Sunday, January 25, 2009

Stay tuned

It's been a busy week here at McKennawerks. Since the stove died we decided to go ahead with part of the kitchen remodel in order to install the built-in oven/microwave and a new cooktop. Since I like to both be able to cook and to eat, and make coffee, that went to the head of the the to-do list. We also made a buncha progress on turning the old garage into a combination guest bedroom, laundry room, 1/2 bath, and den in time for my eldest daughter and hubbies next visit. This all involved moving a large amount of building materials from where the had been stored in the garage to the workshop. Right now my workbench and assembly table is buried under a huge pile of lumber, plumbing parts, and miscellanous "I'll just set this here for now."

I did get a good bit done on the buckboard style bed, and made some new wheels, and I'm nearing completion on an essay about the Djebjerg and Hochdorf wagons and how to incorporate their sytles into smaller wagons.

Anyway, I should be posting some more pics and plans soon, as well as the essay.

So stay tuned!


Friday, January 16, 2009

plans, page 4

It's been an interesting past few days here at the McKennawerks. Interesting along the lines of the ancient Chinese curse: may you live in interesting times. First the pellet stove in the workshop died--and it get's cold down there of a night, then the oven died. Lemme tell ya; disassembling an old England pellet stove is a P.I.T.A. The lower feed auger motor is fried (sigh) so it's going to be chilly in the McKennawerks for a while. On the oven front, we bought a floor demonstrator of a built in microwave/oven unit at MegaLoweMart a year ago for waaay below list that's been sitting in storage awaiting phase 3 of the kitchen remodel. So can you guess who's been installing an oven, hmmm?

Anyway, time to get back to fun stuff.

Some points that have occurred to me to note in the last few days.

More concerning tires; theoretically, one could use bandsaw tires. This would require carefully cutting the wheels to fit the tire, and possibly dadoing the rim as well. I've never tried it myself, and given the cost of bandsaw tires compared to auto heater hose, don't intend to. But it is an option that would probably work.

I was asked to clarify how to keep the wheels from coming off. In a purely philosophical sense, I'd suggest temperance, moderation, forethought, and maintaining a sense of optimism in the face of adversity. As to wagon wheels--in a typical axle/wheel assembly the wheel is held on by a hitch pin slid through a hole drilled near the end of the axlerod. In order, from side to side, is a hitch pin, fender washer, wheel hub, fender washer, axletree, fender washer, wheel hub, fender washer, and hitch pin.

Hitch pin, fender washer, outer hub

Inner hub, fender washer, axletree
Fender washers are somewhat thinner and have a smaller hole in relation to overall size than standard washers. When you assemble them all the parts should butt tightly together. You may need to add extra washers if you are off in drilling the hole in the axlerod. The way to do it is: make the axletree and wheels, the slide the axle in place, and place the washers, then mark to drill the holes.
I want to point out again, that this isn't the only way to do things. I use a variety of approaches in my wagons. Each one is different. It keeps things fresh or me. Don't be afraid to innovate when you make your wagon.
I also want to again mention that woodworking is craft. If the parts were made from metal or plastic, fairly stable materials, and machined to close tolerances, you could just cut up all the parts and fit them together. That doesn't work with wood. Especially when you are making mortise and tenon joints. Make the parts in a logical sequence, and test and fit each piece as a you go.

Let's talk about how to make the wagon usable for dog drafting.

Let me preface by again noting that I am not a dog person, have never drafted dogs, and have no intention of doing so. I have studied wagons and carts, and crawled in over, under and around many working and historical examples. I do own a draft horse (a handsome black Frisian/ Percheron cross) and have worked with draft tack.

A dog cart is not appreciably different from a harness racing sulky, except for size and some of the arrangement of the traces given the different anatomy of horse and dog. I've spent the last week or so doing some extensive googling and reading on dog drafting. A reader (thank you Lady Teresa) sent me some links that hadn't come up when I googled them. There still aren't many dog cart plans out there that I was able to study: three, in fact. One is a variation of the pvc plans published several years ago (which amazingly enough I saved, and even more amazingly found where I filed them), one is a very basic wooden cart, and one is a more elaborate version very similar to a sulky, which has cold laminated bentwood parts.

But it's really not a very difficult to construct, and the plans are all similar in dimensions. I'm eventually going to address how to make the traces. But if you're really into dog drafting I figure you'll already have that info, or have been to the same websites I went to. So onto how to make this puppy...
The dog drafting poles assembled to the axletree

You'll recall we made the more decorative front axle tree. Now we're going to add in mortises for the hounds for the poles. Again, I do it this way because it breaks down for transport. You can simply attach them to the axletree with glued butt joints, and make the dowel disassemble instead. I'll show a mock up of this, too. I had the hounds already from an old project that I never went anywhere with (I never throw anything out ;-)

Note, this method will not work with the tongue we had used on the basic version. So we'll also need to do a tiller with hounds.

