Day 3

Today dawned slightly cloudy and cooler than yesterday, not that I am complaining, it is still warmer and more humid than home! I started the day slightly off kilter after eating the largest stack of pancakes and apples known to man, I appear to still be adapting to the portion sizes here.


The walk to the shop, which I enjoy very much, did little to sort me out. I fought through the post-breakfast slump by picking up a hammer and neatening up some strakes for a cannon wheel. The majority of the wheels I do in the UK are ‘hooped’ with a continuous steel tyre. In the 18th Century, there were continuous hoops around but there were also strakes. Strakes are short lengths of iron that are nailed onto the outside of the felloes, over the joints, and take the place of a hoop. There are the same number of strakes as felloes and this is equal to half the number of spokes in a wheel. For example, in these cannon wheels that the Wheelwrights are building there are 10 spokes, 5 felloes and 5 strakes per wheel. The strakes and nails had been prepared by the on-site Blacksmiths but just required a little bit of tweaking to fit the wheel perfectly. This involves altering the curvature of the iron strake by hitting it with a hammer whilst the metal is cold. If the metal was hot, it might easily kink instead of bending evenly. This sounds easy enough but the iron tends to have areas of different resistance and can need a lot of belting to achieve the shape we need!


I had the opportunity to visit the Blacksmiths shop and see some of them in action. Plus, I also managed to fit in a visit to the gunsmith, somewhere I will definitely try to get back during the rest of my stay.

Something that has stood out to me during today, is the way the Colonial Williamsburg Wheelwright’s interact with the public, something known as interpretation here. They are very engaging and it is a pleasure listening to the explanations other experts in the field use. I often talk to the public when I’m demonstrating the craft at fairs and events in the UK and will be sure to note down some of the key phrases used here to try on my fellow countrymen. It is a rare and enjoyable opportunity to see this from the other side, as the listener rather than the demonstrator.DSCF2394