Practical Carriage Building

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

Points for Wheelwrights

As I had not the opportunity of learning a mechanical trade in my boyhood, having been brought up on a farm, I have found since I took up wheelwrighting as a business about seven years ago that many of my ways of doing things differ from those of the trained mechanic. For instance, most wheelwrights first put a rim on a wheel, then plane it, while I always plane to the right size and corner between spokes first, which saves much time and is the easiest and much the most practical way.

I always use the greatest care in mortising a hub in heavy work, so that the spoke at the rim will have only one-eighth inch incline or 'dish,' and I do not use a gauge when driving, because a heavy spoke, properly fitted in a proper mortise, cannot be moved from the position given by the mortise and tenon. For driving heavy spokes I use a three-pound mallet in preference to a hammer, as less liable to split the spoke, and I believe it drives firmer. I always warm my spokes, and use good glue. I think a hub moderately dry is as good and even better than a thoroughly dry one. I saw off the spokes when the rim is tight on the shoulder, so that the tire will rest on the ends of the spokes, and make the spoke tenon one-eighth larger in diameter than one-third the width of the tire.

In making a tongue, I straighten and dress the proper size with a hand ax, then corner from the hounds to the end before planing, thereby saving much labor. I have had to gain my knowledge of the art by close application and the study of old work brought to my shop for repairs, and my conclusions are : That a heavy wheel needs but one-half to three-quarters dish, when the tire is on, when new. That bent rims are better than sawed, having fewer joints. That dowel pins should never be used, as when the joints get loose, the pins invariably split the felloe. That felloe plates are much better than dowel pins. That tires should always be bolted on, as bolts are better than nails and are easier removed. That a good chilled pipe box is better than the best short box, however well it is fitted up. That a long bearing makes a wagon run steadier and wears longer. That a heavy axle, which does not spring or vibrate, is much better and runs easier than a lighter one. That good quality wheels and axles are of much more importance than ornamental painting (but good paint helps to sell a wagon, and as a buyer, as a rule, looks more to paint than to the quality of the material used, there is a temptation to builders to slight in all but the painting). That one-quarter to three-eighths gather, for four feet and four feet six-inch wheels respectively, is enough to make the wheel 'hug' close to the shoulder without unnecessary friction. That two and a half inches swing for front wheels and three inches for hind ones, with the amount of dish and sizes as I have given herein, are just what is required to make a farm wagon run right. Thai the greatest care should be taken to get hounds and tongue square with the axle, so that the wagon will follow true. By T. P.