The mill


The windmill’s shed is used to store finished products and raw, unprocessed materials. It also houses the electrically powered riddle, which sieves all products before final dispatch to the consumer. The storage shed is not open to the public.

Just off the storage shed is the Zaan Room, a formulary and store for the pigments and dyes that have been used for centuries in the making of paint. It also houses books, recipes and tools. If you want to purchase items from the Zaan Room, please inform the receptionist on entering the mill.

Since 1982 the formulary has also been the room where the mill’s canvas sails are made. It contains a Singer sewing machine dating from 1920, which has stitched more than 100 canvas sails. Sailmaking orders come in from all over Holland. The sails are made by Piet Kempenaar, miller at De Kat, and Rene Peereboom, miller at De Bleke Dood flour mill. New sails are being made for the colour mill in 2009. To honour the centuries old sailmaker’s craft, these new sails are being made entirely by hand, without use of a sewing machine. They are made of No. 12 cotton canvas with natural fibre rope. The entire project will take a year to complete. After measuring, a blueprint is made. When the sails are finished they will be hoisted by the sailmakers themselves, usually accompanied by a rowdy party. The sails in the Zaan area are a different colour from the rest of Holland. In the winter the sails may be brown, ruby red or even yellow ochre. In summer they are traditionally orange and white.

Directly on entering the windmill you can see the millstones, which are used to grind chalk. The stones are of granite and each weighs three tons. Most of the chalk is used by local linoleum maker Forbo as a filler. The chalk is also used to paint the white lines on football pitches. You can make fine pastels with it too. Some of our visitors try to taste our chalk. They think we’re milling corn. A second pair of stones is located in a closed-off milling chamber. It does have windows and lights so you can see what’s being milled. It’s used for earth pigments – coloured minerals you can use to make your own paint: oil paint, watercolour or even egg yolk tempera. Vegetable colours are also ground from time to time: seeds, roots and tropical woods. Products like these have been used for centuries as textile dyes. You can use ground beetles to dye your own wool or silk.

Ages ago the timber arrived at the mill in the form of whole tree trunks. It had to be sawn and chopped into logs, so the mill has chopping equipment, which consists of a wooden tub with chisels bouncing up and down in it. Each chisel weighs 400 kilos and is driven by the rotating shaft, actually a camshaft on the first floor.

The chipping mortar is next to the chopping tub. It is used to reduce very hard timber species to fine chips. The end product, amaril, is used as a metal polish. All the equipment can be used at the same time if the wind’s strong enough. The windmill goes into operation in a force 4 breeze. All the equipment can be used at once when the wind increases to force 5 to 6.

This entire ‘factory’ is driven by a mechanism housed in the first floor. There is a huge wheel to drive the millstones, which can be put to work or taken out of service, depending on the wind. The rope and lever operated slider system is located on the second floor. You can visit three of the mill’s levels and you can walk around on the outside gallery, where you will feel the power of the wind. The view over the river Zaan and the Kalverpolder is beautiful.

The windmill’s cap houses the central drive wheel, which is enclosed in a willow-wood hoop, 50 cm wide, 20 cm thick and about 4 m long. This hoop is the brake. The mill does not run in gale force winds, nor in thunderstorms. Lighting is a hazard to the mill, so it is fitted with a lightning conductor.


The mill processes a huge amount of chalk (roughly 80 kg per hour) and the chalk needs drying. For that purpose, Verfmolen de Kat has a drying shed with 17 shutters that can be opened or closed. The wind blows through the shed, drying the chalk in about 2 months. The shed, when full, stores 8 tons of chalk.

This shed is the millers’ toilet. It’s nothing other than a wooden shed with a door, built out over the Zaan. So everything goes straight into the river. A genuine whiff of the old days.

The sails are 21 m long. The canvas is stretched over them as the wind dictates, just like a sailing ship. If the wind’s too strong, you shorten sail and that’s how the miller controls the mill’s speed.

The crane dock is the mill’s wharf where the boats moor to deliver their cargoes of chalk.
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