In the 19th and early 20th centuries a blacksmith and a wheelwright were essential to the everyday life of many folks. The blacksmith produced anything from tools to toys and the wheelwright kept the carts and wagons in good repair. A wheelwright was a maker and repairer of wheels and wheeled vehicles.

Overtime, designs were developed to include a wheel rim made of wood called felloes (the wooden ring supported by spokes), and a one-piece metal ring called a “tyre” that would be fitted around the wooden felloe.

Before you are two essential tools that wheelwrights needed once wooden wheels had metal rings installed.  This process was called shoeing the wheel.

The final stage of making a wheel involved the fabrication of the iron tyre to fit around the outside of the wheel. This was a job for the blacksmith who worked closely with the wheelwright.

The wheel and the iron hoop that formed the tyre, had to be precisely measured, so the hoop was the correct size for the wheel. The iron hoop was fitted when hot and, as it cooled, it contracted to hold the wheel together.

A tyre bender (to your right) was used to bend and shape flat metal stock into metal rims for wooden wagon wheels.

Steel tyre benders were made from cast iron and steel, double geared with four cogs to unite the upper and lower steel rollers. There are adjustable guide collars to keep the iron in line while it is being bent.

Equally as important as the tyre bender in making a properly fitted metal shoe is the wheel shrink (to your left). After the metal ring was cut, then bent (using the tyre bender) the two ends were hammer-welded together, that is, the forging of two metal pieces together with a hammer with the metal red-hot.

The measurement for the ring was critical to ensure a proper fit.  If the ring was too large the wheel shrink was used to compress the ring.  This was done by heating one section of the ring, placing the ring in the wheel shrink and compressing the metal together until it was a tight fit or even a little bit to snug to go on the wheel.

Once the ring was within the proper tolerances, the entire ring was placed in a fire to expand it so that it would now go over the felloe.  Then it was quickly cooled with water before it could burn the felloe.

For extra-large wheels, multiple men using large hammers and working together, pounded the ring onto the wooden felloe, quickly cooling it with water.

Bob Tullock Sr. showing a few of his many "test brands" at the Blacksmith Shop at the Templeton Historical Museum
Wheel shaper at the Blacksmith Shop in Templeton, California
Heating a wheel at the Blacksmith Shop at the Templeton Historical Society Museum in Templeton, California

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