Practical Carriage Building

Compiled by M.T. Richardson, Vol.1. 1891

Carriage Parts Part 2

It has been stated that some hickory, grown, for example, in New Hampshire, was so hard that it would check at the spoke when used for rims.

I do not know that hickory will check on account of its being hard. My experience is the harder the hickory the more difficult to split. I would not say that no good hickory grows except in Connecticut; but I do believe that the best specimens in the world grow upon the seashore of Connecticut.

The question of a northern or southern exposure is one I have thought a great deal on. Fanners will come in to us and say:

"We have some excellent hickory. It grew upon the top of the hill where the winds could blow it and toughen it up."

Another one will say he has the very best hickory. It grew down in the valley where the soil was moist and could get plenty of water to nourish it. He has consequently the best hickory in the world. Now, my observation leads me to believe that exposure has very little to do with it. The best and the poorest grow together, even of the same varieties. You may take what we call the shagbark, growing side by side, apparently under the same circumstances and same conditions, and yet the timber will appear to be hardly related at all; so that it doesn't seem to be locality so much as it is individuality of the tree itself. It is something I cannot explain.

As to the best month in which to cut hickory, is a subject I have been considering for many years, and 1 have watched the timber after it has been cut the different seasons. I have cut for myself in August, September, October, November, December, January, and February, and I can see but very little difference in the hickory cut in those months. I believe any month, after the leaves are matured—after the sap has stopped rising, as you may say, to nourish the growth of the leaves and the new wood—I believe any time after the leaves fall, and before the buds swell, will do.

The main reason why white oak is not the best wood for beds and other carriage parts is that it lacks the element of stiffness. It is strong and hard, yet it never seems to season and become stiff. In bending it is very liable to check afterward, so that it is not advisable to use it in any place about a carriage where it has to be bent. White oak is hard enough and strong enough, and it will resist decay better than ash or hickory. We all know, or those who have been carriage makers do, that oxide of iron is the most destructive thing to timber that comes in contact with it. Oxide of iron and water destroy the life of timber very rapidly. But white oak will resist it better than ash or hickory.

The draftsman in many carriage shops has too little to do with the carriage part. He leaves that to the carriage part maker. The latter has his own ideas, and he is apt to follow them without regard to what the body is; but there should be harmony between the two. Now this is a very important point. If the body was of a light, airy, gaunt appearance, the carriage part should be the same; it should be light, and apparently gaunt and airy. In that respect there is harmony between the two.

Sometimes it is necessary to make the carriage part appear light, and at the same time be really strong and heavy. To do that we must make wider irons, putting on more iron and less wood ; but the carriage part should always be in harmony with the body. It is a very important matter, for I care not how well the carriage is made, how artistic the carriage part may be, how stylish the body, how well it may be painted or elegantly trimmed, if there is no harmony between the different parts there, will be no beauty in the whole. This is the reason, or one reason, why people sometimes dislike some particular carriage, and yet cannot point any special fault in it. Each part by itself may be excellent, but as a whole they don't like it. Now the chances are it is because it is badly proportioned—the wheel and the carriage part are not in harmony with the body.