QVCC Student Dan Xavier Uses Capstone Project to Help Restore Local Sawmill to Use As Educational Asset for the Community

Nestled in the valley of Woodstock, Connecticut lies the Chamberlin Mill, a rare example of a water-powered circular sawmill originating back to the early 1800s. The two-story post-and-beam structure still boasts the same historic cast iron gears and flat belt pulleys that transferred all the waterpower to the circular saw on the main level. Impressively, a mill has stood at the site along the Still River since the 18th century, however, the sawmill ceased its operations in the late 1960s, leaving it unused for over forty years. That’s where QVCC’s Dan Xavier comes in.

Dan Xavier, a Technology Studies major at QVCC, is also in the computer-aided design (CAD) certificate program, which led him to his project at the Chamberlin Mill. One of Xavier’s instructors Jakob Spjut, Professor of Engineering Science, was approached by Jeff Paul, former CEO of Whitcraft, about doing some modeling of the moving parts at the Chamberlin Mill.

“In fall 2020, I had Dan in my Intro to Engineering class, and he was looking for an interesting CAD course to take to finish his CAD certificate, so we worked out an independent study for him this spring 2021 at the Chamberlin Mill. We’re building on some work done previously by Woodstock Academy students, supervised by Peter Sumner, to model the turbine part of the setup,” explained Spjut, elaborating that “There’s really no substitute for applying technical skills to a real project for deep learning. If you don’t understand something, you can’t just take a 75 on an exam and move on. You need to figure it out.”

Throughout his extensive work at the mill, Xavier visited the mill frequently to take measurements of the many parts he needed to render the 3D solid models. He depicted relevant 2D prints, combined the parts into an assembly, and created an animated video that demonstrates the model moving with a narration explaining the function of the different moving parts.

Interestingly, Xavier is not QVCC’s only connection to the Chamberlin Mill. William Lonsdale Tayler (who, with his wife Pearle Chamberlin Tayler, were owners of the Mill property for many decades until their deaths in the 1990s) was instrumental in the founding of QVCC. Dr. Tayler served on the CT Regional Community College’s Board of Trustees from 1969-1973. A newspaper report from 1983 notes that, “in 1971 [he] realized a goal he had sought since 1948 was the establishment of a community college in northeast Connecticut.”

“I think it would give Dr. Tayler great pleasure to see the link forged between Quinebaug Valley Community College and Chamberlin Mill by Jeff Paul, Jakob Spjut, and Daniel Xavier through this project. Daniel’s work should be useful to the Mill for many years to come,” says Jean McClellan, President of Chamberlin Mill, Inc., the non-profit organization responsible for the mill.

Thanks to the work done by local students at Woodstock Academy and Dan Xavier at QVCC, Chamberlin Mill, Inc. intends to preserve and sustain its site as a historic and educational asset for the enjoyment of future generations. Once the mill is operational, it will expand its current calendar of walks, demonstrations, local school programs, experiential learning, and participation in regional and national programs and events. Artifacts now in storage will also be returned to the site for exhibition.

For more information, please contact Jakob Spjut at or Jean McClellan at

Chamberlin MillDan Xavier at Chamberlin MillDan Xavier taking measurements at Chamberlin MillChamberlin Mill BoardDan XavierChamberlin Mill sawmill