Colins Wagons

My Godfather, Colin, is a curious fellow really. By and large he keeps himself to himself, but the visitors he does receive might notice some unusual things beyond his vegetable patch. Inside the ramshackle sheds of his garden there is a museums worth of agricultural archaeology: seed drills, butter churns, stationary engines, hand tools, ploughs, carts, traps, tractors and wagons. Colin and his brother Stephen have been restoring, amongst other things, two Oxforshire bowrave wagons. Colin’s was built in 1881 and Stephen’s in 1901. They were found in a nearby village, just two miles away from where they were first built. The brothers have even managed to track down a photo of the wagonwrights who built their very wagons!  Both needed much work to bring them back to a useable condition and unsurprisingly the felleos (rims) of the wheels had suffered the worst.As luck might have it Colin remembered a familiar object lent up against a tree in a nearby field. With permission from the land-owner, he summoned some helpers to help drag it back to his garden. What he had found was an old tyring platform. This is a large disc of iron that is sunk into the ground and used when fitting a wheel with an iron tyre.A wagon wheel is constructed of three different woods. The nave or hub is constructed of Elm; chosen for its tight grain that resists splitting. The spokes are Oak, selected for its structural rigidity and the felloes are made of Ash because of its shock absorptive properties. The felloes are in five pieces per wheel on their wagons and all needed renewing. This took a significant amount of Ash and an awful lot more time and research. The circumfrence of the finished felloes are made one inch larger than that of the iron tyre. This means, in theory, that when the tyre is heated in a fire it expands, allowing it to be hammered home over the assembled wheel. It is then immediately quenched to prevent damage to the newly carved felloes, and to quickly shrink it into place. This pulls the five felloes together and tightens up the joints, also drawing the spokes into the nave. If done well, this should make for a strong wheel that will last another one hundred years. If you make a mistake during the tyring then it could result in having to cut the tyre off again and roll and weld a new one, or cutting out the felloes resulting in tens of man hours wasted.

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