The International Steam Pages

Dakhondaing Rice Mill, 2005

A Burmese Rice Mill
and its Village.
26th March 2013

Some way south of Moulmein (Mawlyamline) in Mon State in south-eastern Burma lies a small village - Dakhondaing seems to be the best anglicisation available. Here we found the classic rice mill, run by the same family for generations, untouched by 'progress', totally in harmony with its surroundings and yet efficiently doing the job it was designed for nearly 100 years ago. Feast your eyes, gentle reader, none of you will ever have the privilege, as Yuehong and I did, to view this place first hand. Here local farmers bring their freshly harvested rice to be milled and within a couple of hours they leave with the final product, just part of it will have stayed with the mill owner as payment for the service.

See also - Return to Dakhondaing (2006) - more than just nostalgia....

This is the 'sharp end', the basic equipment to separate the grain from the husks which is described below. 

The mill is driven by a Tangye stationary engine, it bears a plate stating it has 10" x 20" cylinders and is designed to run at 100 psi pressure (7 atmospheres) and 110 rpm. Like many Tangyes in the country it was supplied by 'Jessop and Company Limited, Engineers, India and Burmah':

Steam is supplied by a horizontal boiler, fired with the rice husks (continuously middle left to middle lower), an ecologically sound process if ever there was one.

And all of this is under the control of the mechanic who is solely responsible for firing and maintaining the pressure of the boiler, clearing away the ash, not to mention controlling the engine and oiling it at regular intervals.....

The 'raw' rice is unloaded and transferred to a storage bin:

From where it passes through a screen/sieve to remove large items of debris before passing up the first of the "Jacob's ladders" and down to another bin which feeds the 'huller', which breaks apart the grain and husks.

This is probably the original machine supplied to the mill, it still carries its plates:

These and all other parts of the mill are driven by a series of belts from a shaft which is powered by the Tangye engine:

The rice and husks are more or less broken apart by this, the majority of the husks are separated in an unphotographable shaker (and passed to a store to be fed to the boiler), but the rest need a little encouragement and are passed through a rotating shaker on the upper floor, which also achieves some further separation - the grains are far more dense than the husks:

This has three trays on it and is rotated by a belt driven eccentric in the middle of both the picture above and below:   

It is time for the remaining rice grain/husk mixture to be passed to the main separator, a magnificent layered, wooden rocking cabinet which produces what are recognisable dusty rice grains on the right side and final husks on the left. Quite how this is achieved is not too clear to me but in each case the effect must be similar to panning for gold, only in this case no liquid is involved!

This is the cabinet viewed from the rear, the mass of belts and shafts is only too apparent!

The rice grains are now passed back to the upper level where they again pass through a shaker which will remove some of the accumulated dust but mainly the small bits of incomplete grains.

This is the view from the rear, again the belt drive to the shaker and the Jacob's Ladder/elevator are clearly seen.

The rice is now ready for final polishing (whitening) and dust removal and this is achieved in centrifugal type devices, again apparently as originally delivered:

At this mill, there are no scales, the rice comes in and goes out in traditionally sized baskets, I was told this basket contains a standard measurement of about 72 pounds weight (that is about 33kg in metric units):

The rice is then poured into sacks which are emptied into the wagon which we saw in the first picture leaving the mill:

Man and machine in perfect harmony... If you are one of those sad bastards with a 9 to 5 desk job with nothing better to do than browse the internet between coffee breaks, then dream on. There is a whole world out there waiting to be discovered. 

"Shake, rattle and roll...." might be the motto of the mill staff, the owner (Daw Ei Ma) is the lady in the middle. You can see they enjoyed the visit as much as we did and, although they will never see this report as such, they should see these pictures not too long after it is uploaded.

These are the individual pages from the 2005 trip:

Read more about our travels in:

Rob and Yuehong Dickinson