Hello everyone, I wanted to share an update on a project I have been working on, the first update in over 2 years. Some of you may have read my initial post about this in 2020
Hello everybody! I really want to share with yall my latest find. I think everybody who is an antique and vintage bicycle enthusiast has that one bike or bikes that they would consider their "Holy Grail" of finds. The bike or item that they would really love to have above all others, and...
This is a late 1860s "Boneshaker" bicycle or Velocipede. I bought it a little over 2 years ago from an antique collector who also collected vintage cars and bicycles here locally in North Carolina. He bought it from an elderly fellow who collected old items up in Southern Virginia, so I would reckon it may have originally been from that area, perhaps even built in that region back in the day. It is all hand forged wrought iron, and there is no branding on the bicycle, so it is anyone's guess of the exact origins. When I got it, it was basically just the frame; everything but the wheels. So I eventually started down the path of taking measurements, researching, and ultimately deciding how the bicycle would have been originally and should be now. Then came the task of finding someone who could build a set of wheels like this, as this type of wooden wheel, equipped with "staggered spoke" placement in the hubs, is no longer in mass production anywhere.
After months of researching, I learned about Noah Stutzman, and Stutzman's wheel shop, which is an Amish family owned company who builds carriage wheels, wooden automobile wheels, wooden steering wheels, and wooden bicycle parts. I mailed him a letter with the exact specifications I wanted for my wheels, and a few phone calls later we were all set! I was initially going to have him build both the front and back wheel, but due to my tight & limited budget, I had him build only the front wheel. I also learned about a company in Montana, Hansen Wagon Company, who caters to the antique horse drawn vehicle community out west, and after sending them the same specifications, I had them build the rear wheel. Long story short, in this particular case, I was able to save almost $300. This may not be the case, in other situations, but it was in this one. Both companies do equally good work, and I recommend both of them. The reason Stutzman's wheel cost more is because it is 8 inches larger diameter, has a custom machined steel axle shaft driven through the hub, and was a bit more refined and finished. To keep cost as low as possible, I had to do a bit more finishing work myself on Hansen's wheel, but that allowed the cost to be its absolute lowest. All in all, after shipping it cost me about $1103 for the new wheel set, which is a reasonable price for the amount of work that goes into building such specialized wooden wheels. From time of ordering to time of receipt of complete wheels from both companies was 5 months.
Now all I have to do is make the new wheels match the original patina finish of the bicycle. This means first painting darts on the spokes near the hubs, pinstriping the darts and the felloes, applying a base stain over the entire wheel, and then artfully applying a dark stain, blending it in certain areas in such a way as to simulate a very aged and patinaed finish. Then lacquer will be applied and dulled and crackled slightly to appear authentic, and match the rest of the bike. Grease it up and I will be ready roll! The seat is over 4 feet off of the ground, so to a shorter guy like me it will be an exiting bike to ride! Thanks for reading & please share any comments, further advice or input, or connections you may have. My next hurdle is the cranks and pedals, for which I do have a solution to make a set, but if you have a connection for someone who is making these already, that would be nice. Thank You!
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FURTHER READING REGARDING SPECIFICATIONS FOR THIS BICYCLE, for REFERENCE PURPOSES:
It is not uncommon when one finds one of these early bicycles, for the original wheels to be completely missing. The following are some of the specifications I provided to the wheel builders when having replacement wheels built, and these aspects should be considered when you are having a new set of wheels built for your bicycle. These are based off of personal preference, frame measurements and from what was reckoned to be appropriate and accurate based off of photos of surviving original condition bicycles.
The front wheel of the bicycle is 38 inches diameter. 1 inch steel tire. For this bicycle, I desired a large, barrel shaped hub, about 4 inches diameter, 4 1/4 inches long 3 1/2 x 1/2 steel rings. A 3/4 inch steel axle shaft machined on the ends round to accommodate bearings and cranks, and square in the middle, driven tightly through the hub. Although some of the more elaborate and fancier machines are equipped with a 16 spoke front wheel, for this one I opted for the also prevalent 14 spokes. 2 felloe plates and 4 bolts in the felloes.
The rear wheel is 30 inches diameter. 1 inch steel tire. Barrel shaped hub about 3 1/2 inches diameter, about 3 1/2 inches long, with a bronze bushing for 9/16 inch axle shaft. 12 spokes, to match the 14 spokes in the front (many machines also are found alternatively with 14 spokes in the rear, and 16 spokes in the front). 2 felloe plates and 2 bolts in the felloes.
On this particular bicycle, the front wheel bearing alignment is adjusted by a stack of small steel shims wedged up under where the top piece of the bronze bearing fits into the socket in the front forks. The alignment of the axle can be adjusted by varying how many shims are placed under either of the bronze bearings, therefore adjusting the tilt of the wheel.
The alignment of the rear wheel of this bicycle is adjusted by a series of hand forged steel washers, and the wheel can be set more to one side or the other as needed by changing the number of washers on either side of the hub.
Although not currently present, but soon to be installed, it would appear that the rear brake shoe would have been fitted with a pad of raw hide leather adhered to it.
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