Some Thoughts on Wooden Wheels

The following are some thoughts that came to mind while watching the video included at the end of this post.  I've made hundreds maybe thousands of wheels using the hole saw method. It works, and it can work well, but as with anything, there are pluses and minuses.

I would never use vegetable oil to finish anything. Vegetable oil can and will eventually go rancid and can mold. If you want to use an oil and beeswax finish, use mineral oil. Mineral oil will not spoil.

Wheels should have spacers between the wheel and the body. I use nylon washers, but metal washers will work. If you do not use spacers, the wheels will rub against the body. Not only will this remove the finish and eventually wear into the wood but the additional friction increases the rolling resistance. Sometimes to the point where the wheels slide instead of turning.

Always dry fit you axle pegs with the wheels if they are too tight or too long and you don't know this before you add glue, you could ruin the toy. Once you start inserting the peg with glue on it, there is very little chance of getting it back out without damaging something. I've had to cut wheels off, drill out the dowel, plug the hole and drill a new axle hole. That is where I learned about how important it is to dry fit.

Remember that wood expands and contracts with changes in humidity. Your holes might be slightly larger or smaller than when you drilled them two weeks ago.

1/4 inch dowels may not fit in 1/4 inch holes. They probably will not fit.

Round dowels are not round. When measuring dowels with your calipers, measure in several locations. You will probably discover that your 1/4 inch dowel is only approximately 1/4 inch.

Wood glue causes the wood to expand slightly. If it is a tight fit and you have to force it in dry its going to be even tighter when glue is applied.

If the excess glue has no place to go, it can split the wood or come out someplace you did not expect. I have used hammers and various clamps and vices to force and axle peg into place. It doesn't always work

If the parts fit as they should, you don't need much glue. I always get too much.

I don't like driving pegs in with a mallet or hammer. You have more control using a clamp or vice padded of course. Less chance of breaking something too.

When sanding the wheels on a drill press be sure to sand lightly on the edges or your wheels will be out of round as the sandpaper will cut slower on the end grain. Use a jig and a sanding belt or disk to get near perfect wheels.

Flat sawn wheels may not stay round and might warp, cup, or twist. Wood does not expand the same amount across the grain as it does with the grain. It is good to let the wheels sit for a while before using them. They are usually OK but, It would not be good to have a wheel shaped like a potato chip after it sits around for a few days.

So my wheels would all be the same size and at least start round I always used a jig with a stop to sand the edges of the wheels. Using this method I can make a hundred wheels and have them all come out the same size. Using a jig like this and a belt sander with 60 grit sandpaper you can drill a hole in a piece of wood, mount it on the jig and sand it round. If you do this indoors, you better have an outstanding dust collection.

Wooden Toy Wheels for Model A Norm Marshal
Wooden Toy Wheels for Model A Norm Marshal

Wooden Toy Wheels Steering Wheels for a Norm Marshal Model A Toy Car
Wooden Toy Wheels Steering Wheels for a Norm Marshal Model A Toy Car


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