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Wooden Axles and Steel Wheels...

Jim Koehler

Last Subscription Date
Hi guys...
Been a long while since I've been to this good forum but I'm finally getting around to restoring my 3 hp Novo/Bean Giant Pump/ 300 gal. wooden tank with agitator orchard sprayer wagon. Got the mechanical end of this project going pretty nicely and it's now time to hit a lick or two on the wagon itself....

My biggest concern now centers upon the wooden axles that are connected to the steel wheels. The ends, after scadyeight hundred years, have finally rotted out. Yesterday, I jacked the wagon frame up and I'm in the process of removing both axles. These axles are about 5" square and about 50" long without the wheels. I'm not a woodworker nor do I have the tools to do a job like this. I would also need guidance on where I could get one of the wheels either repaired or replaced.

Living on Long Island, NY, are there any companies that specialize in making axles like these? My idea is to drop off the axle/wheel sets to the shop that would do the work.

Any info would be appreciated....

Andrew Mackey

Last Subscription Date
Re: Wooden axles and steel wheels...

You might check for info on wheelwrights in or near Lancaster PA. The Amish do this all the time, and do exceellant work. 3 hrs from you I know, but the work will get done in a timely manner, and the sight seeing is good! You might check in with the Rough & Tumble Museum in Kinzers, PA (7 mi out of Lancaster), I am sure they have contacts in the local community.


Last Subscription Date
Re: Wooden axles and steel wheels...

Hi Jim,
I (along with an excellent team of volunteers) take care of the wagons at R&T. What we can't make ourselves I use Hansen Wagon and Wheel out in South Dakota. They are very nice to deal with and very knowledgeable.
The local places I know of are mainly for buggies.


Re: Wooden axles and steel wheels...

Axles can be a challenge, the taller the wheel the more critical your layout will be. The main issue is your tread on your wheel needs to be squarely on the ground, all wood wheels and many iron wheels have a dish in them, the bigger the wheel wheel the more dish you usually have. If your wheel is canted then the wear will be on the inside of the tire, on a wood wheel the rim will cup and ruin your fillies if only the inside touches the ground. On an iron wheel it just looks painfully fouled up. Now say on a Webber, Baine or similar wagon, you have cast iron skien on a farm wagon, steel one on a mountain rig. They have a tapered hole for your wood axle to seat in and normally a large lag screw in the center of the threaded wheel nut on the outside to pull the wood up tight. Normally, in the day, the axle was made on a duplicating machine like a gun stock, furniture leg or anything else that is wood. A tracer followed a pattern (your old stub if salvageable) and a mirror image is carved on the new oak blank. There are several different ways you can do this if you do not have access to a carving machine. (I do encourage you to try to find one, its easier) You can take the blank and add to both ends, then figure your taper, the taper will not be the center but more flat on the bottom. You can drill two holes in the end of each axle when you figure your tapper and where it will be, drive pins in these holes to center on the lathe with the headstock up and the tail stock down so it wobbles in a scary way. Lathe your head stock side off and then flip, doing the opposite, you end up with a tapper on each end with the flat at the bottom. You then need to carve the rest of the more square part of the hollow. WHen you get close, charcoal dust or blue chalk dust can help you find the high spots and some rasping, sanding and a couple days of "almost" work can get you a nice tight fit. If you don't have a lathe you can mark out your design and use a radial arm saw or even table saw to cut a series of slots close to your finished surface, you can then knock them out and hand work it down. Hundreds and probably thousands of home built airplane props are flying around that are done just like that. Lots of work, yea, I do it all the time, the key is ending up with the same wood space on your axle between skiens so everything works, its easy to get a 3/8 or 1/2 to wide but when that happens you got to keep carving to bring it into spec. Its not hard, just time consuming but you will have a better understanding of tappers, measurements and carving when your done.