Plank Wheels

Plank Wheels

Have you ever seen a plank wheel?

Can you guess what a plank wheel might look like?  When I found Will Hobby’s description, I looked for pictures.  I found a museum in Maine that has one in its collection, pictured on their website, but my e-mail requesting the use of that photo was not answered.

A photograph of an ox cart with plank wheels from a photographer’s website is available for my use for $100.   If I had to pay that for every photo I collect to illustrate Will Hobby’s journal, I’d be filing for bankruptcy!

Back to a search for ox carts and plank wheels!  I searched several photo-and-illustration sites and turned up some plank wheels, along with many, many spoke-type wheels, on Dreamstime, where I can buy with “credits” instead of signing up for a monthly fee.  Some other sources have similar plans, but I’ve found a number of useful illustrations on Dreamstime at what I consider reasonable prices.

These are plank wheels, a whole one which has lost its rim–but I’m illustrating a 1914 journal, so the aged look fits–and a partial one with the rim in place.

Plank Wheel
© Jaboticaba Fotos |  

From Will Hobby’s Journal

La Union, El Salvador, March 1914:

The ordinary method of transportation, as in all this region, was by “plank wheeled bull cart.”  This interesting primitive vehicle is worthy of description. It is a two-wheeled ox cart with wheels of plank 42 inches high and 3 inches thick. Rather than exponents of stupidity, they are really in some respects admirably adapted to conditions, and instead of ridiculing them as backward and antediluvian it would be more to our credit to understand and appreciate. They are made up in three pieces. For the middle plank a piece of timber is taken about one foot square and as long as the diameter of the wheel,

Leaving a “boss” at each side of the plank at its middle from hub to the wheel, all the rest of the plank worked down to a uniform thickness of three inches. Two other segments of 3-inch plank are doweled to edges of first to complete the wheel, one of the joints being left slightly open. The wheel is then bound with a 3-inch iron tire, the hub bored out and completed. The body is framed onto the pole and axle, no other nails or fastenings being used, and unlike American ox carts is untippable. Not only can the driver of fair intelligence build his own cart with minimum help from the blacksmith, but in the bottomless mud of the rainy season when American wheels would be practically anchored, this plows along without much difficulty and the open joint left in its construction permits expansion of the saturated wood fiber while, when it shrinks from the seasons’ long drought, instead of its tire needing resetting by the blacksmith as would an American wheel, of course at a burdensome expense to save its life, the driver merely drives a couple of wedges into the aforementioned joint, adjusting it at will according to the severity of the drought!

If you are a mechanic or carpenter, can you construct a plank wheel now?

I do not understand how the plank can be both square “as long as the diameter”, but these words are written clearly, and I am not good at visualizing mechanical things.

Boss: according to the free Engineering Dictionary, is ”An extension or strengthened section that holds the end of a pin or shaft.”  That’s a new term for me.

Been Here? Done That? Tell Me About It!