If you don't have a hollow chisel mortiser there are a couple of ways to do the mortises. First is to drill out the center of the hole then trim with a chisel and file. If you have a decent sabre saw and a good blade you can also use the sabre saw to nibble out the corners after you drill the hole. If you have a table saw and clamps you can rip the axle tree, into 3 pieces, one the width of the mortise, then cut mortise-wide pieces out of the piece that's the width of the mortise and glue them back together. The glue joint; if you use titebond II or gorilla glue, is actually stronger than the surrounding wood.

Here we see the hounds with the crossbar installed. As I noted these were sitting around the shop. I'd suggest that when you drill the hole for the crossbar don't drill through the hound all the way. Drill the hole about one inch deep and it will hold the crossbar in place--like on your average toilet paper holder.

To make the hounds take a 2x2 piece of stock and trim of 1/4" of each side on the table saw to a 4" tenon with your tenoning jig ;-) Ok, I admit it, I've had a neato Delta tenoning jig for years, and I still use the router or dado blade to make tenons--but Norm would use the jig ;-)

You want the hounds about 8.5" long total, with a tenon about 4" long. The cool way to attach the tenon is to use a wedge, but I usually just drill a hole that slightly underlaps the axletree and use a piece of dowel as a wedge.

To make a wedge mortise; if I really want to be fancy like when making a Glastonbury chair, I use the hollow chisel mortiser, but for wagons I go with the simpler, if not quite so meticulous method of drilling and smoothing with a dremel.

In order to taper the mortise for the wedge we need to make a simple jig. Cut a wedge at 15 degrees from the end of a piece of 2x4, flip it over (remember all that stuff from high school geometry about opposite interior angles :-) and set the the hound on it in the drill press and drill straight down. Then remove the wedge and finish drilling out the mortise.

Oh, yeah! Very important when you make the hounds mark the top and port or starboard of the hounds. You're cutting the tenons to fit the mortise, and as Justin Wilson used to say, I gar-on-tee that if you you've cut them with test fittings due to wood variations they'll only fit one mortise one way tightly. I suggest port and starboard rather than right and left, because if you use right or left sooner or later you'll be wondering, was it my right or... Make sure you cut the mortise so the taper is wider at the top.

Once you've drilled out the mortise, clean it up with a small sanding drum on the dremel. Cut the angle on the wedge to 15 degrees and round the edge to match the diameter of the drill bit. This method works best if you use a 23/64" drill bit, and a piece of 3/8" plywood for the wedge. Remember 3/8" plywood is narrower than 3/8". It fits the dremel sanding drum perfectly. This produces a nice tight mortise, tenon and wedge.

The Poles

The poles can be made of straight stock, say a 1x2. But with a little more work we can produce a nicely tapered set of poles. If you look at the plan you can see how to lay out the tapered rip cut on a 1x4. You can do this cut with a sabre saw, but it's very difficult to do a long rip cut with a sabre saw without a "ripple" to the cut. If you have a table saw you can do the long straight cut as a "plunge cut" with an improvised taper jig.

To make the taper what we want to do is pass the piece we're cutting through the table saw at a diagonal. The problem is our rip fence and blade are parallel--the system is designed to keep the edges parallel. The way around this is to rip a 6" wide piece of plywood (I always seem to have lengths of luan sitting around the scrap pile) and temporarily attach the work piece to it at an angle.
First rip the plywood strip, then move the fence in about an inch and do a plunge cut to rip a slot almost the length of the ply.

Then mark up the workpiece as in the plan's cutting diagram. Then line up the slot in the jig piece over the angled line on the work piece and attach them together with brads. Flip over the pieces. Use a set square to set the fence so that when you plunge the workpiece down on the blade the cut will be in the slot.

You'll want to mark your rip fence to line up with where the blade comes up through the table so you know where to stat and stop the cut. Here I've used masking tape on the fence and marked across the workpiece where the cut is to stop.

Here the workpiece and jig have been plunge cut about 5" in on the far end and ripped down to about 5" from the near end. You can see the jig went through straight, but the poles have been cut in a mirror image taper.

Remove the workpiece from the jig, and finish the cuts with the sabre saw. Attach the poles back together, one atop the other, and use the sander to match their shapes. Round the edges over. Then drill them for the crossbar. Mount them in the hounds on the crossbar and measure for the splinter bar. Cut and glue and screw the splinter bar in place. In this version I've butt jointed the splinter bar to the poles, but if I were serious about dog drafting, I'd probably go the extra step and dado the joint.

Here we see the poles assembled to the hounds. The splinter bar is the crosspiece cut from the same 1x4 stock as the poles. The swingle tree is attached to the splinter bar with a carabiner. The eyes at each end of the swingle tree will be attached to the traces.

Here is another view of the hounds, poles, splinter bar, and cross bar.

This doesn't have anything to do with wagons except it was hanging on the wall near the pole assembly. It's the hovercraft (minus the skirt) my daughter Caitlin built for her 5th grade science fair project.
I'm sure when I reread this tomorrow I'm going to find all sorts of things to add to it, but I've been working on it for five days and it's time to post.

