The millwright is a craftsman or tradesman who installs, maintains and repairs stationary industrial machinery and mechanical equipment by interpreting drawings, performing layouts and assembling parts until they are in perfect working order. The word "millwright" has long been used to describe the man who was marked by everything ingenious and skillful.
For several centuries in England and Scotland the millwright was recognized as a man with a knowledge of carpentry, blacksmithing and lathe work in addition to the fitter and erector. He was the recognized representative of mechanical arts and was looked upon as the authority in all applications of winds and water, under whatever conditions they were to be used, as a motive power for the purpose of manufacture.
He was the area engineer, a kind of jack of all trades who was equally comfortable at the lathe, the anvil or the carpenter's bench. Thus, the millwright of the last several centuries was an itinerant engineer and mechanic of high reputation and recognized abilities.
He could handle the axe, the hammer and the plane with equal skill and precision.
He could turn, bore or forge with the ease and ability of one brought up in those trades.
The millwright of the 17th and 18th Centuries was quite different from the millwright of today.
A millwright originally was a specialized carpenter who had working knowledge of drive-shafts, bearings, gearing and mechanical belts . The "mill" in millwright refers to the genesis of the trade in building flour mills, sawmills, paper mills and filling mills powered by water or wind.
Water was the only natural power source of the day, and James Watt had just perfected the steam engine by the mid-18the century. Water was directed over hand constructed wooden mill wheels to generate power. Millwrights executed every type of engineering operation in the construction of these mills. They designed the patterns of the water wheel systems, carved their gear mechanisms, and finally erected the mill machines.
Millwrights are usually responsible for the in-assembled equipment when it arrives at the job site. Using hoisting and moving equipment, they position the pieces that need to be assembled. Their job requires a thorough knowledge of the load-bearing capabilities of the equipment they use as well as an understanding of blueprints and technical instructions. Rigging and thorough safety is taught through training classes.
Most millwrights are educated through apprenticeship programs where they receive a combination of classroom education along with a good deal of on-the-job training. Most programs last about four years, and may include college degrees. Apprentices are usually paid a percentage of the average millwright's wage, and this percentage increases with experience.Training courses received by a Millwright: