Practical Carriage Building
Compiled by M.T. Richardson, Vol.1. 1891
Carriage and Wagon Wheel Making in Country Shops
Good sense and judgment, together with a perfect knowl¬edge of material and requirements, are necessary to enable a workman to make a good wheel, one which will be strong and lasting. Nowadays wheel making in the wagon shop is confined mostly to repairs; but here is where a man can show his skill.
Finished materials for wheels and wagons can be found in almost every town, at such prices that it would be foolish to make hubs, spokes, and felloes at the shop; but sometimes it will happen that, for a certain job, a suitable article can¬not be found; and in such a case a man must work out his own spokes and felloes. It is therefore desirable to have perfectly seasoned timber on hand, for under no circumstances should green or imperfectly seasoned timber be used in a wheel or wagon. It will destroy both the vehicle and the reputation of the workman.
Hickory, white oak, and ash trees furnish the wood for wheels, &c. All three of these can be used for rims or felloes—oak and hickory for spokes only. The only proper time for cutting down trees for wagon timber is the month of February, because trees are then out of sap. Care must be taken not to wait too long, as in certain seasons the sap will rise early. In the months of November, December, and January the trees are wet and sometimes sap-frozen ; but in February milder weather sets in, and the sweeping winds will dry out the timber. Some want the trees cut down in August; but this is, I believe, a mistake, for the following reasons: In January, about St. John's Day, there is for some days a standstill in the growth of trees and plants. The shoots do not grow longer, but ripen, which can be seen by cutting off a twig from a tree near to and looking at the buds just above the leaf-stem. The lowest up to about the middle are an equal distance apart, but then come a few buds which are closer together, and just out. of the upper one grows the second-growth shoot. The sap has set in. Trees cut down in this time are full of sap, and the pores and cells are also opened. But in February they are out of sap, with pores and cells closed; therefore the timber is more compact and will be lasting.
In cutting down trees only a cross-cut saw should be used, which saves a great deal of wasting timber. But cut trees should not lie for months on the ground, as dry rot will destroy the timber. If no saw mill is in the neighborhood, saw into suitable lengths for felloes and spokes, after which set them up, take off sap-stuff, mark out the heart, quarter off, and split in pieces to suit. Timber obtained in this way is by many preferred to sawed stuff, but I have never seen much difference in the quality.
If a shed cannot be used for seasoning timber, it should be done by putting a few heart-pieces on a dry, high piece of ground, and thereon piling timber crossways, giving a little space between for air to pass. The most suitable spot is on the north side of a building, so as to prevent the sun from shining directly on the timber. After being exposed to the action of the air for at least nine months, the timber will be much improved by putting some in a blacksmith shop, around the chimney and close under the roof, to be smoked, which makes timber very hard and lasting.
Most workmen in the country are so situated that they cannot afford to put a good round sum into the purchase of machinery. All their work has to be done By hand or with such appliances as will do their work well, answer for differ¬ent purposes, and moreover be cheap. I give in the accom¬panying engravings some sketches of tools used by me, which answer very well. Every wheel maker can afford to buy what must be bought, and the balance he can make for himself by attending to the following instructions