Practical Carriage Building

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

Making a Good Wagon Wheel

In regard to making wheels, I think driving spokes in with, a sledge or with a nail hammer will not result in a durable wheel. The spoke may be driven so tight as to injure the hub. To make a good wheel the timber should be seasoned properly, and then the spokes must be fitted to the mortise with the calipers, the same at the bottom of the mortise as at the surface of the hub; and a wooden mallet is the best tool to use in driving in spokes. I cut the corners of the mortise with a chisel, so the wood will not draw down, as is the case with many wheels. In repairing wheels I have often found that the tenons in the felloes are too large. When the hole is bored, the felloes are cut off once in every ten inches and consequently the wheel is spoiled. In most of the wheels used now the hub is too small and has too many spokes in it. If the hub were made larger and with two spokes less, the wheel would be much more durable.

Look at the wheels that were made thirty years ago, with a hub as big as a nail keg, and see how much longer the wagons lasted than they do now. Yet wheelwrights are as competent now as they ever were; but they have spoiled the wheels in making them so light in order to be fashionable; and the rest of the wagon is made to correspond. The hub should be about four and three-quarters or five inches and have no more than twelve or fourteen spokes.

Another mistake of our wheelwrights is building the wheel too high. Again, I do not think the blacksmith should be expected to bring up bad joints or make the dish of a wheel correct. The tire should stiffen the wheel, but if it increases the dish the wheel is spoiled.óBy J. A. G.