SFJ

Facebook  YouTube

Small Farmer's Journal
PO Box 1627
Sisters, Oregon 97759
800-876-2893
541-549-2064
agrarian@smallfarmersjournal.com
Mon - Thu, 8am - 4pm PDT

The Craft of the Wheelwright

The Craft of the Wheelwright

The Craft of the Wheelwright

by Daphne Turner of Ovingdean, UK
photographs by David Baker of Ovingdean, UK

In these days of standardization and the extensive use of metal wheels you might think there is little call for the centuries old craft of wheelwrighting, but the many demands on the skills of Gus Kitson in Suffolk, England, show this to be very far from the truth.

Despite many years experience of renovating all types of wagons and wheels even Gus can still be surprised by the types of items for which new or restored wooden wheels are required. Among these he can list a velocipede, an early type of wooden bicycle propelled by the rider’s feet pushing on the ground, the Maxwell motor car, hand barrow organs, wheel barrows both utilitarian and decorative, plus the more usual vehicles that range from small tip carts through baker’s and game carts to large farm wagons. Possibly his most widely known work to date has been the restoration of the Barron tree transplanter for the Botanical Gardens at Kew (see Small Farmer’s Journal, Winter 2002).

To cater for all these many and varied requirements he has renovated, or made in their entirety, wheels with diameters from 1 foot to 5 feet 5 inches and a width from 1 inch to 6 inches. But whatever the diameter and width the process is the same and the following photographs take the reader through methods used by Gus to produce a complete wheel from start to finish.

The Craft of the Wheelwright

The work commences with his colleague Basil Saunders turning a suitable piece of timber to produce the appropriately sized hub (or nave). Generally elm is the wood of choice but in some English counties where elm is not available other woods are used. The center of the hub is cut away in order to fit in a cast iron tapered box. The box has wings on its exterior and these fit into slots which hold it tightly in position and stop it spinning inside the hub when the wheel turns. Because the stub axles put on the end of the oak axles are of steel the different metallurgical properties of the cast iron box prevent the friction that would occur if the same metal were used for both parts.

The Craft of the Wheelwright

The hub is then taken to Gus’s workshop where he cuts out the marked mortices. These are holes into which the spokes are fitted and are stepped or staggered, not placed all on one level, to increase the strength of the hub between the spokes. The oak spokes are largely shaped by hand. Because all wheels vary in size it is not possible to implement a standard manufacturing process.

Once the spokes are prepared, the next stage is to push them into the prepared hub. No glue is used so it is vital the ends fit snuggly into the mortices. The two metal bands around the hub are put on by the same heating process used in the tyring — see further on.

The Craft of the Wheelwright

The Craft of the Wheelwright

The fellies (or felloes) are then made. The number required for each wheel varies according to the number of spokes in the wheel, each one taking two spokes, and a wheel can have up to 16 spokes.

The Craft of the Wheelwright

The fellies are held together by a dowel made of heart of oak and once all the necessary parts have been produced they are assembled into the basic wheel.

The Craft of the Wheelwright

Gus with a range of different sized wheels and parts, demonstrating how everything is put together.

The Craft of the Wheelwright

It is then time to make the enclosing metal tyre. A flat strip of iron is cut to the size of the circumference and the joint welded to make a complete circle.

The Craft of the Wheelwright

Once the wheel sections have been fitted together it is taken to the dished circular metal plate known as a tyring plate where it is clamped firmly into position using a metal bar that runs from the center of the plate through the tapered iron box. The traditional way of heating the iron tyre to obtain the required expansion is in a bonfire and the red hot band is then lifted by tongs and dropped over the rim of the wooden wheel.

The Craft of the Wheelwright

The wheelwright and his assistant now work quickly to hammer down the band to get it level with the plate and thus the side of the fellies, before pouring water on to quickly cool it before the timber catches fire and to ensure the metal shrinks evenly. As no adhesive is used in the assembly of the wooden parts and it is the metal tyre that ultimately ensures that everything remains in place and is fit for years of service it is vital that every care is taken at this stage, as indeed it has been during the earlier processes.

