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I Forge Iron

Heating a tire for 57" Civil War era wheel

David Einhorn

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Here is a short video showing the heating of a 57" outside diameter iron wheel for American Civil War era reproduction canon wheels for my Traveling Forge. Dwight is shown cranking the blower. We didn't know that we were being filmed by our wives.

YouTube - Heating a Iron Tire
Second view of heating iron tire for wooden canon type wheel

The photo below shows the tire being cooled after the tire is mounted on the wheel.
Maybe I can find a shareware video editing program now that I have figured out how to post videos to UTube. Any constructive suggestions? :D


Edited by UnicornForge
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Perhaps the best available source of informaiton on the subject is:
Morrison, Bruce; Joyce Morrison (2003). Wheelwrighting : A Modern Introduction. Cottonwood Press. pp. 371 (Spiral-bound). ISBN 0973194707. http://www.astragalpress.com/wheelwrighting.htm.

I am afraid that these are the best pictures that I have for the moment, as I can't both take pictures and work on stuff at the same time. I had to learn mostly on my own, as the local guild's ex-professional wheelwright and other wheelwrights were unwilling to share information. Other books I posted on Wiki that might be interesting:

Wheelwright - Wikipedia

The difficult parts were figuring out how to do it, and making the tools necessary. Being able to accurately measure and cut the parts to close tolerances is crucial.

I am working on trying to document the steps, and tricks to making a canon wheel, a slow process since I am building/making tools, photographing and documenting as I go though the various steps, and trying to finish a Traveling Forge and other projects at the same time. It is amazing the number of little tricks and stuff that I have discovered along the way that is not mentioned in any book that I have seen so far, as well as some information that I have seen in books and on web sites that is simply just plain wrong or inaccurate.

Edited by UnicornForge
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One of the Foxfire books also had a great example on how to make these wheels. From making the hub to the iron process.

I believe that was Foxfire 9 (sorry, its been a few years).
That issue features the largest documentary of the entire Foxfire series, that of Georgia blacksmith Judd Nelson making an entire farm wagon from scratch, Box, running gear, neap, wheels, everything. This segment also contains by far the most photographs in the foxfire series, they did an outstanding job of capturing the whole process. The wagon was donated to the Foxfie museum and remains in their permanent display.
Judd Nelson was a founding charter member of ABANA and took part in the first national convention back in '69 (?) '70 (?) when ABANA was initially formed.
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From your clip I couldn't tell what was going on. It looks like you heated only a portion, but I thought the whole rim gets heated to maximize expansion.

You are correct. We heated a section, then rotated the wheel to the next section. Ideally one would heat the whole wheel at the same time, but local ordinances for fires were and are a concern.
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I think it was Judd Nelson, and IIRC ABANA was formed in 1973? Dave, the only book I have that covers setting a tire is A. Watson's "The Village Blacksmith" and he shows a wheel in a vertical position being spun thru a trough of water to quench the tire. Is this one of the incorrect techniques you mention?

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  • 2 weeks later...

The usual way of heating the whole tyre was to use a circular bonfire made from smallish (up to fag packet size) blocks of seasoned wood; Shops that did this a lot had a sort of 'oveny' structure. The iron only needs to heat to a dull red. We found it needs four people on a wheel that size to drop the tyre accurately onto the wheel and apply the water quickly enough. looks like you found a better way!
Wheels much bigger than that were often shod with strakes if insufficient heat/manpower was available.

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