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

I just read an interesting article by Marjorie Nice Boyer, "Medieval Pivoted Axles" in Technology and Culture, Vol. 1, No. 2, Spring 1960 (pp128-138, pub. Johns Hopkins University Press, JSTOR URL: <> requires access agreement through an academic, corporate, or library setting).

Ms. Boyer wished to counter the claim that pivoted axles were unknown in the medieval period. Alas, I find her argument to be mostly unconvincing. Her main premise seems to be "why would the people of the middle ages give up the use of a technology well known to the ancients, when to do so pretty well renders a wagon useless?"

That's what I've said! And indeed it doesn't seem to make sense, but...

We have extant ancient and roman, even late roman, examples (grave offerings) with pivot and underlock; and we have iconography of ancient and roman examples with pivot and underlock. We have no extant remains of a medieval wagon with pivot or underlock. We have no iconography that shows pivot or underlock. I am willing to concede that one of the iconographic examples she cites may show pivot, but again, none show underlock. Her analysis of medieval account books showing the purchase of wagon parts is (at least to me) unconvincing.

One cannot make the claim that in a picture that is very detailed in all other aspects, when it comes to the running gear and undercarriage lacks the detail showing the pivot as 'artistic convention.'

She also mentions the Oseberg wagon, but I have to regard this as inconclusive; and she only cites the sources that claim it was pivoted. The Oseberg remains could have a pivoting front axle, and the curved bed of the wagon would give it some underlock. But analysis over the years by undeniable experts in the field of archeology is not in agreement. The most recent analysis seems to indicate that was pegged in several places through the bolster and axletree locking them in place.

The thought that medieval people would have abandoned such a useful technology is hard to accept, but it remains that there is no reliable evidence to the contrary that is not colored by that premise.

I suspect that in truth they did have minimally pivoted axles, but did not use underlock. But this remains supposition, not supported fact.


Monday, January 12, 2009

Wood moves

Wood moves.

Joints in wood move.

When we build with wood we are using a material that is inherently lacking in dimensional stability. Wood continually takes in or gives up moisture depending on temperature and humidity of the air and the piece of wood. As it does this it expands and contracts in size. Air dried wood is less stable than kiln dried, and it varies with different species , as well as with, or across, the grain and finish on the completed piece. Plywood is more dimensionally stable than boardwood, and manufactured wood like chipboard,particle board, and masonite even more so.If you go to an antique store the proprietor will tell you that the loose legs, split tops, end grain cracks, etc. are part of the charms of a handcrafted item with natural materials, so you should buy this old piece of junk that's falling apart: because flaws are charming.

Well, perhaps "flaws" are not so charming when they're from errors, but the marks that something was handcrafted and has attained a patina of use are. Make your wagon to the best of your abilities, but don't let "the best become the enemy of the good." Don't avoid making a wagon (or any other project) just because you can't produce the equivalent of a "royal coach."

I think it was Tage Frid who said something to the effect that the accuracy required for joinery in fine woodworking exceeds the accuracy obtainable by our measuring and marking devices. This impacts our wagon building in several ways.

We obtain a tight and true joint by trial fitting. We cut close, then trim, file and sand closer. The beginning woodworker should cut further from the line than the experienced woodworker. Take your time.Don't expect that you will cut pieces to the exact dimensions on a plan, and poof! it magically fits perfectly. Wood isn't like that. Be aware that if you make a nice tight egg-crate joint (for example) unless you keep your wagon in a temperature and humidity controlled environment forever, sometimes the joint is going to be too tight, and sometimes it's not. I always bring a "persuader" (sometimes called a mallet) with me to events for when they're tight, and you can shim if you need to when they're loose.

If you find that you've cut the joint too loose to start with don't worry, there are a bunch of fixes. For just a slight over-width take a piece of heavy paper wet it with glue and apply it to the side of the joint. In effect you're papier-macheing in a permanent shim. For a little bit wider error you can tack and/or epoxy in a shim of sheet metal, for an even wider joint: leather. And if it's way off the reservation cut a wood patch and glue it in place.

As I've noted elsewhere, I like wagons that breakdown for transport, but you can glue/screw the joints if you are willing to sacrifice portability for security.

Some other tips:
-- use the same ruler for all measurements and cuts, they're all just a tiny bit off from each other.
-- a "story stick" is a piece of wood that you mark of one measurement on to transfer it to another piece. In many cases the actual units of measure don't matter nearly as much as the relationship of the parts.
-- you can't cut a long perfectly straight line by hand, use jigs or fences to guide your saw
-- dull tools screw-up your work. Don't economize with old, worn, blades or bits.

Most of all, when you roll up your new wagon to your friends at an event they are going to be hugely impressed and complimentary, trust me, you'll see a conglomeration of every flaw-- they'll see a wagon.

You really can do it.


Sunday, January 11, 2009

Plans, page 3

Plans, commentary

Whew! That was fun (not). It's taken me longer to do the documentation than it did to build the wagon. That's probably some sort of universal constant though...

