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Wooden Wheel Making by Hand: Traditional Craft of a Cartwheel

Wheelwright From Romanian Village of Straja Explains Wooden Wheel Making Process

Curious to know a wooden wheel making process? My compliments, if you plan to hand craft one by yourself.

Cartwheel Making

I never thought that making a wheel could be so intricate, until I met traditional carpenter Popescu Vasile from the village of Straja, Suceava County. As a child, his father taught him the secrets of making wheels.
He became a wheelwright. At that time, he used to handcraft a whole ox-cart.

Cartwheel Making by Hand

In Romania, wooden wheels are still being used in agriculture, on a fountain, for decoration purposes.

This occupation has been passed down from father to son, and from master to apprentice. It’s one of the most important crafts.
Making a cartwheel involves a lot of precision, many parts and many steps for each part: the nave, 12 spokes and 6 felloes. It takes two days of work.
That’s why we couldn’t see all the steps. By the time we arrived, the nave was already done, but mr. Vasile was happy to explain the basics.

The Traditional Craft of Making Wooden Cartwheel by Hand is More Complicated Than You Thought

To begin with, the nave is manually turned on a lathe.

Wooden Wheel Making Process

With a chisel, the wheelwright cuts out 12 mortises into the nave, at equal distance from one another, measured with a compass.
Next, the wood artisan decides the length of the spokes without considering the ends of the spoke, which are morticed into the nave and felloe.

Wooden Wheel Making Process

First, the spokes are shaped by axe, saw and a drawknife. Next, they are finished with a spoke shave and sandpaper. Finally, it is finished with a piece of felt.
The spokes are angled to give the right amount of dish. A handcrafted tool is used to check on the angle of the spokes.

Wooden Wheel Making Process

Ash is the selected wood for it’s hardness. Elm is also preferred, for being a hard wood, highly resistant under pressure. With the axe and saw, the ends of the spokes are shaped to fit into the nave and felloes.

Cartwheel Making

Wooden Wheel Making Tools

Each felloe is curved to take two spokes. With a gimlet, he cuts two holes in the felloe. A wooden tool tells the exact circumference of the two holes in the felloe, so he measures the end of each spoke with this tool.

Cartwheel Making by Hand

Iron hoops are fitted around the circumference of the wheel. The traditional artisan likes to talk about everything wood related: shingles, wood types, properties, when’s the best time for cutting fresh wood.

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