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.
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
I frequently get asked to repair wooden carriage wheels, and they are always a voyage of adventure as you never know what your going to find, which also makes it the hardest to price, which is another problem as everyone wants to know before you start what its going to cost.
A typical example would be the wheel in the picture which came in to have a broken spoke replaced. In order to replace the spoke you have to first remove the rubber tyre, steel rim, and a section of felloe to get to it. Usually at this point I discover all manner of issues, and that the old time craftsmen where just as capable of a “bodge Job” as modern ones.
So the blue wheel pictured illustrates this perfectly. It came in with a broken spoke which turned out to be rotten and riddled with wood worm to a point where the wood crumbled away when touched. The Carriage had obviously not moved for a while and water had got into the joint between felloes and spokes, causing the felloes to swell and also rot along with the end of several spokes. Our tale of woe continues as the wheel I suspect originally from America with steam bent felloes covering 7 spokes each, rather than the European Sawn felloes which conventionally bridge 2 spokes, had previously been worked on, and one half of the wheel steamed felloes had been replaced with sawn, some of which were solid and some rotten, all of which had been hidden under many layers of paint.
To cut a long story short I ended up replacing several spokes, most of the felloes, but retained the hub, rubber tyre and steel rim which were refitted. Once its had a new coat of paint its good to go, back on the carriage.