I've gotten the plans on two pages so far. I think the type fonts work for the bitmap images and the size is adequate, with adequate detail in the plans. Next is to finish the modifications to the basic wagon, with pics, and post plans and instructions. I need to redo the materials list, too, so it's not from memory and has everything listed. Plus I just noticed the tongue and tiller aren't on the plans. Poo. Well, I've been sitting here in front of Fafnir (which just happens to be in the coldest corner in the house) for long enough. I'm going to have a hot chocolate with Bailey's Irish Cream in it and read a good book by the fire for a while.

If you notice anything that looks like an error on the plans, or is confusing, or whatever, please drop me a line.


Plans, page 2

Plans, page 1

Saturday, January 10, 2009

Don't worry, I have a plan

Okay, this has been painful; but I think I'm getting to where I can turn out something legible. Eventually the files will be available as vectors in .wmf, .cdr, or any other format CorelDraw supports, but the .wmf file is huge (259mb) so that'll be for later. This is a test of the .bmp using the wheels page. Hope it works....


Thursday, January 8, 2009

On to the fancy stuff

Decorative axletree and tongue

I'm still working on the plans in CorelDraw. Two steps forward, one step back, but it's getting there.

When I couldn't stand it anymore I went down to the McKennawerks and played with the toys. We're moving on from the plain jane version to a dressier one, with more bells and whistles. This starts to move us beyond the realm of the very easy, but it can be done with basic hand tools still, but a contractor saw and a router make a big difference. Any way we're going from the old axletree to this one. So how do we get there?

First was to run the crappy piece of shop scrap I used across the jointer and through the surface planer. A little sandpaper and we've got a nice piece of wood.

Here's where we start to move from plans to art. I can't tell you how to strike the curves for the axle because I do it by eye with a french curve. But there are a few tricks you can use, and one of these days I'll make a grided version for the plans.

In the meantime, one thing you can do is mark it up on paper. You can put a coat of spray adhesive on the heavy brown paper you can get in huge cheap rolls at the home center, and another coat on the wood, stick it on, and mark away without buggering up the surface of the wood. If you don't like the shapes just keep adjusting them. If you mess up the paper just peel it off and start on another. You can also print out plans full size and attach them to the wood and the peel/sand away the paper after cutting. This is especially useful if you're doing scroll saw work.
So first we attach the paper, then trim it to size. Then I put on various guide marks and lay out the curves on one side with the french curve. Here I've marked the guideline measurements with a Sharpie so they show up better in the picture. After deciding on the curve and marking it I go back with a box knife and cut lightly down the curve, peel off the cut out, turn it over, and use it as a template to mark the other side.

After that it's off to the band saw to rough cut the curves a little bit shy of the line, then the oscillating spindle sander to true it up. After that I mounted a 1/4" round over bit with guide bearing in the router and routed the edges everywhere except the dado for the fifth wheel. Some sanding and we've got it.

The tongue is done the same way. I just eyeball a curve, cut away some wood, spindle sand, rout, and voila. In the case of the axletree I set the router bit to cut a little deeper. The square edge creates visual interest. For the tongue I backed off on the bit and just rounded the edge over on the front half. That's it.

"But wait, McKenna!" you say, "What the heck are those two square holes that suddenly appeared in the axletree?" Funny you should ask.
Those are the mortises for the hounds and whippletree we're going to use to mount a set of shafts, so we can get some work out of that dog that's just been lying around the house, and eating and getting fat and lazy.

The hounds are tenoned so they can be dismounted to allow us to switch back to the tiller when we want to give fido a turn to ride in the wagon while we pull. Cutting the mortises takes about five minutes with a hollow chisel mortiser, or considerably longer with a drill and chisels. I'll be making the shafts and swingle tree tomorrow, and I'll post the complete instructions for cutting the tenons on the hounds and the measurements. 'Til then...

Wednesday, January 7, 2009

Clevis pins

The picture has nothing to do with wagons, it's the 16' clock-tower I built for my Pennsic encampment. It somehow wandered into the wrong folder, so what the heck...

One last thing before I go to bed. I was asked why do clevis pins keep showing up?

Many of the pieces in my wagons could, indeed, be screwed together with less complexity. But I have this obsession with making my wagons able to be easily and quickly disassembled for transport. I won't be offended if you elect to make all your joints permanent. If you'd rather hoist the wagon bodily up into the pick-up bed, or if you're sure that it's never leaving home, by all means use permanent fasteners and/or glue.

I like clevis pins because they're cheap, readily available in a huge selection, and you can use things like nails and bobbypins when you inevitable lose a hitch pin.

Your Megalo-Home-Center probably has a good selection, but if you really want variety, take a drive out to farm country to the hardware store that the farmers use. You will not believe all the cool dohickies you can find in those dusty old bins. If you're not too far away from one, try to develop a good relationship with the guy that owns it. If you don't act like snotty city folk you'd be amazed at what they can help you with. I can go into the one a few miles from home, and the over-alled counter guy will nod, shift his chew, and drawl, "Whatcha lookin' fer this time?" (he thinks it's for my daughter's school science fair projects) and when I describe what weird thing I want to do he'll rummage around, and pull out the most amazing parts. When I made the tripod mount for my ballista in a heartbeat he came up with these giant sized hitch pins that go on a combine harvester that were just perfect.