It now remains only to finish the wheel with the appropriate layers of varnish or paint, and this latter is the forte of John Barber (seen in the final photo). Known as Gus’s “apprentice” he has been warned by Gus that the apprenticeship will never end because this will mean increased wages that Gus cannot afford! But joking aside, John is a retired fisherman and a craftsman in his own right being a gifted sign writer and maker of model boats. He paints the wheel by hand with a primer, three coats of undercoat and two coats of gloss before applying the coach lines, thus putting the finishing touch to a marvelous piece of craftsmanship.

Spotlight On: Livestock

Haying With Horses

Hitching Horses To A Mower

When hitching to the mower, first make sure it’s on level ground and out of gear. The cutter bar should be fastened up in the vertical or carrier position. This is for safety of all people in attendance during hitching.

Happs Plowing A Chance to Share

Happ’s Plowing: A Chance to Share

by:
from issue:

Dinnertime rolled around before we could get people and horses off the field so that results of judging could be announced. I learned a lot that day, one thing being that people were there to share; not many took the competition side of the competition very seriously. Don Anderson of Toledo, WA was our judge — with a tough job handed to him. Everyone was helping each other so he had to really stay on his toes to know who had done what on the various plots.

Hay Making with a Single Horse Part 1

Hay Making with a Single Horse Part 1

by:
from issue:

For the last ten years, I have made hay mostly with a single horse. This has not necessarily been out of choice, as at one time I had hoped to be farming on a larger scale with more horses. Anyway, it does little good to dwell on ‘what if ’. The reality is that I am able to make hay, and through making and modifying machinery, I probably have a better understanding of hay making and the mechanics of draught.

Horseshoeing Part 3A

Horseshoeing Part 3A

An examination should be made while the animal is at rest, and afterwards while in motion. The object of the examination is to gain accurate knowledge of the direction and movements of the limbs, of the form and character of the feet and hoofs, of the manner in which the foot reaches and leaves the ground, of the form, length, position, and wear of the shoe, and distribution of the nail-holes, in order that at the next and subsequent shoeings all ascertained peculiarities of hoof-form may be kept in mind and all discovered faults of shoeing corrected.

Chicken Guano: Top-Notch Fertilizer

Whoever thought I’d be singing the praises of chicken poop? I am, and I’m not the only one. Chickens are walking nitrogen-rich manure bins.

Words for the Novice Teamster

Words for the Novice Teamster

by:
from issue:

Many people who are new to the world of draft horses are intimidated by what seems to them to be a foreign language. This “workhorse language” can be frustrating for novices who would like to use draft horses, or who would just like to understand what people who do use them are talking about. The knowledge of some basic draft horse terminology can end most of the beginner’s confusion about the special jargon used in this trade.

The Broodmare in Fall

The Broodmare in Fall

by:
from issue:

Mares are not the major emphasis in the fall since they have performed their task of foaling, lactating and being re-bred. After foals are weaned, most breeders tend to focus on weanlings and yearlings that are being prepared for shows, sales and/or performance in the case of long yearlings. Fall management of broodmares is far more critical than some breeders realize and can directly impact foaling and re-breeding successes next year.

New York Organic Grazing Dairy

New York Organic Grazing Dairy

by:
from issue:

Our farm, here in the center of New York State, consists of 101 acres, about 90 in grass, the rest some woods and swamp. It is inhabited by forty-six jersey cows, twelve breeding ace heifers, one bull, and because it is calving season — an increasing number of calves. Also, four Belgian mares and a couple of buggy horses. Last, and possibly least — the farmer, farmer’s wife, and five grown children.

