Looking for a wheelwright

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Phil S

Board of Directors, Events Director
Phil Soper
Staff member
Corporate Member
A friend of mine has a horse-drawn wagon and he wants to refurb it. He wants to hire someone to repair the wheels. I have been commisioned to build him a big garage/shop and therefore do not have time to work on his wagon. I think the wheels are white oak and I was told there is old white oak in the barn that could be used if you want. Below is a photo of all four wheels. It appeared that only the rim and some spokes need repair - the hubs looked okay.
 

walnutjerry

Jerry
Senior User
The wheel segments and the spokes should not be a great problem. The thing of finding a blacksmith that knows how to make the tires fit will be interesting. If I understand correctly, they have to be heated and "shrunk" on the wheel. If they are not tight the wheel will work loose and the tire will come off.

Perhaps he can get in touch with someone at the John C Campbell folk school in Brasstown, NC and get a lead on someone that may be able to do the repair.

Jerry

PS----I think Mike Davis' daughter took a blacksmithing course there so maybe Mike can scrounge up a lead.
 

Mike Davis

Mike
Corporate Member
I have a very tiny experience with wheels, but I would not have the tools nor help to do the work.

I don't know the black smiths at JCFS, but I'm sure you could call and talk to somebody there..

I gave away a wagon just like that a couple years ago, for the same reason. When the wheels sit on the ground they get damp, stay damp and eventually rot. I would suggest after the wheels are repaired that they are set up on blocks or on a concrete pad under a good dry roof with a wide overhang. I know you said you're building a shed, just be sure the wheels are well off the ground. Mine was parked under a shed but the wheels were on the ground, even though it looked dry there was enough dampness to rot the wheels.
 

woodnick

New User
Nick
DO NOT use white oak for the spokes. They should be made from Hickory or Osage Orange would also be a good choice. The secret to making a good wheel is getting the correct "dish" from the hub to the rim.
 

kbcrafter

New User
Kevin
Phil, you could check with Dollywood in Tenn, they have a wheelwright shop in the park and if they can't do the job they may be able to point you in the right direction for some one that can
 

DaveD

New User
Dave
I watched one of those woodwright types of programs a few years back and the way they got the steel rim on was to heat it over a big wood fire to gt it to expand, a couple of guys picked it up with tongs and slapped it on the wood rim and them immediately poure/flooded it with 5 gallon buckets of water over the hot steel to cool it off and contract it.

If I was going to try this myself I'd cut the steel rim with a hacksaw, take maybe a 1/2" piece out of it, weld it back together, heat it over a big fire and do what I described above. thats after fixing the wood part (of which I'm probably not capable).

You could do the same technique for the steel rings on the hub.
 

Mike Davis

Mike
Corporate Member
You can't just randomly cut part out of the tire.

It has to be measured and the percentage of contraction of the wooden wheel has to be taken into account. Too loose and it falls apart, too tight and it breaks the fellows. You use a measuring wheel to go around the wheel and transfer the measurement to the tire.

Same thing about heating the tire, too hot and you ruin the steel, not hot enough and it won't slip over the wheel. A second too long and you burn the fellows. Also you need to drive the tire over the wheel and get it centered on the fellows evenly. Then you need about four or five guys ready to dash water on the tire to cool it before it burns the wood too much.

White oak is fine for heavy wheels like those. It's the finer, lighter buggy wheels that require hickory. And the wood has to be rived from a green log, not sawmill lumber. Sawmill lumber will break on the diagonal grain line created by the saw. For good strong fellows the grain has to run perfectly straight along the piece.

Like I said, maybe not well enough, I know how to do and so, therefor I know enough NOT to do it.

Get an expert/professional.
 

woodnick

New User
Nick
How big is too small and how small is too big. I just won't use white oak for spokes. IT"S just too danderous!
 

Mike Davis

Mike
Corporate Member
Not a wood hub, totally different engineering.

Looks like a lot more than the species at fault. But I don't know what that wheel is for, what forces it was engineered to withstand or how it was damaged.

But, you are saying hickory spokes made to the same spec help up under the same stress?
 

Mark Anderson

New User
Mark
rainy day so i had nothing better to do than research the hickory/wood thing

two measures of wood propeties are pounds to mar;
hickory 1820 vs white oak 1360

and modulus of elasticity (witch can be measured in how fast sound waves travel through a material....long drawn out confusing explanations can be found with a google search)

but the # in one reserch came up with

hickory 2523 vs white oak 2332.

several sites mentioned hickorys high resitance to shock and inpact witch would probaly also come into play.
 
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