Of course, if you are a farmer, you already know this.


Odds n' endz

The scanner is having issues. And after looking at some plans for things on some other sites, I have to conclude that a .wmf (windows metafile) which is a vector graphic is so much the better way to go for the plans that I'm biting the bullet and doing them up in CorelDraw. I originally got CorelDraw so I could do coats of arms using the Armorial Gold program and that's all I've ever used it for. So have a little patience folks, the measured drawing is soon to be here in .jpg and .wmf (in fact any file type that CorelDraw x3 supports).

From some emails I've gotten and re-reading over things I want to make a few comments on this and that.

Here's a shot of the pivot pin. It's your basic 7.5" spike. I grind the tip down with the bench grinder, but you don't really need to do that. Remember you'll need to drill out a shallow countersink for the head

Also, when discussing commercial wheels, I forgot to mention wheelchair wheels. Of course, these, too, are mundane in appearance, but they are much easier to mount than bicycle tires.

Some doubt has been expressed about whether or not the rear bolster/coupling rail joint is actually supportive enough to keep the bolster from collapsing under heavy load or a deep rut. Oh, ye of little faith
:-) However, if you can't convince yourself you don't need more, there are some fixes.

First is instead of using one coupling pole down the center use two poles; as I did with this wagon. Set them in the bolsters with the same egg-crate joint.

Another option is to add knees. I would probably make it a little longer from an aesthetic point but the concept is simple. Cut a piece of 2x4 and glue it to the coupling pole only. You get a better looking and structurally superior joint if you smooth the mating surfaces with a jointer, hand plane or table saw. When the glue is dry drill two 3/8" holes through the knee and well into the coupling pole (red outline) then smear a length of 3/8 hardwood dowel that's just longer than the holes and drive it in with a hammer. When the glue has dried, trim off the excess dowel that is proud of the knee.

You can also bend up a pair of hounds. I've mocked up this one with joist strapping, which will work, but a more attractive choice would be 16ga steel barstock. It's attached with 5/16" x 2" clevis pins. I only mocked up one, you would of course want one on each side. Note the black lines over the bends--they are compound bends. I have no idea of angles and such as I always do these by eye. If you're unsure of yourself when it comes to judging these things, do some mock ups in heavy cardstock first. I have a stack of old manila folders I keep in the shop for just that.

These wide jaw vise grips are helpful when bending thin enough sheet stock or wide bars, but you can get by with regular vise grips.


Tuesday, January 6, 2009

Puttin' them dogs to work

So, I googled around and who woulda thunk it? Some dogs can pull up to 2,000 pound loads! OK, a well trained, experienced, large dog, in tip-top shape, for short distances, but still....

And apparently there are organizations of people who like to make their dogs pull wagons and carts, weird, huh? It also appears that there still are no good, free, reasonably easy dog cart plans out there. What the heck, let's fix that.

As I mentioned earlier, I don't know that I use this particular wagon for dog drafting, but clearly medium to large dogs could pull it in competition, in fact, you'd have to add weights. The tongue and tiller are not particularly amenable to use for draft dogs, (I almost typed daft dogs--but that would be the owners ;-) so I'll be posting a modification to the front axletree and tongue for those who want to hitch up a dog (or dogs).

Right now I have to get off the computer for daughter homework time. Back tomorrow...


Load range and other issues

I've gotten some feedback on what we've done so far and I want to quickly touch on a few points, before getting back to working on the measured drawing and more elaborate and prettier versions of this cart.

I had an inquiry about bracing of the rear bolster. The reason you don't see any separate bracing is because; well, there isn't any.

So I guess I ought to address the load range for this puppy--should've done it sooner.

Way long ago we took Caitlin to an event where she slept in her commercial travel crib. We got in late that night, and the following morning when we met our neighbors in the next pavilion they said, "And this must be Caitlin-lie-down!" A deduction based on the litany we'd repeated to her throughout the night. When I built the "John Deere" wagon I thought we'd only be using it to haul Caitlin around Pennsic. Our first night there she said she didn't want to sleep in her travel crib, she wanted to sleep in her wagon, in which she'd played in, on, and around most of the day (needless to say this was very flattering to ol' dad). We packed her in with pillows, stuffies, and blankets, and she was happy as a clam: we never went back to the travel crib.

A year or so later while discussing Viking beds, a friend lamented that he wanted to build a Viking bed for his daughter for their encampment but he couldn't find any plans. I pointed out that rather than build a Viking bed that was only useful for sleeping, it would be better to build a Viking wagon that was multi-purpose.

Thus, the lineage of this wagon is to have a bed 52" x 28" so that it can also serve as a child's bed. It isn't so that it can be overloaded to the point of structural failure! It will handle 3 fifty pound plus kids with ease, but if someone were going to haul extremely heavy loads on rough terrain, I'd suggest adding hounds to the rear bolster and the tongue. I'll cover that modification in a future post.

