A wheelwright is a person who builds or repairs wooden wheels. The word is the combination of wheel and the word wright. This occupational name eventually became the English surname Wheelwright, why this should be so when the development of wheeled vehicles was nationwide, is unclear. The first known recording though is from the county of Essex and this was Walter Welwryhte, who appears in the Hundred Rolls for that county in the year 1273. This was during the first year of the reign of King Edward 1st of England, tradesmen made wheels for carts and wagons by first constructing the hub, the spokes and the rim/felloe segments and assembling them all into a unit working from the center of the wheel outwards. Most wheels were made from wood, but other materials have been used, such as bone and horn, for decorative or other purposes. After many centuries wheels evolved to be straked with iron, a method of nailing iron plates onto the felloes to protect against wear on the ground and to help bind the wheel together. During the industrial age, iron strakes were replaced by a solid iron tyre custom made by a blacksmith, tyre-bolts were less likely than tyre-nails to break off because they were flush finished and countersunk into the wheels outer surface also allowing for wear without wearing the bolt head away. During the second half of the 19th century, the use of pre-manufactured iron hubs and other wood, iron. Companies such as Henry Ford developed manufacturing processes that made the village wheelwright obsolete. With the onset of two wars, the trade soon went into decline and was very rare by the 1960s. However, owing to the efforts of organisations like the Worshipful Company of Wheelwrights, wheelwrights continue to operate in the UK. In modern times, wheelwrights continue to make and repair a wide variety of wheels, including those made from wood and banded by iron tyres. A modern wooden wheel generally consists of three parts, the Nave or hub at the centre of the wheel, the spokes radiating out from the centre. Generally the wheel would be bound by a steel or iron tyre depending on its historical period, sometimes Hickory is substituted for Oak and Ash as it is easier to bend for mass production and is quite springy for light wheels that require a bit of flexibility. The Elm is used for its grain, this prevents the nave from splitting with the force of the spokes being driven in tight. The Oak is used because it doesnt bend, compress or flex, the Ash is used for its flexibility and springy nature, this acts as a form of suspension and protects against shock damage. In the second half of the 20th century Wheelwright training faded away due to a lack of demand for new wooden wheels
Worldwide Wheelwright Phill Gregson fitting Iron 'strakes' to a traditional wooden wheel.
This plate published in a volume of Encyclopédie in 1769 shows both methods of shoeing a wheel. In the centre the labourers are using hammers and "devils" to fit a hoop onto the felloe, and on the right they're hammering strakes into place.