Practical Carriage Building
Compiled by M.T. Richardson, Vol.1. 1891
Spoking Old Hubs
"To make the hubs soft," says one writer, boil them in water for an hour; and to take out the grease, add saleratus to the water." Now, I have not repaired wheels for thirty years, still I will venture to give my opinion and practice on the subject. Before doing so, I will say that I have no faith in the boiling of hubs as preparatory to the driving of spokes in them, because after the dry spoke tenons are driven they absorb the moisture from the wet hub, and consequently expand to a considerable degree. But when the spokes and hub become perfectly dry, it will be found that the spokes are loose, and so is the band around the hub.
I have seen spokes driven into boiled hubs with the greatest care and firmness, and after an interval of several months the felloes were put on, and then the spokes were found to be loose in the hub. This surely would not have happened if dry spokes had been driven with the same care into a perfectly dry hub.
The use of saleratus to remove grease may be desirable, but I doubt if one hour's boiling would leave the mortises in a condition to make a permanently adhesive glue joint, and the boiling must, of course, be injurious to the painted surface of the hub.
Since time is money, it is desirable to do work quickly, if it can be done as well. It is generally necessary to mend a broken wheel as soon as possible. A clever workman, by using dry material, can finish such a job in a short time. The process of boiling and the mechanical manipulation consume a great deal more time, and an extra charge would have to be made for this as well as for the additional labor.
My practice in spoking old wheels is simply as follows: I examine the condition of the mortises to see what dish they indicate, and if remortising is not absolutely necessary, I fit the spoke tenons, being careful to obtain a light fit sidewise, without any taper from the back to the front, or at least as little as possible.
If the axle box is in the hub, as is usually the case, I saw off the ends so that they will just reach to the box when the shoulders are driven firm upon the hub. Instead of chamfering—the corner of the tenon ends with an edged tool—I knock them blunt with a hammer or mallet. This insures a greater surface contact and less liability to draw out. If the mortises in the hub are greasy, I wipe them out with a rag. I am careful to see that the spoke tenons are perfectly dry, and if convenient I place them in some hot place so that they may contract as much as possible before they are driven in. If in driving them into a greasy hub they should bound back, I do not lose patience and run for the drawshave or chisel and slash off a portion of the tenon, but I direct a blow to meet the resistance. Sprinkling ashes or any other abradant in the mortises will help wonderfully in driving a spoke into a greasy hub. My experience justifies me in saying that by the method I have here described a substantial and durable wheel may be made without the use of glue.—By F. W. S.