For the purposes of this wagon, i.e. simple, easy, and quick to build for the skill and toolbox challenged the egg-crate joint of the 2x4 coupling pole with the bolster, combined with the lateral stability of the positioning blocks of the bed is sufficient.

The big wheels make a difference as well. One of the reasons the "Radio Flyer" type of wagon bogs down is those dinky little wheels. Using larger wheels is one of the reasons I moved my designs away from the "John Deere" wagon I built.

In future posts I'll also be showing a completely different undercarriage based on the traditional "double 'A' frame" of heavy draught wagons. Unfortunately, while stronger, this arrangement is more difficult to build because it requires mortise and tenons.

I've been asked about maneuverability. While I mentioned if we had full underlock it would improve maneuverability forward, but I didn't mention backing up. Well, let's be honest--backing up isn't a wagon's strongpoint. You can push the wagon backwards in a nice straight line, but maneuvering in reverse does take a little practice, and again, underlock would improve it.

Oddly enough, dog carts seem to keep cropping up in discussions about my wagons. I've never seen a dog cart at an event, and I'm not sure if it's because dog carting is one of those interesting topics that's easier to study than to do, or if there's a supply problem with dog carts. The last time I looked into dog carts, must be several years ago now, it appeared that the only plans available that are free and easy are for a pvc construction that is jarringly mundane.

I'm not a "dog person" and have no personal experience with pulling dogs beyond watching "Balto" with my daughter once. That being said, I'm not so sure I'd hitch a dog to this particular wagon. Certainly, I'd substitute lighter materials in it's constriction, probably birch plywood, which would necessitate adapting the dimensions. I have no idea what sort of load a properly harnessed dog can pull by himself, but it seems noteworthy to me that dog sleds, which glide on snow, still have eight dogs working. I have to think that with this size wagon you'd be approaching the load limit for a single dog with just the wagon, leaving little left for goods. I could be wrong, though. I also think a wagon for dog pulling would benefit from a completely different running gear from what I've presented so far. I'd want a double "A" frame with two tongues, lighter build, and front and rear hounds, and, for sure, full underlock.

I don't know, it might be intriguing revisit the subject, and maybe build one and blog the process.



Parts, wagon bed

The bed of the simple version is just a plain box, with butted joints. The bottom is a piece of 1/4" plywood 52" x 28", with sides made of 1x dimensional lumber. If you're going that route I'd suggest 1x6 or 1x8. Remember, ends of 1x softwood splits easily. Drill countersunk pilot holes for the screws, or use glue and brads.
On the underside of the bottom of the bed are mounted blocks that hold the bed on the bolsters and coupling pole. I usually use scrap lumber for this because it's out of sight, generally 1.5" cut-offs of 2x4s.
Attaching them is easier with 2 people. To set them, place the bed on the assembled running gear, and holding the blocks butted in place one at a time screw them in.
When this is done you can lift the bed off as needed. The bed doesn't pop-off in use (gravity is our friend) but if you want to be able to lift up on the bed and have it stay attached to the running gear make the front and rear blocks taller and drill through for clevis pins.

Monday, January 5, 2009

Parts, the tongue and "T" handle

Okay, two things. First, Blogspot's editor and preview feature leave a lot to be desired, and I'm still on the upslope of the learning curve, but we're getting there. I've had to go back and re-edit each new post several times because they don't appear on the page like they do in the preview. This is mildly annoying, but I mainly mention it so that those who are set up to follow the posts don't go, "Huh?!" every time a new post goes up. It's taking me an extra ten min. or so after each post to tweak it. If there are any blogspot experts out there who can offer any suggestions I'd appreciate it.
I take that back. this post has been majorly annoying. The problem seems to be with the pics. They are not in the same place in preview as the are in the posted version. Next time I'm going to try cenntering them above the text. This is the last time I'm trying to fix this one.
Second thing is: no tongue jokes. Honestly, in real-life I'm a PA, and I've been an Army medic and EMT. I've heard them all, and none of them are all that funny anyway. Except for the one that starts, "there're these two tongues, and they walk into a bar...." Never mind, that one's not that funny, either...

Okay, three things. I'd quipped earlier that there's no such state of being as having too many clamps, but what if you don't have any? Some alternatives are:

-- Long, 3/4 inch wide strips of bicycle innertube and wrap them around the parts. Even if you do have a rack full of bar clamps, this trick works well with odd shaped parts.
-- Use ratcheting cargo straps. I use these when gluing up shield blanks.
-- Temporarily screw the pieces together.
-- Spanish windlass. Just like the old tourniquet you learned to do in first aid. Wrap a loose band around the parts, slide a stick between the band and part and turn the stick, tightening up the band.
-- Duct tape. You can pull hard on it as you wrap it around the pieces, but it won't give you near as much pressure as the others.
-- Cinder blocks. If one piece will sit stably on top of the other pile a couple of cinder blocks on them.
It's time to coin a new term: tiller. I use this term to mean the piece attached to the tongue that you use to pull the wagon. Strictly speaking this is not a traditional name for a wagon part, but it helps avoid confusion, since on a large wagon the tongue is connected to the axletree by hounds, and in my wagons I seldom use hounds any more.

