Working With Wagons and Carriages (Part One)

“Keep the shop and the shop will keep you.”

Wood Axles

To set wood axles is the most difficult piece of work that comes to the blacksmith or wagon shop of our time.  In shops where wagons are built, they have their methods of setting the axles, but it is different in the repair shop.  To make a wood axle with cast skeins on, one simple method is to set the wheels up on the floor as you would wish them to stand when they are on the axle; that is, to a plumb spoke.  Then take a straight edge which is narrow enough at the ends to go in through the box; see that it rests on the boxes at B, and you will notice that it is a space between the straight edge and the box at A.  Now, this distance or opening is the amount to be taken off from the axle at B.  See Fig. 50.

Wagon Axle

After the axle has been cut off this much, measure the inside of the skein at the point, and make a circle of the size of the timber, so that the bottom of the circle will run to the bottom edge, and be one-sixteenth of an inch more turned toward the front side of the axle.  This will give the gather while the first cut will be for the pitch; the rest suggests itself, and I shall only add that after the axle has been fitted for the skein, heat the skein until it is too hot to hold with the bare hand, then drive it on, and it will be a good tight fit when cold.

The pitch in an axle will be right if the spokes from the floor on the inside stand plumb, and the gather should not be over three-eighths of an inch in a wagon.


In putting in wagon spokes, care should be taken to get the tenons of the spokes; that is, to fit in the hub of the same size and taper.  Spokes are generally driven against a rest, so that they all stand to the same dish when driven.  They may stand against the rest, but if the taper has been different, the spokes will stand in a different angle when the tire is tightened, for the spoke will then be drawn down tight, and if they are tapered different, they will give differently, and the result is a crooked and wabbling wheel.  Use glue in the hub, especially in carriage work.  In repair work, when one spoke, for instance, is put it, it should be fitted to the same taper of the old spoke.

In repairing carriage wheels with patent hub, be sure to remove the rivets, for this must be done to get a chance at fitting the spoke; and when the spoke has been driven, replace the rivet and set the tire.

Back Dished Wheels

I have already mentioned the method best adapted to remedy back-dished wheels, but wish to state again that the only sure remedy is to put in new spokes with more slant on the inner side of the spokes.


Steam bent rims or felloes are sometimes giving the blacksmith and wagon maker a good deal of trouble in putting them on over the spokes, especially if the wheel is low and the rims short and heavy as in truck wheels.  When the spokes have been prepared and the holes in the rim bored, begin with one end, and hammer that end on as far as it will go and not break the tenons; then have a hook to draw the spokes together with, and, if need be, straighten the felloe out.  This can be done with a screw buckle or wedging it apart; if this is done there is not much danger of breaking the tenons of the spokes.  The tenons of the spokes should not be cut off lower than the rim.  If they are cut off lower, as many wagon makers do, the bearing will all be on the narrow shoulder around the tenons in the spoke, and the result is that this shoulder will sink into the felloe, and then you have a loose tire or a felloe bound wheel,-probably both.  Cut the tenons off even with the rim, and they will rest against the tire, and help hold up the burden, which otherwise would rest on the shoulder of the tenon.

Wagon Pole

Pole hounds are often broken, and, in replacing these, care should be taken to get the hounds on square, or the pole will stand to one side and the wagon will not track.  When the hound has been shaped so as to have the right angle, clamp it on with a Taylor clamp No. 25 on the longest end, and a Taylor clamp No. 20 or No. 24 at the small end.  Now take an iron rod ten feet long, and measure from the draw bolt on both sides and to a point in the center of the pole towards the tip or holdback.

The distance from this point should be the same on both sides to draw the hole.

When this measure has been taken, bore the holes that go to hold the hounds to the tong, and then bolt the hounds to the tong.

If this is done with care, the tong will run the wagon straight.  If your jobber has not the Taylor clamps, send to James L. Taylor Mfg. Co., Bloomfield, New Jersey.