Step Ahead Horse Progress Days 2016

Step Ahead: 23rd Annual Horse Progress Days 2016

by:
from issue:

I had only been to Horse Progress Days once before, at Mount Hope, Ohio in 2008. It had been an eye-opener, showing how strong and in touch with sustainable farming values the Amish are, and how innovative and sensible their efforts could be. So at the 23rd annual event in Howe, Indiana, I was there partly looking for signs of continuity, and partly for signs of change. Right off I spotted an Amish man with a Blue Tooth in his ear, talking as he walked along.

Developing Draft Colts

Developing Draft Colts

During October, 1910, The Pennsylvania State College and Experiment Station purchased a group of ten grade Belgian and Percheron colts and one pure bred Percheron for use in live stock judging classes. An accurate record of the initial cost, feeds consumed and changes in form has been kept in order that some definite information as to the cost of developing draft colts from weaning to maturity might be available for farmers, investigators and students.

Raising Free Range Turkeys is a Joy!

Raising Free Range Turkeys is a Joy!

by:
from issue:

“Don’t let them out in the rain, they’ll stare up into it and drown…” Our experience with turkeys has been completely the opposite. While most poultry species aren’t exactly bright, we find that turkeys are lovely, personable, and most important for the self sufficient homesteader — extremely efficient converters of grain and forage into delicious meat. In 5 months, a turkey can grow from a few ounces to 20-30+ lbs.

The Milk and Human Kindness: Making Cheese

The Milk and Human Kindness: Making Cheese

by:
from issue:

Yogurt making is the perfect introduction into the world of cultured dairy products and cheese-making. You are handling milk properly, becoming proficient at sanitizing pots and utensils, and learning the principles of culturing milk. Doing these things regularly, perfecting your methods, sets you up for cheese-making very well. Cheese-making involves the addition of a few more steps beyond the culturing.

"Work Horse Handbook, 2nd Edition" by Lynn Miller

Draft Collars and How To Size Them

It is difficult to accurately measure a horse’s neck without fitting. In other words, there are so many variables involved in the shape and size of a horse’s neck that the only accurate and easy way to size the neck is to use several collars and put them on one at a time until fitting is found.

Chicken

The Best Chicken Pie Ever

by:
from issue:

She has one more gift to give: Chicken Pie.

Haltering Foals - Training Workhorses Training Teamsters

Haltering Foals

Lynn Miller’s highly regarded book, “Training Workhorses / Training Teamsters,” is back in print! And that’s not even the most exciting news: The Second Edition is in FULL COLOR! Today’s article, “Haltering Foals,” is an excerpt from Chapter 8, “Imprinting and Training New Born Foals.”

Haying With Horses

Haying With Horses

If the reader is considering the construction of a barn we encourage you to give more than passing thought to allowing the structure of the gable to be open enough to accommodate the hanging of a trolley track. It is difficult or impossible to retrofit a truss-built barn, which may have many supports crisscrossing the inside gable, to receive hay jags. At least allowing for the option in a new construction design will leave the option for loose hay systems in the future.

Ask A Teamster Ten Common Wrecks With Driving Horses

Ask A Teamster: Ten Common Wrecks with Driving Horses

One of the things I’ve learned over time is that the truly great teamsters rarely – if ever – have upset horses, close calls, mishaps or wrecks, while the less meticulous horsemen often do. Even though it may take a few minutes longer, the master teamsters constantly follow a series of seemingly minute, endlessly detailed, but always wise safety tips. Here are 10 of them:

Lineback Cattle

Lineback Cattle

by:
from issue:

Cattle with lineback color patterns have occurred throughout the world in many breeds. In some cases this is a matter of random selection. In others, the markings are a distinct characteristic of the breed; while in some it is one of a number of patterns common to a local type. Considering that livestock of all classes have been imported to the United States, it is not surprising that we have our own Lineback breed.

Small Farmer's Journal

Small Farmer's Journal
PO Box 1627
Sisters, Oregon 97759
800-876-2893
541-549-2064
agrarian@smallfarmersjournal.com
Mon - Thu, 8am - 4pm PDT