I really like it when I can combine function with aesthetics. That’s one reason I like mods, especially ones like Rotarycraft and Immersive Engineering that go to great lengths to simulate real life technology and mechanics. With mods like these, you can make a turbine that looks like a turbine and actually does something.
Sometimes, though, the limited realism of Minecraft (especially vanilla Minecraft) makes it so that either function or aesthetics have to give way. One the one hand, you can make a purely functional piece of Redstone automation, like my Automatic Chicken Farm, which bears no resemblance whatsoever in look or function to real chicken farms. Other times you make something that resembles a real life structure for purely aesthetic reasons. My Water Wheel is a good example.
This project is another example of the latter category: a Dutch-style Windmill. Its turbine doesn’t turn, and no millstone processes wheat into flour at the bottom, but darned if it don’t look spiffy.
Body Design and Material Choices
Dutch windmills are not all exactly alike. There are variations in materials, turbine blade designs, and rate of slope and curvature to the top. Because of the limitations inherent in Minecraft with regard to vertical slopes (because we only have horizontal slabs and not vertical slabs, it is extremely difficult to create good-looking slopes with a pitch greater than 12:12 (or a 45° angle), unless you scale is massive and you can afford to work in full blocks. The scale of a standard windmill, however, is medium – bigger than the average house, but smaller than monumental architecture.
Because of this, I chose to make the main body of the windmill simply vertical with a slight slope at the bottom (consisting of Stone Brick Stairs). This curvature at the bottom combined with the curvature of the cap work to produce the impression of overall slope. At least, I hope it does.
Often in Dutch windmills you see a contrast between the material used for the base and that used in the main body. I chose to use Birch Planks for the base (on a foundation of Diorite blocks) and Andesite blocks (not Polished Andesite) for the main body. Because we do not yet have stair or slab blocks for the three alternate stone types, I used normal Stone Brick Stairs and Slabs for the base curvature and cap.
The base circle on which I built was simple: five block sides connected by five diagonal blocks. This made the circle for the main body three blocks connected by three diagonal blocks. As for height, I really just eyeballed it. When it looked right, I stopped.
The roof of a standard Dutch windmill is a little difficult, and I am not really sure I got it right. A simple curved dome is easy enough to accomplish in Minecraft. But the domed top of Dutch windmills is asymmetrical: one side is taller than the others (the side from which the turbine axle emerges). So what I did was create the sides of the cap, first. Then, I worked up from there, starting at the lowest edge, adding curved layers of slabs inside each successive edge.
A Slightly Turned Turbine
Obviously, the easiest way to set the turbine blades would be straight up and down, left and right. I’ve seen a lot of Minecraft windmills that do this. The problem is that it ends up looking static, like it is sitting still. Scarcely better are windmills whose blades are at the four diagonals. The way to get a faux turbine to look like it is turning (or is a snapshot of a turning turbine), unfortunately, is a little more difficult – set the blades just off from the main compass points.
It isn’t really THAT difficult, though. You still start from the center, use some kind of regular pattern (e.g., 3 blocks – diagonal shift – 3 blocks – diagonal shift – etc.), and apply in all four directions. Start with the spine of turbine blade, then add the blade itself. For my windmill, I used a pretty basic pattern: seven pairs of blocks diagonally arranged (i.e., 2 blocks – diagonal shift – 2 blocks – diagonal shift – etc.). This created a blade about halfway between straight up-and-down-left-and-right and the diagonal points. I used Spruce Planks to create color contrast both with the body material and with the based material.
With the spines planned out, I decided I wanted to use Spruce Fence Posts rather than wool blocks for the turbine blades themselves. I wanted some color contrast, but I still wanted to keep the total number of colors somewhat limited. I also like the transparency of fence posts versus the opacity of wool blocks. Overall, the placement of these fence posts is simple: four blocks sideways. Only at the extremities of the blades do I adjust this plan to account for the slightly diagonal situation of the blade.
In front of my windmill were two small ponds. I decided to merge these two ponds into one and build a short footbridge over it. While medium and large bridges are easy to make look cool in Minecraft, because large structures in general overcome the 1-block resolution of Minecraft, very small bridges suffer from the fact that you can work only with large units (mostly blocks, but even slabs and fence posts are big). Pretty much, arching or curvature of any sort is virtually impossible to pull off convincingly. Straight and simple are your friends in very small builds.
After a lot of experimentation, I decided to make the bridge four blocks wide with a walking area of two blocks inside a framework of Spruce Logs. To achieve some visual interest, I used alternating bands of Birch and Spruce Planks. I used Spruce Fence Posts as bridge rails. I chose these specific materials to tie the bridge to the windmill, which is also partially made of Birch and Spruce. A solid Spruce bridge ended up being hard to differentiate from the windmill, so some variation in the material was called for. Next to the bridge on one side I made a small waterfall. I also am decorating the area with Grass Paths and flowers.