What Goes Around Comes Around

The Unstyled John Deere Model L

The Unstyled John Deere Model L as it first arrived, with bus wheels on the rear.

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6750 Rattalee Lake Road Clarkston, Michigan 48348

This is a story about John Deere unstyled model L (USL) rear wheels. Not too long ago I bought a tractor that was located in a tumbled down shed, it had bus wheels and tires bolted to the cut-out centers of the original wheels. Along the inside wall of the shed were the wheel parts that had been cut off (or so it appeared). 600 x 22 tires (one blown out), solid rims, and outer cutout wheels. This looked a little too easy, but I thought that all I had to do was weld the wheel halves back together, do a little grinding and the little tractor would be back on its original wheels. When I got around to putting the wheels back together, I soon found out that two cuts had been made on each wheel and the pieces from the second cut were missing. So much for quick and easy.

Dennis Prillwitz was showing me around his place and pointed out a pair of USL wheels that someone had cut out and welded on truck rims. Dennis said that because new 22 inch rims and tires were not available for many years, the only choices were to adapt other wheels and tires to the tractors or scrap them. He then said in an offhand manner that no one ever bothered to save the cut-off pieces. When I told Dennis my story, we measured his wheels and 'guesstimated' that his inner cut-offs would overlap my outer cut-offs, and between us we had enough parts to make two wheels. We traded some parts around and I ended up with Dennis' inner wheel cut-offs.

Somewhere I read or saw an example of a useful rotary table that could be built in the shop. The main part of the table was a large used ball bearing assembly. I got mine from a re-builder of large machines. Weld three large nuts, hex are okay, square are better, on end and evenly spaced around the edge of the outside race. Weld three more nuts on the other side of the bearing on the inside race. Weld a square steel plate to the nuts on the outside race for the base of the table. Weld a round steel plate to the nuts on the inside race for the table top. I use my table mostly for truing up wheels during the re-rimming process, so I welded three bolts on top to match the wheel bolt pattern of the Model L tractors.

After cutting off the truck rims and cleaning up the slag and rough edges, I put Dennis' inner wheel part in my handy-dandy rotary table fixture. Next I placed the outer wheel piece on top of the inner wheel piece and carefully rotated and aligned the two pieces so that there was almost no runout. After clamping, I used the outer piece as a template to cut the inner piece. The result was a very good fit up of the two pieces that were easily welded together to produce good as new wheels.

There seem to be more USL tractors than rear wheels, so I was very happy to be able to end up with a good set, thanks to Dennis Prillwitz, a rotary table and a few welding rods.