Wheel challenge ahead

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By John Keast

One day soon, the steel tyres from a high-country wool wagon will be heated.

It will be a moment of truth for Bruce Dellow.

He has been replacing the felloes – the curved wooden sections on which the steel rim will sit.

On one wheel he has replaced eight sections and a spoke, and is in the throes of finishing the final section for another wheel.

It has been crafted from oak, cut from a tree in the Rakaia area.

Mr Dellow made a template to replicate the curve of the wheel – a wheel that has traced a path through the Rangitata River, bearing the weight of Mesopotamia wool – and cut back a block of oak on a bandsaw.

It, though fit for purpose, struggled with the hardness of the wood.

Then the angle of the tenon on the spoke was marked and the wood drilled.

Now Mr Dellow, a carpenter, will use clamps to draw the spokes slightly closer so that the tenons slide into the holes.

When the fit is snug, it will be tapped home.

Then the bigger test begins.

The steel tyres – rims – will be heated to just the right temperature and, expanded, will be lowered carefully over the felloes.

“I just hope it fits,” Mr Dellow said.

He and others at the Ashburton MenzShed have been working hard on the wagon.

They have replaced many parts. Some parts have been restored, but many have been replaced.

The final act will be the wheels.

When the heated tyres are dropped over the sanded felloes, water will be used to cool the tyres and, hopefully, shrink it to a tight fit.

Photo: Bruce Dellow works on the wheel.