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Thread: Turning elm for wagon wheel hubs

  1. #1
    Join Date
    Jul 2009
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    Marinette, WI
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    Turning elm for wagon wheel hubs

    Ok so I am going to start with the hubs and Rod Sheridan has informed me they used elm (Thanks again Rod) because it has a good resistance to splitting. The hubs are some were around 10 to 12 inches in diameter and will have guite a few deep mortises to hold the spokes. Now I was wondeing how dry of a piece should I start with? If I leave it sit to dry as much as it can or have it kiln I would assume if it does not split it shouldn't split after it is done, or should I use a slightly "greener" piece because when the hub is done it will have steel bands shrunk fit around it. Woops never mind if I do that the bands will loosen as the wood dries and shrinks, right? Oh I also have access to my buddies 12" rotary table horizontal and vertical so spacing the mortises evenly around the hub should be pretty easy. If anyone has another Idea on the type of wood I should use I'd be glad to hear it as I have not found the pieces of elm I will need yet. Remember these will be completely decorative and my dad has informed me if I can turn out some good looking ones his buddy who owns a log home wants two to hang as chandiliers like you see in a lot of magazines.
    Remember, if the women don't find you handsome they should at least find you handy!

  2. #2
    Dustin, check out this website.

    http://www.customwagons.com/wagonwheels1.htm


    I've never really had the urge to build a wagon but I've been interested in them for some time. The hubs I've seen are not made from a solid piece of wood. They're usually made from several pieces and banded with an iron band on the inside and outside. I've also heard that Lignum Vitae was the wood of choice for the bearings because of it's hardness, resistance to wear, and oily self-lubing nature. This sounds like an interesting project. Keep us posted.
    Last edited by Curt Fuller; 08-28-2009 at 12:43 PM.

  3. #3
    Join Date
    Jul 2009
    Location
    Marinette, WI
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    Curt your link does not seem to have showed up. I am only taking on the wheel challenge, not going for a full wagon. (yet anyway)
    Remember, if the women don't find you handsome they should at least find you handy!

  4. #4
    I would think you'd want the hub to be slightly green, and the spokes and wheel to be as dry as possible. The iron/steel rim is usually heated up to expand it, and then driven on to the wheel. This way it shrinks onto the wheel, and won't come off easily.

  5. #5
    Join Date
    Jul 2009
    Location
    Marinette, WI
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    Yeah but the hub also has two rings on each side that are shrunk on so I would assume when the hub dries it could shrink a little and the rings could loosen up.
    Remember, if the women don't find you handsome they should at least find you handy!

  6. #6
    Join Date
    Mar 2007
    Location
    Plymouth, Wisconsin
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    The art of building wagon wheels is something that is almost lost. Typically the hub and the rims would be green and the spokes would be dry. Thus when the hubs and rims dried they would shrink and be tight on the spokes. (They did not use glue in those days) Once the whole wheel was dry the metal rim which was undersized would be heated in a forge to expand it's size and then put on. When it was cooled it shrunk and tightened everything up.

    My grandad used to be farmer and made a lot of his own stuff so I have heard a lot of stories. Never build a wheel, but it sounds like it could be fun.
    Trying to eliminate sandpaper - one curly shaving at a time.

  7. #7
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    Jul 2009
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    Marinette, WI
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    I like original idea the best. Thanks Kim think I will try it just like you said.
    Remember, if the women don't find you handsome they should at least find you handy!

