Working with wood can be both challenging and rewarding. Reproductions with historical significance are even more enjoyable when you make them yourself. This project will outline the steps required to make an eight-spoke wooden wagon wheel you can use as an outdoor decoration or as a base for a rustic side table. With a few basic woodworking tools, lumber, a few dowels, glue and some drawing supplies, you will be on your way to creating your own country-style masterpiece.
Draw an overall plan for your wagon wheel as a base for creating a pattern for all the parts you will need. Use a simple pencil and string compass to create a large circle for the outer rim of your wheel. Dissect the circle with a straight line through the middle of the shape. Turn the drawing and dissect the circle with another straight line which divides your circle into four equal parts. Draw two more dissecting lines through you circle to divide it into eight equal parts.
From the outer rim and using a T-square, measure at least 1 3/4 inches inward on one of the dissecting lines to draw the flat inner edge of your rim. Repeat this process for each of the eight lines on your drawing. Finish your overall pattern by drawing a middle hub, at least 4 1/2 inches across, using the string compass. Square off this circular hub into an octagon shape, drawing straight lines for the outer perimeter of the hub in the same manner you drew the lines for the outer rim.
You create your outer rim pattern pieces by dividing your overall outer rim design into four equal pieces. Each of the four pieces will accept two spokes when you assemble your wagon wheel. Cut the four-piece pattern from the overall plan and set it aside.
Create your inner hub pattern by cutting the octagon shape from the middle of your overall wagon wheel pattern. Set aside the middle piece of you pattern. The middle piece will be used in the next step to measure the length needed for each dowel for your spokes.
Measure the remaining middle pattern size and add 1 inch to your measurement to be used as the length for your dowel spokes. This will give you 1/2 inch on either side of the dowel to insert into the hub and outer rim during assembly.
Draw the octagon hub pattern on wood that measures at least 1 1/2 inches thick. Cut the hub with a table saw.
Secure the hub in a wood vice, then use a drill press to drill perpendicular holes 1/2-inch deep into the exact centre of the flat surface of each of your octagon cuts. Use a width large enough to accept your wood dowels.
Draw the pattern of your four rims on wood planks at least 1 1/2 inches thick. Lay your pattern the long way on the grain of the wood for greater strength. Cut the four rims from your pattern. Secure each rim in a wood vice, then use a drill press to drill perpendicular holes in the exact middle of each of the flat surfaces of your rims to accept spokes (just as you did for the hub.) Drill more holes on each of the outer edges of the four rim pieces to later join the pieces with dowels.
Using your drill press, drill the wood hub in the exact enter of the octagon for the wheel mounting hole. This hole should be at least 3/4 inch wide. You can fill with the hole with a piece of metal pipe, if desired.
Cut eight dowels with the measurements from your pattern for your spokes. Cut eight 1-inch joining dowels to be used to assemble the outer rim. Set the pieces aside for assembly.
To assemble your wagon wheel, apply glue to the end of each spoke. Fit the spokes into the centre hub one at a time. Tap with a wooden mallet to secure each spoke into the hub.
Apply glue to the end of your dowel pins. Loosely join all of the rim pieces together with the dowel pins. Do not push to tighten the structure yet.
Place the spoke assembly inside the loose-fitted outer rim wheel structure. Apply glue to the outer spokes. Gradually work each section together while mounting the wheel structure down onto the spokes. Alternately push the rim structure together and the rim onto the spokes. Use the rubber mallet to tighten the structure and make it solid.
If desired, you can sand the structure or you can leave it unfinished for a rustic look. You can also paint or seal your wooden wagon wheel if you want a more elaborate finish or to protect it from the weather.
Using straight surfaces on the inner rim and outer hub will make it easier to drill and construct your wagon wheel. Using a wider piece of wood for your wagon wheel hub will give your piece more interest and dimension. You can tighten a ratchet-style cargo strap around the outer perimeter of your wagon wheel to hold the structure more securely while the glue dries.
Always wear eye protection when using power tools. Keep fingers and cords clear from blades while cutting your materials.