Practical Carriage Building

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

What I know about Wagon Wheel Making Part 2

In my opinion there is no surer way to dish a wheel than to let the spokes stand above the felloes when the tiro is set. I have seen tire set without cutting out the ends of the spokes below a level with the rim, and afterward I could see day¬light between the tire and the rim, almost between every two spokes; and the spokes were bent badly.

There are times when it is very difficult to determine how much draft to give a wheel without spoiling it. If the spokes are loose in both the hub and the rim, it is almost impossi¬ble to know how much dish you can give the wheel; and I have frequently seen such wheels. It is not possible for me to say how much draft to give a reset tire, for frequently you cannot give the same amount of draft to every tire on a vehicle.

I have not the least doubt that there are more wheels spoiled by ignorant blacksmiths than by wear or tear. There are times when tires come loose from new wheels almost im¬mediately after the vehicle is put to use, and then the black¬smith is always blamed for not doing his work well. It is likely that such things are sometimes owing to one or two of the following reasons: A manufacturer of wagons or car¬riages may from some circumstance—for instance a larger demand than usual—run out of well seasoned wheel timber. When this happens he has to depend on the timber mer¬chant and take the best he can get. He may be assured the timber is well seasoned; but it may not be true. Suppose he makes up his wheels from this timber, and they shrink; it is clear that the tire will come loose, and nothing the blacksmith can do will prevent it.

Now here is another supposition; I know that such things have been, that wheels are made from the best of timber, well seasoned, and the workmanship without a fault. When the vehicle is first put in use—it may be weeks or months— it is run in mud or slush every day, and in spite of the painting, the felloes of the wheels will absorb moisture; they will swell very much, if they do, and as the tire is rigid, the felloes are pinched. Now let us suppose another case. A very hot and dry spell follows a wet one. It is certain that the felloes will shrink and that the tire will be loose on the wheels.

Whenever these things happen the tires ought to be reset immediately; but in many instances they are not. Instead the owners wait for another wet spell to swell the felloes up again. It is possible that some one may say that a newly painted wheel will not swell in the way I describe; but it must be borne in mind that moisture is always very penetra¬ting, and that there is no paint between the rim and the tire. If any one wishes to see how the swelling of wood may affect a wheel, let him get a new barrel, made out of the best of seasoned wood, and made by the best cooper he can find, and have the barrel hooped with six or eight strong iron bands. Then let him fill the barrel with wine, vinegar, brine, or even water, and let the liquid stay in the barrel for eight or ten weeks; then empty the barrel and let it stand in the sun for two or three weeks. He will then perceive that both heads and all the staves have shrunk. The wood swelled and was then pinched, because the hoops were unyielding. I contend that the principle is the same both in barrel and wheel. It seems to enter the thoughts of but few wheel owners that loose tires do the wheel great harm. When the tire is loose and the vehicle is run in sandy roads, the sand gets between the tire and the rim of the wheels, and grinds the felloes away very quickly, to say nothing of loosening the spokes in the rim.

The consequence often is that, when the wheels can go no longer without the tire being reset, some thoughtless or care¬less blacksmith sets the tire without cutting down the spokes level with the rim, and so dishes and spoils the wheels. This is done repeatedly. I have often been asked to make the tire very tight; but those who advised this did not know they were asking me to shorten the life of the wheels. Beyond a certain point you cannot tighten the tire; you simply sink the tires into the felloes and bend the spokes.

I believe in having the joints of the rim somewhat higher, but do not believe in a perfect joint there. I have noticed that when a perfect joint has been made, by the time the tire needed resetting, there was a small opening inward, which, in spite of the bolts and felloe clips, got larger, until the rim sagged down at the joints. But by leaving the joints a little open outward, the tendency to sag is corrected. Noth¬ing weakens or disfigures a wheel more than to have it sag at the joints.—By W. D. D.