Sunday, February 15, 2009

Well, yesterday sucked....

In the cold, dismal morning the new owners of my Frisian/Percheron gelding, Oberon, came out to the stables to pick him up. I've had to face the fact that I've buggered up my back so badly over the years that horseback riding has had to move into the category of 'used-to-do.' Though he's had draft training, I haven't: and it's a big and time consuming skill set to develop. Even if I had someone to teach me around here, I probably couldn't manage it, and trying to teach yourself something involving 1800 easily startled and fast pounds of "I'd really rather be back in the barn eating hay, thanks just the same" is definitely not smart.

So though I haven't been able to do much with him in the past few months; and logically, paying feed, vet, farrier, and stable fees for a pasture ornament--no matter how pretty--just isn't in the cards, it's still a wrench to say goodbye. He's going to a good home where he'll be spoiled rotten and played with regularly, which is important to me, but still...

When I got back home I figured I'd get to work on the spokes for the dog-cart wheels... nothing like makin' sawdust to cheer a fellow up. I decided the wheel diameter should be about two feet. Why? Jest seemed right--it's one of those aesthetic things. Thus the spokes ought to be 9" between hub and felloes, which gives a wheel diameter of 9"+ 9" + 4" + 1.5" + 1.5" = 26" ( spoke length + spoke length + hub diameter + felloe thickness + felloe thickness ). Allowing for shrinkage, and tenons into the hub and wheel, meant I needed to cut and split enough oak billets to get 16 spokes (12 spokes plus 4 spares for when I screw up the tenons, count on it folks, screwing up at least one tenon is a given) each blank about 13" long. The length of oak I had that came down in the storm should have given me enough billets, to quarter by splitting, 20 blanks, though I figured that I'd probably only get two quarter sawn blanks from some of them due to grain run out, knots, twist, etc..

No such luck. After cutting the trunk off the stump in the cold and drizzle (the whole day it only rained while I was outside cutting, sheesh) I hauled the log down to the shop and cut 5 billets. Then I grabbed a wedge and sledge hammer and went to work splitting. I was unhappily surprised that the healthy appearing oak (it only came down because a much larger white pine further up the hillside fell over directly on it) was infested through the center with wood boring beetles.


I now have some split oak for the firewood pile and a growing concern about some big oaks near the house. Said wood pile btw being freshly delivered after the last storm when we were beginning to run low, is made up of some nice oak that I spent an afternoon cutting into smaller lengths to fit in our small woodstove, all of which are therefore now too short to use to make spokes.


However, I'm led to rethink splitting the spokes from billets. In discussion with a wheelwright many years back (eight and eleven twelfths, to be precise--it was on my honeymoon) who makes reproduction wagon wheels the old fashioned way as a docent in a living history museum, he mentioned that sometimes spokes were shaved down from saplings, rather than being carved from billets, in wheels intended for light use vehicles, like fer instance, dog carts.

Don't get excited--the dog carts he meant were very light, 19th century, horse drawn carts with a high seat over boxes/cages used to haul hunting dogs to the fox hunts. The thing is, I have a surplus of small oaks (less than 4" diameter). It might prove more economical of time and resources to use some of these saplings, which would also be good forestry as many of them are growing too close together and to more mature trees.

It would also make logical the construction of a springpole lathe. A drawback is, since I never bought a lathe also I never bought gouges and chisels appropriate for wood turning. IIRC Roy Underhill (a personal hero) did a show where he made a springpole lathe and the first thing he did was turn handles for gouges and make more gouges.

So it's entirely possible I may decide tonight to cut a few saplings and shave/lathe the spokes. The more I think about it the better I like the idea. For one thing, it would let me use lengths of the trees I'm going to have to cut anyway to make the poles.

I've also started working on the molds to cast pewter buckles and fittings for the harness. A dog-cart pulling harness looks just like a bridle for a horse, so I can use examples from a book on period horse tack fittings found in London--and hey, bridles I know!

So now it's off to help my Lady Wife tape sheetrock for a while...


No comments:

Post a Comment