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I Forge Iron

My Wagon Project

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Well, here is what I have completed on my wagon project to date. (First pictures showing old rotted front assembly I used as a pattern and last pictures showing progress to the new front assembly so far...)


I hope to have a complete wagon done by the NWBA/Western States Conference in August. The progress has been slow and much more work than I thought...I figured the wood work would take longer than the blacksmithing, however this turned out not to be the case. All of the hand-made nuts and bolts, brackets, and so forth seem to take me forever! One more day of work and I should have the wheels on the front assembly, then I can start working my way back to the rear assembly. (I figure I should be an expert at making hardware by the end of this project....LOL.).

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Awesome start!!! I have the running gear from a late 1800's Deere Wagon that was used on a local ranch. I have plans to do a similar project and build a chuckwagon...just trying to find the time and energy to make it happen. I'm looking forward to seeing your project through to completion.. Keep up the good work!!

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Nicely done Jeff!!!

I knew you were a glutton for punishment but my hat's all the way off to you now.

I probably won't be able to make it to the WS conference, budget and schedule just aren't lining up.

Keep us posted on how the project goes!

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Thanks Guys. I'll keep you posted. I made some more progress today, just one more bracket and two small bolts and the front assembly will be done! Then I can start working on the rear axle, once I purchase the hardwood lumber that is....(Hardwood is really expensive, especially in large sizes.).

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I wish David. That's one thing I haven't learned YET....The broken down wagon I bought had four good, all iron wheels that I'm going to use. (Real heavy duty). You may be able to see them in the background of the pictures in my messy shop. This week when I finish up the front assembly I will bolt on the front wheels and take some pictures to post.

I would like to take a wheelwright class someday.......

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The front assembly is now done and the wheels are on. I didn't have time to take pictures yet, I will in the next couple of days and post.

I started on the rear axle today. Something interesting, while tearing down the old rear axle to get dimensions I found that the original manufacturer of the old wagon didn't seat one of the rear axle bearings on all the way. They missed the mark by about 3/4". Well, it worked all these years until it rotted beyond use.

It's amazing how much blacksmith work there is on this project. Mostly all hardware, braces, and brackets. Towards the end of the project will be the real blacksmith challenge I believe, the seat springs and the brake assembly. The old wagon is missing both and I will have to research to find dimensions to go on. Part of the fun!!

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There are a lot of books available on carriage building that might help, if you are interested, such as from:

Books & Videos on Horse-Drawn Vehicles at: Wild Horse Books: www.wildhorsebooks.com/)

Some of the books offered by WildHorseBooks.com
.. Historical Guide To Wagon Hardware & Blacksmithing Supplies, reference for identifying wagon hardware and tools
.. Horse Drawn Carriage Construction, by John Thompson, useful for full size and model makers, 70 pages
.. Horse Drawn Carriages, by John Thompson, plans & illustrations for full size and model makers, 100 pages
.. Hitch Wagons for City Driving, a book dedicated to the 5th wheel hitch wagons with some plans included
.. Historical Vehicles in Miniature, the Genius of Ivan Collins, by Ron Brentano, 104 pages
.. Horse Drawn Carriage Catalog 1909 Elkhart Mfg. Co. Over 350 illustrations
.... etc, etc, etc....

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Thanks for the book list David! I will look into them...

I did buy the book "Practical Carriage Building" by M.T. Richardson. Also, I found a great article in Foxfire 9 titled "The Jud Nelson Wagon" in which the whole wagon building process from start to end was documented. It was good luck that I found a cheap broken down wagon where enough was there for patterns, also.

Speaking of books, I just received by mail the 1914 first edition (Special edition reprint) of Machinery's Handbook. It has a section on forging, forge welding, and standard tong sizes amongst other blacksmith related sections. Also, it has the info. I needed for standard square nuts and bolts dimensions. It was also fun to read the section on leather belt standards for over head shaft drive systems.

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  • 2 weeks later...

So, here is an update on the wagon project including some pictures. I have the front wheels bolted on and everything looks okay. I have the rear axle started, and in the pictures you will see the rear wheels bolted on, but this is only temporary to align things up and take some measurements in order to start on the rear hounds. I had a problem with one of the rear wheels in that the hub wasn't wide enough for the bearing leaving a gap between the hub and the wheel nut. I fixed this problem by forge welding a ring out of 1.5" flat stock, then tapered this ring making a sleeve that fits the bearing and taking up the slack. I don't have pictures yet of the sleeve, I will include them later.

These pictures are taken at my other (small) blacksmith shop from this last weekend........


I hope to have the rear axle completed by this weekend so that I may start on the bed and box.....

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A trick to fit iron parts to wood is to rub the iron/steel part with graphite, then firmly press the iron against the wood, then separate the parts. Wherever the graphite rubs off onto the wood is where wood needs to be removed. Depending on how close a fit you want of wood to metal is the choice of tool and how aggressive the tool removes wood. A rasp will remove wood faster than a sharp scraper, but the slower the removal the finer the fit between the parts. The process is repeated until the parts fit together.

I recommend reading the carriage building books rather than the Foxfire or "blacksmith" books on carriage building, because there are two ways of constructing wooden wheels and wooden carriages, the careful way and the quick-and-dirty way. The quick-and-dirty way usually calls for *hot* fitting parts. Yes it is quick. Yes it was and is done that way, but the result is a layer of ash between the iron parts and the wood that can cause looseness of parts over time.

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Thanks Ian.

Thanks also David for the advice. I did come to realize the condition you mentioned and what I did was pull off the bearings and sanded the ash away until the wood was clean then re-heated the bearings, but not enough to burn the wood and finished the job. As soon as the bearings were on I poured water over them to shrink the axle to the wood for a tight fit. The dark / burnt wood you see in the pictures I just haven't sanded yet to clean up, but I will.......

Oh, also there is an 8" lag bolt holding the bearings tight up on the tapered axle as well. I use Foxfire as picture reference only, I do have the carrage books you refered to.

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