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restoring wood wheels


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I have taken apart 2 wood wheels on my 1929 Dodge DA6 in order to restore them. I have cleaned and painted the felloe(?)rim and hub and have sanded and varnished the wooden spokes. I am trying to put the assembly back together.I have tried with no luck to get the spokes back in the felloe rim straight and with the holes in the spokes lined up w/ the holes in the hub. I hate to hammer too hard as I'm afraid I'll break / dent a wooden spoke not to mention damaging the finish I've put on everything. I hate to sand the sides of the spokes where they meet as I'm afraid I could have loose spokes in the wheel. Any tricks to this? Should the spokes be in some kind of order? Should I have taken them apart to repaint/varnish? Any help is appreciated.

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Bob:

You have to reinstall the spokes by making them look like a teepee and then forcing them into the holes. I do it several ways. The easiest is to put a styrofoam cup in the middle ant arrainge the spokes with the tennons fitting in the hole and the center setting on the cup. You need to then use a bottle jack or bumper jack or long threaded rod to push the spokes in all at one time. The easist way is to lay all this on a 5/8 sheet of plywood that you have drilled a hole in. put the cup over the hole and run a long threaded rod through the hole and put a large nut on the bottem with a washer. on the top end of the rod put a piece of flat steel with a hole drilled in it and on top of that put a large nut. When you tighten the nut it acts a a clamp and will slowly force the spokes in. Do a search on this forum as I posted pictures last year on how to do it.

Have a nice day.

Jan Arnett

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Jan,

Thanks for the info. I think I understand your process. I did search through the forum for your photos and could not find any. I did find where you did use a bumper jack under stairs to press the spokes in at one time. I also found where someone said to mark the spokes from the valve stem and put them back in the same order, something I think I should have done. I also saw where many people don't take apart the wheels at all (if in good shape) and just scrape the spokes w/ glass and/or razor blades and then sand for the final finish. I am just starting to rerestore my car and had taken the wheels apart once before on the car back in '73 and it was no problem. I used a rubber mallet on the back of the spokes and tapped gently around in circles until they were flush w/ the hub. They drove great; no wobble.......I think I did forget the step of marking the spokes this time. Anyway, thanks for the info.

P.S. Looking through all these posts I've seen a lot of info. I can use for my project!

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Jan, just wanted to let you know your idea worked great. I arranged the spokes the best I could according to possible fit. Put the spokes up on the cup teepee style and pressed between 2 pieces of plate steel with the threaded rod, nuts and washers. When the spokes were down I used a rubber mallet on the upper back (flat where drum covers them)side of the spokes to make a tighter fit against the hub. The wheel looks great and finish is intact. Thanks for your advice.

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Harry,

I don't know if they are fully hemispherical as they are somewhat flattened. Anyway, when I first took the wheels apart in '73 I threw the old carriage bolts out as they were heavily rusted....maybe I shouldn't have, but I was young and didn't know a lot about restoration. I bought new carriage bolts then that are rounded at the top, a square shank that fits into the square holes of the hub and threaded the rest of the length. Put a lock washer and nut on them within the hub.....these are the bolts I cleaned up for this recent restoration. I have seen these at good hardware stores and at Lowe's so aren't hard to find. Hope that helps.

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Bob...Your story sounds alot like some of mine; as, I tore down the car I am presently restoring in the late seventies and threw away or lost some parts I should have kept. I don't know exactly about Dodges like yours; however, most of the wood spoke wheels I have seen have hemispherical bolt heads on them as compared to partial hemisphere most modern carriage bolts have. Thanks again for the post.

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A quick warning about restoring wheels:

My favorite memories of my youth are all of running around in an unrestored rust red 1920 Dodge Brothers with old potato sacks for seat covers and they were about the newest looking thing on it. One of the wheels started to chatter so they all got taken off and restored.

We then had an ugly beeter with bright blue wheels and brand new white-wall tires on it.

About ninety days later we had a restored car that nobody enjoyed nearly as much.

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That's a good story! I bought my car in 1971 with paper route money. I was 15 and my dad taught me how to drive it. It was not in the greatest of shape; just a 42 year old car. I wanted it to be my main car...I was young and didn't even think of having to drive it on a freeway....not much of highways around in Connecticut at the time anyway. The only way I learned about the car was to take it apart and clean / restore it. With the help of a neighborhood mechanic I restored the car and drove it everywhere, including to college. After 3 decades of move, career, etc. and not any maintenance the car currently needs a lot of work. My car when done will never be a contestant for an auto show; it will be a driver as she always has been and I'll learn about all her quirks all over again. I hope to enjoy double-clutching with the windshield open and sitting on some scratchy mohair upholstery while touring around with friends and family. To paraphrase an old book I read once by Floyd Clymer; while new cars may have superior speed and roadability there is nothing like the sense of wood, oil, leather and case-hardened steel in an old car....anyway, restored or not old cars (for me earlier than around 1930) are just a lot of fun. Thanks for sharing your 1920 DB "beater" story....I can just imagine a "barn-fresh" looking car w/ potato sack seat covers running around with the newly restored bright blue wheels and whitewalls! Sounds like a good time!

P.S. I took out my floorboards 2 weeks ago and was cleaning out the space between the body and frame on the driver's side w/ a shop-vac. I saw something gold and used a screwdriver to fish it out. Turned out to be my dad's 1949 class ring. The last time he drove the car was when he was teaching me how to drive it in 1971...he must have lost the ring then and it just stayed lodged there over the years until now! He's gone now, but maybe it's a message for me to persevere on the project.

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Harry,

Yeah, I'll bet I could have restored those original carriage bolts I had, but I just didn't know at the time. Now that I think back 35 years (somewhat hard to do) I do remember those bolt heads being fully rounded and black....I think a somewhat smaller head too....didn't even think of the aesthetics like that at the time. Good luck with your project.

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