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June 03, 2013
Some of you will remember an earlier report about a curious yet magnificent antique tool I found at a metal yard in Oregon. The seller deduced it was a rim drilling machine. Attempts to date it suggest, late nineteenth century. But nothing definitive.
I asked for insights, but no offers. My goodness, is this archaeology or bicycle mechanics?
This is a tool for a shop with rim blanks in various diameters. Drill the blank on the spot for the wheel in need. A Morizumi for rims. How satisfying would it be to drill each rim to order and cut each spoke to length? Like a job in colonial Williamsburg!
I admit my first visit to Wiliamsburg was just two years ago. Of course I went straight to the Wheelwright. Fundamental land transportation in 17th century America (besides walking) was a combination of horses, oxen, and carts. Wheelwrights handled the carts and they varied from toys to log haulers to luxury coaches for dignitaries. But wheels are the key, so they were known as wheelwrights, not wagon makers.
I had a great conversation with Paul Zelesnikar, Journeyman Wheelwright, who ran the shop. Great insights into ancient history, wheels, dish, diameter, cant, etc. on various vehicles. I had always presumed 16th and 17th century wagons had tall wheels on account of uneven terrain. No, they were tall because it is preferable to have the wheel center close to the same height as the point of attachment to the pulling animal. Improved efficiency for all concerned. Ox and draft horses are tall and tall wheels were often the best choice.
After just a few minutes with the wheelwrights, I wondered if I have as much in common with them as with my bicycle colleagues. Am I a wheel person who specializes in bicycles or a bicycle person who specializes in wheels. Hmmm.
Back to the spoke drilling machine. The project is underway and I can predict restoration and reassembly will be complete later this month. That's going to be a photographic opportunity.
In the meantime, Donna (co-wheel fanatyk) caught a scene of the refinishing. First, all parts were lightly blasted, mostly cast iron pieces. They were primed with standard hot rod gray, then followed 5 coats of gloss black enamel.
Here is our impromptu paint booth. A suggestion of a wondrous machine headed towards reassembly, use, and widespread appreciation.
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