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May 8, 2011

Sturgis man recognized for assistance at Rawson’s King Mill Park

The St. Joseph County Parks & Recreation Commission has given a Sturgis man a ‘pat on the back’ for his assistance at Rawson’s King Mill Park near Leonidas.

St. Joseph County Parks & Recreation Commission President Jeff Knautz (left) presents the resolution to Chuck Snyder of Sturgis.

Commission members met in the Reed House, next to the mill, Wednesday evening (May 4th) and approved a resolution acknowledging assistance provided to the commission by Chuck Snyder.

According to John Pence, Parks & Recreation director, Snyder volunteered to make replacement teeth for the large turbine gear that is used to generate electricity and heat at the 100-year-old mill.

The last person to make teeth for the turbines was Eston Rawson, donor of the property and historic mill building.  The commission had been looking for someone who could make the wooden teeth for more than a year.  Three other businesses or individuals had looked at the teeth and the specifications and determined that it would be difficult and too time consuming to attempt.

Pence explained that Parks Commissioner Dave Ludders of Sturgis met Snyder during a work day at Camp Fort Hill and later asked him if he’d be willing to take a look at the project.  The large ‘flywheel’ attached to the top of the 48-inch Leffel turbine holds 86 wooden teeth and, after four or five years, these teeth wear out and need to be replaced.  The wooden teeth, made from hard maple, fit down into the cast iron flywheel and are held in place by steel shims.  The turbine ultimately drives a World War II-era generator that powers the building’s electric boiler to produce heat.

Two of the 100 wooden teeth made for the turbine at Rawson’s King Mill.

Pence said it took Snyder a few weeks to review the specifications and make his own measurements of the sample provided.  He had to create his own jigs and “system” to make the 16 different cuts that each tooth required.  Because the teeth are mounted in a rotating flywheel, each has to be tapered in multiple directions to work properly.  None of the multiple planes or faces on the teeth is parallel to another face.

Snyder’s first attempts were done using pine and, during one conversation with Pence, he indicated that he was nearly ready to receive the hard maple to use for the final products.  But, he needed to fix one of his jigs first because one of the dimensions was off by 9/1000s of an inch.  After the boards of maple were delivered, it took Snyder a couple of weeks to finish the project.

The new teeth will be installed later this year by parks staff when the system is prepared for winter heating.

To view the ‘Resolution to Acknowledge Chuck Snyder’s Assistance in Support of St. Joseph County Parks & Recreation,’ click here.

Members of the Parks & Recreation Commission at Rawson’s King Mill Park (left to right): Steve Houts, Jim Griffith, Jeff Knautz, Jeff Wenzel, Parks Director John Pence, Steve Zarza, Jerry Ware, Rick Shaffer, and Vic Eichler. Not pictured: Dave Ludders, David Yunker. (Click on photo to enlarge)

Source:  Information and photos provided by John Pence.


  1. Joseph Cantin

    How did the cog making project go? My Grandfather owned a company that made wooden cogs for hundred of different cog sets of hundreds of mills. He still has the old specialized commercial machinery and jigs set up and is interested it selling it. If it is any thing you are interested email: joseph@cantinbuilding.com or call: 802-274-4343.

  2. Joseph Cantin

    It would only take him a day or to make a set.

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