The tiller can be as simple as a plain piece of 2x2, or very elaborate. The three shown here are a 2x2 with the end sanded to a point, a 2x4 ripped down to allow a roundel on the end, and a tapered 2x4 with the edges rounded over on the router table. The "T" handle, as I've mentioned before should be 1/2" to 5/8" diameter close grained hardwood, and project about 6" to either side of tongue. On this wagon the tiller should be about 40" long.

This is the tiller, tongue, and axletree from a much more elaborate wagon. There are cutaways on the tongue part of the axletree, the whole tiller tapers in both width and height, the edges are routed, and the cheek pieces are fine grained hickory salvaged from an old tool box

Back to this wagon... The plain tongue we attached to the axletree earlier had the end simply cut to a 3.5" diameter circle with it's center drilled out to receive a sleeve and bolt or pin. While a bolt will work loose over time, if you use a clevis pin here it must be tight. You can shim it with washers, but any play between the cheek pieces and the tongue will be detrimental to steering and can lead to failure of the connection. This is the one time I will use a self locking screw on a 1/4 inch machine screw. But it will still work loose over the course of a long event--check it's tightness regularly.
Note that the curves of the two pieces fit together. This produces a far stronger and more stable join than two convex pieces.

The tiller can exert considerable leverage. This wagon was killed by some drunkenly exuberant fighter types trying to be a "war chariot" (I wasn't present at the time). Note that the wagon had successfully carried an adult before, and lots of heavy loads, but when a big guy in armor stood in the bed, and two strong guys jerked hard: crack!

This misadventure led me to redesign the front axletrees on my wagons. Note the metal bar screwed into the axletree and tongue, this is a hound. I no longer use hounds, rather I've beefed up the fifth wheel, but if I were making a wagon that I knew was going to be frequently pulling very heavy loads over rough ground I'd add hounds as well.
This wagon also had both tiller and tongue pieces in the joint convex, which proved less than satisfactory in the long run, though I should point out it made it through 4 pennsics before suffering it's ultimate mishap (and that was abuse). In the year of its third pennsic and subsequent ones, we became a two wagon family. If you think one wagon is useful, two are bliss.

This wagon also has the pivot on the tiller, something I no longer do. The metal plates were added after the bolt pulled through the end of the tiller in about the first fifty feet. Pine 2x2 endgrain has very little strength.

There are several options for the cheek pieces. One that I've used with success is a mending plate with a hole drilled in the center (where the blue dot is here) at one end. A better choice though, is to make cheek pieces from 1/8"x 1.25" x 8" pieces of welding steel flat bar.

This shows the damage that can occur from too much play in the bolt, and too thin a metal in the cheeks. Brass looks pretty, but is far too soft to serve. This is what happens with a moderate load with the cheek pieces made from metal strapping.

This is the arrangement of washers I usually use at the cheekpieces and tiller. On each side from the tiller out: fender washer, cheek piece, 1/2" washer, self-locking nut.


Parts, coupling pole and front bolster

So I got to thinking, there's got to be a way to add arrows and such to these pics. Turns out there is. I'm not sure how well this'll turn out, and may need, make that will need, tweaking. But I'm going to play around with it a little.

The coupling or center pole joins the rear bolster and the front bolster. They are connected with the egg-crate joint we looked at earlier. The pivot pin goes through the center of the joint and into the axletree.

The coupling pole and the front bolster are are joined together by the upper plate of the fifth wheel.

Here are the coupling pole, front bolster, and upper fifth wheel plate.

The coupling pole is a 48" 2x4. To the left is the dado for the egg-crate joint to the rear bolster. It is set 6.5" in from the end, and is 1.5" wide and 1.75" deep. To the right we see the rebate for the fifth wheel and the deeper dado for front bolster.

Cut the dado for the bolster first. It is 1.75" deep x 1.5" wide and is 4.5" in from the end. The rebate for the fifth wheel is 5/8" deep and 10.5 inches wide.

The bolster is 27" long and ripped to 3 and 3/16ths wide. It has a dado on one side centered, 11" wide and 5/16" deep. And on the other a dado for the egg-crate joint 1.75" deep x 1.5" wide. Begin by cutting a 2x4 to length, then nibble out the dado for the fifth wheel and egg-crate joint. Only after the dadoes are cut rip the bolster to 3 and 3/16ths inch wide, taking off the waste on the side of the fifth wheel dado. Look again at the picture of the assembled coupling pole, fifth wheel upper plate and bolster in place. You'll note a small gap between the bolster and the axle tree. The bolster does not contact the axle tree. The fifth wheel upper and lower plates are the only point of contact. If you leave this gap out and have the bolster and axletree in contact at the start, the eventual slop that comes from wear with use will cause them to bind in a turn.

