The International Steam Pages

Kawkapun Rice Mill, 2005

This visit was made in 2005, since when the mill has closed. I am not sure what happened to the milling equipment and boiler, but the engine was seen (stored) at a mill on Bilu Island in 2009

Kawkapun rice mill south of Moulmein in Mon State is a supreme example of taking appropriate technology to its limits in a poor country. It must be one of the smallest mills in the country and it can be operated by as few as five people. When bigger mills in the area cannot survive on a reduced supply of rice, here is a shining example of how to do the simple things well. Small is truly beautiful.

The mill's engine has a "+" on the valve chest cover but I don't think it is a Tangye, behind is the Ransomes' boiler.

I spent a couple of hours ferreting around the mill sorting out how just about everything fitted together much to the irritation of Yuehong who was trying to take a video of the operation at the same time. Overall, the process is similar to other mills, what makes this place special is the way in which parts of the same pieces of equipment are used for up to three different similar processes at the same time, everything here is quite new apart from the boiler and steam engine. Processing involves the following stages, vertical upward transfers being accomplished by using elevators/Jacob's Ladders (JL 1 to 4 are together, 5 and 6 are separate):

0. Delivery of rice and screening to remove large debris
1. (via JL 6 for) Hulling (removing the grains from the husks)
2. Shaking, at the same time separating the grains from the husks using a primitive 'vacuum cleaner' - the husks are lighter than the grains.
3. (via JL 3 for) Further shaking in a cabinet to complete the separation 
4. (via JL 2 for) Initial polishing of the rice
5. Further shaking to separate the rice and dust (as in 2)
6. (via JL 4 for) Further polishing of the rice
7. (via JL 5 for) Further shaking to separate the rice and dust (as in 5)
8. Final delivery of the rice grains

The following pictures show the main components - but bear in mind that often they have a multiple purpose.... Not mentioned specifically below are the removal of rice grain fragments and some of the dust and husk fragments which appear in all sorts of places!

The initial bin is also shown below with the belt system but this is the standard method of delivery (behind above is the husk feed to the store for the boiler, the boiler feed is visible on the right):

 The rice falls to the screen/sieve below:

Whence it moves (using JL 6) on to this very compact modern huller:

The result is fed to the lower shaker table, it is just possible to distinguish the grains (white) and husks (brown) below:

The shaker has three sections, the raw mixture is on the left. The other two sections are for the rice grains after the first and second polishing. Final delivery occurs into the basket below. The 'vacuum chambers' to remove the light husks and the powder from the polishing are above the shaker tables. Note how much brighter the final rice is than before when it is mixed with dust.

This is the shaker cabinet/separator, the mixture of rice grains and remaining heavier husks enter top right below the wheel which regulates its speed and they emerge separately at the bottom right corner. The main Jacob's ladder/ elevator (JL 1 for the husks, JL 2 for the grains) is only just visible on the right of the picture. These husks are shredded and fed back to the first section of the lower shaker table to be removed with other light husks. 

This shows the upper shaker (table). Final rice is in the foreground and rice for first and second polishing is on the left and right (the latter obstructed) at the rear:

This picture shows the upper shaker table (just), the two polishers (middle upper) and the lower shaker table. The 'vacuum cleaners' are to the left of the polishers/whiteners and one of the Jacob's Ladders (JL 5) is on the far left which will deliver the finally polished rice to the upper shaker. The huller is almost invisible in the right side background.

Final rice is decanted into a calibrated basket, before being sacked, but first the rice has to be 'levelled'.

These are two views of the main drive shaft. Taken together, they show all the main belts and their wheels, reading from left to right.

1. Screen shaker for raw rice
2. Belt to another shaft for upper shaker and minor Jacob's Ladder (JL 6)
3. Huller
4. Lower shaker
5. and 6. Empty for alternate power from diesel engine
7. Second polisher
8. First polisher and, through another shaft, vacuum system
9. Belt to another shaft for main Jacob's Ladders (JL 1 to 4, JL 5), husk shredder and shaker cabinet
10. Main power supply from steam engine

These are the individual pages from the 2005 trip:

  • Temples of Steam - Mon State

  • Dakhondaing Rice Mill - A classic mill, unspoiled by progress. The account includes a description of the basic milling process as well as gratuitous insults to armchair enthusiasts.... 

Read more about our travels in:

Rob and Yuehong Dickinson