Ted Baer's Bicycle Wheel Windmill




I'm a retired (32 years) community college instructor in Digital Media. I'm an aspiring artist in...

Ted Baer has created a series of small windmills designed for third world use over a period of three decades. This first in the series has evolved in simplicity and power. The aluminum vanes are constructed from a building flashing roll utilizing the pre-existing bend of the roll in construction. Two 16 " sections are riveted together to make one vane. The vanes clip on the spokes of the bicycle wheel using a "bent nail" and a bend in the vane. Detailed pictures will be provided shortly. The generator is a surplus permanent magnet motor and the uv resistant endless belting is purchased to length from online sources.

Output is a respectable 2 amps at 12 mph (18-20 volts) providing a cost effective alternative to a solar photovoltaic panels (if wind is available). The total cost of the windmill was less than $80 purchasing most items new (off-the-shelf). The two most expensive items were the permanent magnet motor (around $30) and the uv resistant round belting typically used in food processing plants to drive conveyors ($3 to $5 per foot).

The windmill does have a tail (see new photo). The frame is made from PVC pipe. It is important to use only a 24 to 27 inch rear solid axle bicycle wheel. The wheel is mounted to a PVC end cap via a hole drilled in the middle of the end cap.

The generator is a 24 volt DC permanent magnet motor. This one was surplus and used in old main frame disk drive units. DC permanent magnet motors are available through Internet surplus resources, but getting scarce. Here is a link that gives you more detail on sources and the types to look for: http://www.otherpower.com/otherpower_experiments_tapedrivemotors.html

The generator is mounted using a simple L bracket. Should be sturdy (not the typical shelf bracket) and both the motor and the bracket are secured with radiator hose clamps.

The windmill pole is electrical conduit that 1.5 inch PVC slides over. A short segment of PVC pipe is screwed into the metal conduit to create a bearing that the windmill pivots on (PVC to PVC).

The tail has to be counterweighted to balance the unit. Ted used a bunch of pennies and got it balanced perfectly. What else are they good for? :-)

I'm adding a couple of new pictures. Sorry we don't have more detailed steps with pictures. This was done some time ago.

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Step 1: Testing

The test rig is a Windstar van with top rack and platform. The tripod is a roof TV antenna mount. Windspeed, volts and amps are taken and recorded with a digital camera. Video clips will be provided shortly.

Step 2: Vane Attachment

The vanes attach by folding the aluminum flashing over one spoke and hooking a bent nail around a second spoke, The bent nail is inserted through a drilled hole in the vane.

Step 3: Blade Attachment Detail

This shows how the blade is attached. The bend is made by hand, simply bending the aluminum flashing over a metal rod about 1/8th inch in diameter. The metal flashing we used (years ago) was thicker than currently available. You will have to laminate (rivet or use two-sided tape) two thicknesses together to obtain a blade that is stiff enough. But you can also make blades out of wood (1/8 inch plywood or door skins) or plastic.

Step 4: Generator Belt Detail

This just gives a bit more detailed view of the generator, pulley and endless belting.

Step 5:

There were many variations of the windmill. Here is the most successful in terms of output. It uses two wheels and two generators. Let your imagination run wild. Our mantra is/was: "how much can you do with how little".

Step 6:

Here is a variation with only one generator. On both two wheel models the horizontal PVC must be strengthened with rigid metal electrical conduit or water pipe. The balance on this model was improved by having the generator closer to the pivot point. Want more power...add more wheels or start a mini windmill farm. Our concept all along has been the windmill equivalent of a solar panel...modular, friendly and cheap to build.

Step 7:

Note the specialty outdoor furniture PVC connectors. Two such connectors were used...a five way connector and one way slip connector. The connectors were secured by screws so they could be disassembled. The five way connector is the one used in the back supporting the horizontal cross piece and the tail. The horizontal bar has a metal pipe in the center to provide the needed rigidity. The top PVC connector supporting the generator is a three way connector cut so that it forms a cradle and the generator is mounted to it with radiator clamps. All the pulleys used the models are hardware store grade.

