A Method for Making Engine Cart Wheels

A straight-forward method for making antique engine cart wheels.

Spokes cut

Spokes cut and laid out with completed rim.

Photo by R.E. ''Buzz'' Bradley

Content Tools

I've always felt I could build my own engine trucks if I could find wheels. Well, I looked for wheels at garage sales, junk piles, flea markets and antique shops, but with only limited success. When I did find them there would usually only be one of a kind, and if I was lucky maybe a pair. But one thing was consistent, they were always expensive.

That's when I decided I would try to make my own wheels. I bought a 20-foot joint of 3/16 inch x 2-inch band-iron. I first figured on 8-inch wheels, which meant I could get eight wheels from one joint. A local fabrication shop cut-rolled the band iron into 8-inch diameter circles, and I then went on to welding them up and making the rims for the wheels. Next I took scraps of -inch plate and cut out 8-inch circles using a circle-cutting attachment.

Next, I laid out an 8-inch circle (8 x 3.1416 = circumference) on poster paper and divided it into five equal portions, using the lines I had drawn for the centers of each spoke. I made each spoke 1-inch wide at the outer edge and 1-1/4-inch wide near the center of the wheel. I leave the center of the plate about 1-3/4-inch, and draw the spokes back to this point. After laying out and cutting the template into a circle, I transfer the points on the line to the steel center with a center punch. After center punching you can scribe the lines on the centers. At the juncture of each spoke I drill a 1/2-inch hole so that when I cut out the spokes they appear rounded out where they meet the center of the wheel.

Next I cut out the scribed portion of the wheel between the spokes, using a Porta-Band saw (down to the outer sides of the inch holes drilled earlier). Then comes cutting the holes for the center. I cut out a circle big enough to accommodate-inch threaded black pipe collars and drill out the centers with a -inch drill bit to accommodate the-inch axle I use (don't drill out the -inch collars until after the wheel centers are welded to the rims and the collars are welded into the center). Next I weld the wheel centers into the rims, centering them up from side to side in the rims. After the centers are welded into the rims, I place the wheel flat on a welding table and weld in the pipe collars.

I have now started making some 10-inch wheels (using the same process of laying out on poster paper first,) for the back of the trucks. The 10-inch wheels take a little more than a full 20-foot joint of band iron. I used the 20-foot joint plus I welded the scrap left over from making the 8-inch wheels onto the full joint, which made it long enough to get eight 10-inch rims.

Making the templates out of light sheet metal would make them more durable for future use, but in some measure it would depend upon how many wheels you are planning to make. For now, this simple, straight-forward process has worked well for me, and just about anybody with a welder and a little time can build attractive, functional wheels on their own.