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Re: Wooden wagons....and such

Poster: David KUIJT <kuijt@umiacs.umd.edu>

On Sat, 4 Apr 1998, Corun MacAnndra wrote:

> Now I'm just wondering if Earl Dafydd has done any research on hand pulled
> wagons and wains. Sounds like an area that we need to look into and perhaps
> an Oak (or even TI) article is in the offing. Hmmmmmm.

Quite a bit, actually.  In fact, I've had a period wheelbarrow or cart on
my project list for some years, and a quarter-built wheel for it in my
basement.  I've got period illustrations, some archaeological dig info,
pictures of reconstructions from 14th and 15th century wheelbarrows, and
so on. I also have "Lost Crafts" books describing wainwright and
wheelwright work. 

Put simply, it goes like this: wagons are easy; wheels are hard.

Period wheels are not planar (flat) but cupped, for a number of very good
reasons (single wheels as for wheelbarrows excepted).  They are held
together by no glue, by no pins -- the rim of the wheel is a single metal
band that binds the pieces together.  The rim is made exactly the right
length so that it expands just barely enough when heated (in a circular
fire) to slip over the wheel; when it cools it shrinks and binds the
pieces tightly together.  If the rim is too small, it won't go on.  If the
rim is too large, it will come off in use.  If it is too thin it will
break (the whole wheel is under tension).

I haven't had the time to invest in making progress in this project for
some years, partly because I do not possess the technology of making a
wheel-rim (a single circular loop of soft iron exactly the right length).
I had hoped to find a matched pair of old wagon-wheels (the sort of thing
yuppies put in the yards or gates of their single-family dwellings) in
good enough shape to use, but I've had no luck in that so far.  The Amish
still make wagonwheels, and you can buy them from them, but they cost $300
or so for a pair.  At this point I cannot afford that.

I could probably make a two-wheel wagon appropriate for a merchant's
wares, or for carting three or four people's armour, in a single long
weekend -- IF I had the wheels.


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