Assembling a Model T Wheel

For early (wood-felloe) wheels, I leave the work to a professional wheelwright who has the expertise and the equipment to do it right. But steel-felloe demounasble wheels are a good do-it-yourself project. John Regan has designed a press easily made at home to handle the job. Plans for it are here.

Several years ago I used the Regan press to assemble a pair of rear wheels, and had no trouble. John did point out one thing I was doing wrong in this picture. The felloe should be free to center itself, so I should not have bolted it to the press. Fortunately it was well centered and the bolts were not a problem, but since he mentioned that I don't use them.

When it came to assembling a front wheel I assumed it would be the same as the rear wheels. But I soon found out otherwise. One thing that is no different is the cardboard collar I tape on the hub to hold up the spokes as I arrange them in the press.

All seemed normal as I arranged the twelve spokes in the felloe.

But the more pressure I applied, the more cockeyed the hub became. Obviously front wheels are not like those rear wheels I did before.

So I had to turn the wheel over, press the spokes back out, and start over.

I needed something to keep the hub straight. Round wood blocks or washers of the right size might have worked, but I made these.

This time I lubricated the hub with candle wax the help the spokes slide into place. 

I also waxed the spoke bottoms where they had to slide against the hub and each other.

This time the hub went down straight.

Another difference I discovered with the front wheel is that the hub protrudes down into the press far enough that I had to put the wheel up on 2x4 blocks to get the hub all the way down. 

Next came drilling the holes for the bolts.

I made this jig for drilling the holes straight. Apiece of half inch pipe drilled out to 5/8" went over the all thread. A piece of quarter inch pipe drilled out to 23/64" went over the 23/64" drill bit stuck in a hole.  I clamped the cross piece at both ends, made sure it was square, and welded the pieces together. I use the jig to drill 23/64" holes, then run a 3/8" bit through them to let the bolts fit.

I was careless in using wheel bolts of unknown origin. Two of them suffered stripped threads like this, so I replaced them with bolts from a known source: R.V. Anderson. His products, including wheel bolts, are correctly made and of high quality.

His email is rvmodelt@netsync.net

The penultimate step is to cut off the ends of the bolts about 1/16" inch from the nuts and stake them with a punch so they'll stay put.

Finally a fresh coat of paint makes it pretty.