  8. #8
    Join Date
    Jul 2008
    Location
    Atikokan, Rainy River district, Ontario
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    Dustin I still have worked on wooden wagon wheels, just for a few years after WW11 there was a shortage of everything in my native Holland, and the wooden wagons and wheels were used and fixed when needed.
    As we had the blacksmith shop and machine shop, and the the wheelwright and wagon maker across the street from us, I have seen the how and what was used.
    The wheel hubs were made from native Oak, (no native Red Oak in Europe) out of one piece with a wide iron band on the back side and a wider ring on the front (outside), it had a cutout for the steel wedge to keep the wheel on the axle, so the axle didn't have to stick out from the wheel, a fitting piece would cover the opening, (I know of one person that lost a piece of his thumb when he added grease to the axle while it was turning, with that cover off and the thumb got pinched right off by the wedge and wheels band.
    The reason for the Oak is that wood like Elm will rot away much faster when getting wet and then dry as would happen with those wheels going through mud and water and sitting outside in all weather.
    The axels used were steel and the ends where the wheel turned on was tapered, the wheel hub had a tapered cast iron sleeve inserted so it turned quite easily and lasted a long time.
    In dry summers the wheels would shrink and we would get a stack of wheels from the farmers to refit the bands again.
    We still had a hand cranked machine that used to be used for shortening the band by forcing the white hot metal shorter, but in the time I helped with the wheels we would just cut a piece out and weld the ring back together.
    We had a special setup area for doing the wheels, we would heat several rings at the same time and there was a big used mill stone (one piece) where the hub would go into, so the wheel would lay flat on the stone.
    The rings would lay on bricks and bundles of wood would be stacked inside and on and outside the rings and burned till the rings would be red hot, a ring would then be lifted and quickly hammered onto the wheel, and the wheel was then very fast hung between two poles on a shaft, where it was turned with the rim going through a trough filled with water, while others strew buckets of water over the hot ring to cool it down, as the wood would start burning from the red hot ring.
    The hubs were made from dry wood and a little tapered so the hot sleeves could be driven on tight, this was done before the spokes were fitted in, mind you these were working wagons, not the lightweight wheels for carriages.

    If there's anything else I can help with please ask

    One more thing the spokes where also tapered with long square end, and hammered into the hub, all was tightened by the outside wheel ring.
    Last edited by Leo Van Der Loo; 08-28-2009 at 12:43 PM.


    Have fun and take care

  9. #9
    Oops, forgot to include the link. Here it is..

    http://www.customwagons.com/wagonwheels1.htm

  10. #10
    Join Date
    Feb 2008
    Location
    Spring Lake, MI
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    My grandfather was a farmer and blacksmith from the old school way of doing things. I know he made working wagon wheels out of solid elm with at least one metal band for reinforcement. He liked elm for its resistance to splitting, but I'm not sure if his elm was green or dried. I doubt if rotting was much of a problem as the hub was infused with grease on the inside and often pitch on the outside for wet conditions.

  11. #11
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    Jul 2009
    Location
    Marinette, WI
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    Thanks a lot for the info Leo. Even though these will be decorative I always enjoy doing things as authentic as I can. I enjoy working with both metal and wood so that was my primary reason on giving these a go. Do you have any idea on how they built the outer wooden piece of the wheel that the steel went around? It appears on the ones I have to be only two pieces of wood both bent in 180 degree arcs and were starpped together with a diamond shaped plate. I also have all the original metal pieces even though the cast inner hubs. I do plan on making a new steel outer tire though, my original has worn pretty thin. For that I'll be using a slip roller don't have the time/patients to hand forge.

    I will be taking some pics of my old ones this week and I'll post them to see if they look like the ones you use to work with. I'll also keep my progress posted with some pics soon as I find a piece to get started making the hub.

    Thanks Again!
    Remember, if the women don't find you handsome they should at least find you handy!

  12. #12
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    Wimberley, Texas
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    Where is Roy Underhill when you need him?
    Richard in Wimberley

  13. #13
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    Atikokan, Rainy River district, Ontario
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    Dustin the outer rim of the wheel would be made out of more pieces, every piece would fit on two spokes, each rim piece had a round tenon sticking out and the corresponding opening on the other side, so a big wheel could have 6 or even 8 pieces, but IIRC most where 6, but it's been a while :-)


    Have fun and take care

  14. #14
    Join Date
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    Atikokan, Rainy River district, Ontario
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    Dustin here is an original movie from 1932, it is from Finland, it shows the making of a small wooden wheel like were used on push carts, that people like the baker used to bring around there products door to door, so the wheels and the pieces are not as heavy or locked together as the heavy wheels were as I mentioned.
    The Vagnmakiri (wagonmaker shop) shows the turning of the hub and drilling and reaming for the axel, drilling for the spokes and the making of a spoke, and the assembly of a part of a wheel, it isn't the complete making of a wheel but shows you some of what was done to make a wheel, it should help you in understanding and the making of a wooden wheel, have fun and take care .

    http://svtplay.se/v/1371071/oppet_ar...004,1,f,103007


    Have fun and take care

  15. #15
    Join Date
    Feb 2008
    Location
    torrance, Ca
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    I just watched the video and was quite impressed with the speed at which the guys work, very and very precise.

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