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wooden wheel reconditioning


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I have a 1913 Overland speedster, I want to strip the wheels back to natural and varnish.

Can I take the wheels off the steel rims and expect them to be tight when I put them back?

I have a torch and can heat them carefully to expand the rim to get it off.

I am concerned about putting them back after blasting and powder coating.

They are a Std Universal #50 with locking lever....34 x 4.5 tires

I would appreciate some comments, this is the first time I have done this

I am also wondering where I can get the high head carriage bolts that hold the hubs on, 3 of the wheels have them the 4th wheel uses std. head carriage bolts

I can make them in my lathe, but its probably quicker to buy them...

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Upon close measurement, they are 7/16 x 2.5L, not 1/2...the head is .860+/- the paint, the nut is a 13/16 nut, NC, and thinner than normal.

I am thinking to just MIG some extra metal to the heads of some standard carriage bolts and machine the half- hemi head, then I do not have to deal with the square, and the threads.

How many do you need?

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It may be risky to take the steel rims off the wood wheels. I understand why you may wish to do so ; and that you wish to remove any and all rust.

Old wood wheels can be big trouble~

The wood spokes may all come apart if you do this.

They also may be loose after you re-assemble them.

It is a big risk.

If the wheels are solid now and straight and not too dried-out I would leave well enough alone and refinish the steel parts while still on the wood spokes. You can refinish the wood to natural or painted at the same time also.

To remove rust and dark water stains from the old hardwood you can use wood bleach such as oxalic acid from many paint stores. Be sure to neutalize the acid bleach with baking soda & water mixture.

Repairing 100 year old wheels is a real art !

Sort of like barrel making~

It's almost a lost art in many places.

The steel rims were designed to be put on hot and shrink & tighten firmly around the hardwood spokes when first built !

This holds the entire assembly together tightly.

They were not designed to be taken apart later; much less almost 100 years later.

By the way~

Here in Pennsylvania there are still several old-time wood wheel makers. Most are Amish or PA Dutch craftsmen.

You would be shocked to see how great the new wood wheel quality is on their reproductions.

The cost is usually well under $300. per wheel !

Turn-around time is very fast too!

This may be a better option as new hardwood is far stronger than almost 100 year old dried-out cracked /split and loose or possibly warped old wood wheels.


You may just find that the wood spoke wheels may never really tighten-up again later when you try to put them back together !

It is a big risk~

You might end-up having to have new wood wheels made.

New wheels could possibly be an option to consider. Especially if you plan to do any sort of long distance touring in the 1913 Overland speedster ? !

New hardwood wheels are very strong indeed !

Possibly 20 times as strong as old hardwood wheels !

Old wood spoke wheels may not be at all very strong after all these years~

Do you have any digital photos of your great project to share?

We would enjoy seeing some of them posted here !

Good Luck !

Edited by Silverghost (see edit history)
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If your wheels are straight and the spokes tight I would not remove the rim. They can be beautifully restored. I have a large touring car with 26 inch wooden wheels that I refinished 50 years ago. I have put at least 100,000 miles on this and the wheels are still tight. There are ways to restore loose and stained wheels with Kwik-Poly but you will have to paint the wheels. I dipped my wheels and bleached them with oxcilic acid then painted the rim, originally I used red lead which is still on there today, and then painted them black. Today ectching primer works just as good. Then scraping, sanding and varnish.

However, it's hard to beat new wooden wheels if you car afford them.


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  • 3 weeks later...

Do not use standard carriage bolts in any wheel, not strong enough, lots of stress on wheel hardware. Find some #5 or #8 carriage bolts. Do not weld the heads up if you want them to stay on, use epoxy, heating them that hot changes the strength in a negative direction.

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