Practical Carriage Building

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

Taking the Dish out of Wagon Wheels

The spoke before the timming Fig 148

Being a wheelwright and blacksmith, I will give my practical experience in tightening spokes in the hubs and taking the dish out of wheels. But let me here remind the craft that a wheel being thus worked over is not as good as the newly filled.

First, I have found it impossible to set the tire on a wheel that has become very much dished, and make a good job. My usual method is therefore to place the wheel on my wheel block, and screw it down as though I was going to put in new spokes. I mark all of the felloes and knock them off; then a few light blows with a hammer on the face of the spoke, about one-third of the distance from the hub to the point of the spoke, will usually drive it out, and it will generally look as in Fig. 148. I then trim off the front of the tenon to make it straight with the face of the spoke, or in line with the shoulder of the felloe, as some of the spokes may be sprung from the strain which caused the wheel to become dished.

How the spoke and wedge are made to fit in the hub Fig 149

Fig. 149 shows how the spoke and wedge are made to fit in the hub. I use hard wood—hickory or oak—to make my wedges, the shape and length of which depends upon how much is taken off on the front of the tenon. If much space is to be filled, I make my wedge the length of the tenon, and lay it in the back side of the mortise; or, if there is but little space to fill, I split the tenon from a quarter to a half inch from the back, and start the wedge, which is driven up by butting against the box. With a piece of hard wood with a hole in it to fit the felloe tenon, and as thick as the tenon is long, I am ready to redrive the spokes, which may be driven to a gauge, as new ones are, and without bruising the tenon. The dotted lines show the shape of the tenon and how the wedge fills. I then mortise and set the spoke to its original position. When the spokes are driven I replace the felloes, and if there is a space at each joint, cut a piece of leather, and put at each joint one or as many as are required to fill the space; or, still better, bore the tenons off enough to let the joints come together; or crack the end of the tenon that comes through the felloe, wedge and drive the felloe up loose, and cut the tenons smooth with the felloe. To avoid having my wheel felloe-bound, I leave about an eighth of an inch space, which is ascertained by driving a wedge in one of the joints, measuring the neat length around the wheel, leaving out this space, and giving the tire from a quarter inch to three-eighths inch draw. I never heat the tire red hot, as it chars the wood and the coals will pulverize dust out and cause the tire to get loose, if it does not do so from any other cause.

The spoke after the trimming and how the wedge is inserted Fig 150

Fig. 150 shows the spoke after it has been trimmed, and also shows how the wedge is inserted. prefer to oil the felloes thoroughly before the tires are set, thereby preventing the wood from absorbing moisture, which would cause it to swell; the tire, being unyielding, the wood is compressed, and perhaps the wheel is again dished, and the tire needs setting again. This extra work and expense cannot be incurred for nothing. I mention these facts to my customer, and if he is unwilling to pay the extra charge, he cannot blame me if, after the first good soaking rain, and when dry again, his tires are loose.

The climate in the South is very trying to wagons. It is so dry and hot in the summer that timber shrinks to its smallest dimensions, and then the long continued rains of the winter complete the ruin of a wagon in about five years, if it is not painted and properly cared for.

I would here remark that a set of wheels made of bois d'arc timber are proof against any of the contingencies I have mentioned. I reset the tires on a set of wheels of that wood about fifteen years ago, that had never been oiled or painted, and they are as tight to-day as when first set, and have not been loose since. If all wagons ere made of this timber, the blacksmith would get only one job of setting tires, for then they are tight indefinitely, and the painter is dispensed with entirely.— By D. AV. C. H.