Repairing Market Cart Wheels

A typical set of wheels in for repair

As a wheelwright I repair lots of wheels, which include Traditional Market Cart Wheels, and Costermonger cart wheels. All wheels come with their own challenges but market cart wheels come with added extra.

Under restoration reusing all the parts we can

When Markets carts were an everyday sight at markets the stall holder would rent the cart for the day, from a local carriage master. Each market would have a local firm usually a family whose business it was building, maintaining, and hiring out market carts to their market. To differentiate their carts from their competitors in the next market, they would carve the name of their firm on the wheels, usually in a very distinctive script.

J Tapper a firm who supplied the Carts for Lambeth Market

When we are restoring Market Cart wheels, the felloes ( the wooden rim sections) are usually the first to rot and therefore need replacing which means they need the name carved back on them in the same distinctive script

Felloes replaced with new carving
Ready to go back to the customer

In the case of the wheels shown I was asked to retain parts where I can and replace where necessary  sufficient to allow the market cart to be used again. Two of the hubs were replaced, all of the felloes and a couple of spokes, and then they are returned to the customer for painting.

If you have wheels that need repairing do get in touch, if you would like to see examples of some of the new carts I build have a look here 

A Traditional Market Cart

My latest video which is posted today explains the process behind making a Traditional Market Cart in this case a Costermongers Barrow. There are really two types of Market Cart. The Four wheel Market stall, and the two wheel Costermongers Barrow.

There is a long and interesting history about costermongers and you read about it on my blog www.tomgreencraft.com they were the for runners of what we now knows as the pearly kings and Queens, based in the street markets of London

The Traditional Cart has a traditional colour scheme. Green for the body and red for the wheels, although these can be made in any colour scheme. In the video I have taken the traditional idea forward and added decoration in the form of pin striping and scalloped edges, as a way of expanding my skills. When you watch the video the striping of the wheels section is painful for me to watch. I know how it ends but I still find myself holding my breath to see if the two ends meet up.

The other variation from a traditional market cart on this one is the addition of Solid Rubber Tyres. A Traditional Market Cart would be plain iron shod however in discussion with fellow wheelwrights – we are a very small but friendly community I decided to use rubber. Should I ever decide  to use the cart indoors, plain Iron wheels would likely damage the floor, which wouldn’t make me very popular. Therefore it makes sense to spend the extra and fit solid rubber.

I do make the wheel Costermongers carts and four wheel Market Stalls for customers. They can be made in any size and colour scheme, with or without decorations. For further details get in touch. Email

A Miniature Carriage

A miniature carriage

Country Shows

This year to promote my business I am appearing at several country shows which has caused me a problem but then I have thoroughly enjoyed creating the solution. I suspect the first of many miniatures I make.

As a wheelwright all of my work is for someone. A customer has come along, commissioned me to repair or build a new wheel, and when I finish they take it away. I never really have examples of my work lying around to show, and certainly not enough to make a stall look busy.

The solution then is to make some. I have now made a several types of wheel, ranging from a carriage wheel with a rubber tyre to a wheel barrow wheel with a steel tyre, so something for everyone.

The Hardest Wheels

However along the way I decided to make as a demonstration piece, a miniature carriage which can be used to ferry “stuff” around a garden. Based very loosely on a American Conesta Wagon it features 4 traditionally made wagon wheels with steel tyres, of which fitting the tyres was the hardest part. The traditional method is to heat the steel tyre in a fire so it expands. Then whilst hot  you quickly slip it over the wooden rim, and then shrink the expanded steel rim by pouring on water. When it goes well its great fun, when it doesn’t ……. The problem with small wheels is there isn’t sufficient length of steel in the tyre to get any meaningful expansion, and that’s why smaller wheels are the hardest wheels to make.

For the first time I have used an enamel high gloss paint, designed for the  steam trains so once cured it provides a tough shiny finish – perfect when I then add some white enamel pinstripes

The end result as you can see from the picture is a magnificent miniature wagon and I can see it being very popular at our rural shows this summer, starting at the Suffolk Show in May. See you there.

Making Wooden Wheelbarrow Wheels

A wooden Wheelbarrow Wheel
A 16″ wooden wheelbarrow wheel

A recent project which also turned into a video for the heritagecraft youtube channel was to make a pair of wooden wheelbarrow wheels.

Now its often said the smaller the wheel the harder it is too make and having made a number of small wheels lately I can understand the sentiment.

A wheelbarrow wheel differs from a conventional carriage wheel in that its set flat. If you look at a carriage wheel you will see the spokes are set at an angle which causes the rim to set out from the vehicle which is referred to as being “dished”. the degree of dish is a much debated topic at wheelwrights gatherings. The theory has it that the heavier the load the greater the dish up too a maximum   about 5 degrees. Whereas a wheelbarrow wheel doesn’t have dish, its flat as its designed to be supported between two shafts.

This project comprises  two 16 inch wheelbarrow wheels each with 8 spokes. By way of a change the spokes were turned on a lathe, rather than using a spoke shave. The wheel is then finished by the fitting of a solid steel tyre, heated up in a fire to expand the steel, slipped over the wheel and then shrunk back with water. So watch the process have a look at the Heritagecraft youtube channel.

We are now making these wheels as a standard design and can be purchased online via www.fitzrobbie.co.uk