle and glue in place, then secure each with a small wood screw.

Fit a washer onto the steel shaft on either end of the generator. Then, fit the propellor on one end of the generator. Cut a fan-shaped piece of plywood about 5 inches by 5 inches to form the tail for the windmill, and attach this to the other end of the shaft. Drill a hole through the wooden base of the generator and screw this to the broom pole. Drive the pole into the ground and varnish the windmill as desired.

Things You Will Need

  • Lumber, 2-by-4 inches
  • Plywood sheets, 3/8-inch thick
  • Enameled copper wire, 22-gauge
  • 8 neodymium magnets
  • Dirt
  • Steel shaft, 3/8-inch diameter, 10 inches long
  • Pencil
  • Ruler
  • Wood screws
  • Washers
  • Screwdriver
  • Broom pole
  • Epoxy
  • Band saw
  • Wood lathe
  • Drill
  • Varnish

About the Author

Michelle Labbe has been writing online and for print since 2004. Her work has appeared in the online journals Reflection's Edge and Cabinet des Fées as well as in Harvard Book Store's anthology, "Michrochondria." She is pursuing a Master of Arts in publishing and writing at Emerson College.