When I am not making videos or writing books most of my time is spent being a Wheelwright. Historically this would be defined as someone who made carriage wheels, however these days it is also the repair of carriage wheels, as there are very few new carriages being built and those that are rarely have wooden wheels, which I suppose is why its a rare trade.
I was going to say its a declining trade, but I don’t think it necessarily so. At last count there are about 30 wheelwrights in England, and there is probably enough work for 31. Last week at the Worshipful Company of Wheelwrights dinner I had the pleasure in meeting a new entry to the profession and heard about a new apprentice. I also heard of some retirements, which is just about right, enough to keep the trade turning over and the skills alive. If 20 workshops suddenly started up it would destroy a trade.
This week I have had a customer bring me 10 wheels for repair of which the picture shows two, from set of four off a Bow Top Gypsy wagon which he is restoring, and that’s this weeks work. I thought I would post the before picture, and if you want to see how I get on press subscribe to get the next update.
As you can see the wheels are in a sorry state, but its not as bad as it looks at first glance. The Hub and most of the spokes are solid, its just the Felloes ( the wooden rims) which are riddled with wood worm and need to be replaced.
When I learnt the trade I was shown a method of making charcoal making use of the offcuts created in making a wheel, baked over a fire, which is also a perfect way of disposing of wood wormed wood, so guess what we are doing at the weekend. If you want to know more have a look at the video https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=TH6RrY8oWd4