Once the parts are cut fit the egg-crate joint and set the fifth wheel in place. The center of the fifth wheel should be over the center of the egg-crate joint. Attach the 5th wheel to the bolster and pole with 1 1/4" drywall screws. Again, do not screw through through the center.

Using a drill press if you can, or great care if you can't. Drill a hole for the pivot pin perpendicular through the center of the 5th wheel and through the joint.

For a pivot pin I usually use a 7.5" spike. This requires a hole of 11/32" diameter. You can use a long machine bolt with the threaded end cut off, or piece of rod for the pivot pin as well. Don't use threaded rod, as it will chew up the hole in use and lead to slop that will effect steering and can lead to the front wheels "wandering" which makes it a pain to pull. When you've drilled the pivot pin hole in the pole/bolster assembly, go back to the axle and drill a hole at least 4" deep through the center of the lower plate into the axletree.

A word about drill bits. Drill bits come in many flavors. Spade bits, twist bits, brad and spur points, High Speed Steel, etc. has a good explanation for the neophyte of the different types. I prefer Spur Point (and occasionally forstner) bits over spades when building wagons. Forstner bits are expensive but cut beautiful holes without tear out. Spur points cut true and fast with minimal tear out. Spade bits bugger up wood. As I've mentioned elsewhere, buy the best bits. Bargain bin bits aren't bargains if the bugger up your project or go dull in the wink of an eye. If you are new to woodworking, honest to God, you need to practice drilling holes!

When I used to teach woodworking to cub scouts we always spent an several evenings on the basics before we even started a project. It's not true that guys are born able to drive nails. Or that girls can't learn--this is sexist propaganda. The cubbies always looked a me funny when I handed them a hammer, a 2x4 and a box of nails; and told them to hammer nails in a straight line down the board, but they quickly learned a valuable life lesson about hubris and that even simple seeming things take practice and attention to do well.


Parts, the front axle tree

Time to deal with the front axletree. The goal is to end up with the top of the rear bolster/axle tree and the top of the front bolster/axletree at the same height. Here we have the axle tree upside down and can see the lower fifth wheel part and tongue mounted to the axletree. The fifth wheel and the metal corner plates take the place of hounds. We'll assemble the axletree, mount the axle and wheels then determine the width of the front bolster later.

You can see when it's mounted to the wagon not only is it heartlessly plain (in this version), it also permits only very limited underlock. Underlock refers to the ability of the front (steering) axletree to go under the undercarriage for tighter turning. This allows an acceptable turning radius at outdoor events and only occasionally needs to "back and fill" indoors. This lack of underlock is in keeping with our theme from the Djebjerg Wagon.

Later on we'll look at a different version using the same running gear concept with slightly different dimensions. This one is on a later period theme with full underlock. Here I've mocked up smaller front wheels from some shop scraps and thrown a piece of plywood on to represent the bed. You may also notice I've lowered the overall height of the bed above the ground.

Before we go on to the "Plain Jane" version (why is it always Jane who is plain anyway? Personally, I think if a name was going to epitomize plainness it would be something like Irmingard. Oh, well...) this view shows a more elaborate axletree with cutaways, a shaped and tapered tongue, and wooden cheek pieces. We'll cover these when we talk about how to dress up the wagon later.

Here is the axletree set in place with the pivot pin in and ready to roll. You can see that the fifth wheel is actually two wheels resting on each other. One attached to the center pole and bolster, the lower attached to the axletree. On wagons of this size I prefer to have a bolster mounting the upper fifth wheel plate, rather that having the fifth wheel ride under the bed. I feel this arrangement is stronger in that it applies more bearing area for the pivot pin. I haven't experimented with an arrangement without a bolster because I am convinced the pivot pin would rip right out of thin plywood.

Here is the axletree, tongue, and fifth wheel plate. The axletree has been ripped down to 5 and 3/4" wide and the dado for the axle cut and covered by the cut-off glued back on as described for the rear bolster. It is 28" long.

The fifth wheel is assembled from 2 eleven inch diameter disks of (in this case) 15/32" plywood. It really doesn't matter how thick the plywood for the 5th wheel is as long as it is 15/32" or thicker. In this case I had a scrap piece of 15/32, but usually I cut the 5th wheel from the same plywood as the wheels discs.

On the top of axletree is a dado cut to receive the fifth wheel plate flush with the top of the axletree. So it is centered 11" wide, and 15/32" deep. It is secured in place with two 1 and 1/2" drywall screws. Don't screw through the center point because we have to drill that out later for the pivot pin. Once the 5th wheel plate is attached turn it over and we can mount the tongue.

In the plain jane version the tongue is simply a 14" or so piece of 2x4. Mark a 3.5" circle at one end and trim it off to match.

A 3/8" hole drilled through at it's center point. Into the hole insert a 1.5" long, 1/4" i.d. piece of copper pipe as a bearing.

With the axle tree turned over use a square to center the tongue on the 5th wheel plate and clamp it in place. Screw the 5th wheel plate to the tongue, and mount the corner plates.

This has asolutely nothing to do with axletrees. It's Caitlin heading off to sleep in her "Oseberg" wagon at White hart a few years ago.