The special fittings can be ordered over the internet at:


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    102 Discussions


    1 year ago

    very inventive and new spin on an old concept. Thanks for sharing! In this project is a lot of insperation to be gained!


    3 years ago

    Hi Ted, do you have a contact email I can send you a request directly on?

    - Kate


    4 years ago on Step 5

    This is brilliant. I was trying to use the chain sprocket and then the
    gearing was too slow. A gearbox to speed up a motor takes too much
    energy away. This way you adjust the genny speed with the size of the
    pully wheel.

    I see on this configuration the motor spins the opposite direction than the twin "turbines". I'm thinking you could use a long V-belt from the truck/automotive store and use a v-pulley. The flat back of the V-belt would have more than enough traction on the inside of the bike rims. You probably would want the kind with the flex notches on the inside of the belt. Generally a V-belt is not intended to flex backwards, but the bike rims are large enough that I don't think it would "break" the back of the belt. A belt is held together with the cords anyway, like a tire.

    Well Ted you went from slingshots to wind power. And very good in both. I am your friend who kind of went from slingshots to wind spinners and back again.I would like to talk with you sometime. If you type in combowslingguy or Robert Blair and slingshot my web page will pop up. And we can catch up. Thank you for getting me started on Instructables.


    7 years ago on Introduction

    Looks good. The belting issue is a big one though. I was thinking if you used a double wheel set up where the distance between the 2 wheel/windmills could be adjusted, then you could find a combine or farm implement belt that would tie the two wheels as one with a simple loop. As large bike wheels are not going to spin at crazy speeds it might also be possible to make belts out of pre-stretched multiweave rope. As used by climbers. this would require gluing a rubber rim liner in, maybe x2 to get more grab. you would also need to learn to weave two ends together, however there are insructibles for that I am pretty sure.

    Then using the rear chain drive gear as used with bike engine kits, on just one of the wheels you could tie the wheel set to the generator with bike chain. The upside here is you could likely use the front bike wheel on the side not attached to the chain drive as it will be taking less torque. For durability it might help to put a torque brace as used with high power electric bike hub motors on the chain drive side.

    Still pretty all right at is , good work, Phil aka zipperboy


    8 years ago on Introduction

    What amazes me most is that you have built this out of items that can already be found in most impoverished areas. This is a great thing to get some church groups, environmental groups, youth groups, etc. interested in sponsoring. I would be interested in having someone teach a group of our church members how to construct these, then send them on missions annually. We have sent members to the Bahamas in the past for medical missions and house building, but the problem is getting the supplies necessary to remote locations. You have to carry EVERYTHING you are gonna need to build with, in with you. Alot of times the villages can only be reached by foot. So anything you can actually build out of materials found ON LOCATION is very helpful. Thank you for sharing your knowledge.


    8 years ago on Step 5

    I love this instructable. Great idea to make the blades that connect easily, quickly and stay put. You have gotten my brain juices flowing to make a similar unit. Love the Honda wago-van. A great little car!!


    8 years ago on Step 2

    i made one in a few hours and it spins SO FREAKING WELL because it is SO LIGHT. i have tried lots of PVC airfoil type blades and they don't start so fast, they're a bit heavy, and sort of scary in that maybe the pvc will crack and explode. these are light and easy and wow.


    9 years ago on Step 4

    Is it better to have the generator there? or would it be better to have it with the same axle of the wheel?

    2 replies

    Reply 9 years ago on Step 4

    Cons of doing it this way:
    You lose a small amount of power to friction

    Pros of doing it this way:
    Your generator will run MUCH faster. In this rig, for every revolution of the wind wheel, the generator will get 5 revolutions. Faster turning = more power


    9 years ago on Step 4

    I just wanna ask can one use a car generator or alternator for power generation in your turbine

    In this instructable, they made their own generator for the turbine

    Pros:  You can spec out the motor exactly the way you need it, more efficient

    Cons:  Takes a lot of time.

    This article has some different winding configurations if you choose to go that route.

    1 reply