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A wheelwright is a craftsman who builds or repairs wooden wheels. The word is the combination of "wheel" and the archaic word "wright", which comes from the Old English word "wryhta", meaning a woodworker as in Wheelwright, Shipwright and Arkwright This occupational name eventually became the English surname Wheelwright, along with Arkwright and Wright the latter pertaining to all woodworkers. Similar to metal workers being called Smith.
These tradesmen made wheels for carts, wagons (wains ), traps and coaches and the belt drives of steam powered machinery. First constructing the hub (called the nave), the spokes and the rim/felloe segments (pronounced fillies any wheelwright will tell you the spokes are just to keep the nave from the fillies) and assembling them all into a unit working from the center of the wheel outwards. Most wheels were made from wood, but other materials have been used, such as bone and horn, for decorative or other purposes. Some earlier construction for wheels such as those used in early chariots were bound by rawhide that would be applied wet and would shrink whilst drying, compressing and binding the woodwork together. After many centuries wheels evolved to be straked with iron, a method of nailing iron plates onto the felloes to protect against wear on the ground and to help bind the wheel together.
Over millennia the overall appearance of the wheel barely changed but subtle changes to the design of a wooden wheel such as dishing and staggered spokes helped keep up with the demands of a changing world.Read more...
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