Jonx Pillemer photographer AfrikaBurn artwork Richard Bowsher

New windmill sculpture created

A few months ago, a neighbouring farmer, Erik de Milander, very kindly gifted me an old farm windmill. The windmill was originally made by Stewarts & Lloyds (Climax brand) in Bloemfontein, its over 10 meters high, and had been standing at Erik’s farm near Doringbos on the Doring River for over 40 years.

The windmill was in good condition… however, my friends David Mallinson, Paul Schlechter, Karin van Niekerk, Mike Hayward, Karen Dudley and I had other much more exciting plans.


In preparation for the recently held AfrikaBurn festival, we decided to re-create and alter the windmill into a beautiful rising spiral ribbon of light. This involved a few major changes and a month of “hard labour” for the self-appointed “Team “Klimax”:


  1. Firstly, we had to seriously mechanically alter the windmills gearbox from an up  & down action to a spinning action. For helping with this challenge, we are grateful for the patient assistance of Mike at HMS Engineering in Woodstock, Cape Town. The original gearing was replaced with custom made worm and helical gearing which reduced/transferred the spinning blades RPM of roughly 150 RPM at high wind speed down to about 20 RPM at same wind speed … so the spiral would spin at an acceptably reduced rate.

  2. Second, with the assistance of Graeme at Bend-it Engineering in Ottery, Cape Town we designed and created a reducing spiral of 40mm steel tubing which we would later weld into place at Klipopmekaars farm workshop to form the rising and simultaneously reducing central spiral for the windmill sculpture.

  3. Thirdly, we had to figure out how to light the moving vertical spiral, the windmill blades, and the tail. David “thunk-up” and built a new electrical moving contact bush system and we sourced custom made LED strips from LED Lighting in Woodstock, Cape Town.

Lastly, the windmill needed a really good lick of paint, a sturdy base of some sort, and general assembly. Easter weekend provided the perfect opportunity. Hammerite copper was chosen for the windmill and verdigree (my new favourite colour) was chosen for the spiral, blades and tail. After a few days in the workshop, plenty of beers and BOS ice tea, and lots of laughs, Klimax was ready to be trucked to Tankwa Town.


A few weeks later, the big day arrived. We’d never seen the sculpture erected and were very excited to see what it looked like … or whether our whole concept would work at all. In 25 knot plus winds, we pulled Klimax up and off the back of our truck and – wow – we were really really pleased with the result!

The sculpture looked beautiful in the sunset sky – the LED lighting plans worked really well, the large base kept the sculpture vertical without any danger of falling over, and the spiral spun beautifully without causing any mechanical challenges. To get all the elements right first time was beyond our expectation.


There were almost 4000 participants at AfrikaBurn in April this year and a lot of beautully created art, sculpture and other lekker imaginative stuff. The Vuvulounge (also created and built at Klipopmekaar) was a big hit playing fabulous music late into the night.


Thank you David, Paul, Karin, Mike & Karen for all your help with creating and producing Klimax. It was a lot of fun. In the next few weeks, we’re going to raise the Klimax sculpture at Klipopmekaar and it’ll become our exotic and celebratory “Christmas Tree” which we hope to light every year during the festive season.


Klimax artwork at AfrikaBurn festival photo by Jonx Pillemer
(image courtesy of Jonx Pillemer)