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Making a Ship's wheel for the USF Constitution

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Back on MSW 1.0, I put a little thread together on how to make a double ship's wheel (on my Unimat) to replace the metal ones that came with the kit. I still have the pictures, but not the words. So, at the prodding of some of my Ship Model friends,  I'll try to reconstruct the thread as best I can.


Here's the wheel that came with the kit:




Nothing really wrong with it, but the real one is varnished mahogany. It would be hard to make that metal wheel look like varnished wood.


I read (I think it was on MSW 1.0) a way to turn a hub and spoke down, drill it, and attach spokes to make a better looking wheel. So I thought, okay, I can make 2-3-4 of these and pick the best 2 for the Constitution.


Then I started looking thru Bernard Froelich's book "The Art of Shipmodeling". My wife got it (the French version, the only one available at the time) for me for Christmas several years ago. Since then, it's always been one of my books for inspiration. Early in the book he describes a method for turning a double wheel on a lathe. It looked pretty neat, and I was itching to use my Unimat, so here's what I did.

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I started with a 1"x1" chunk of boxwood. I chucked it in the lathe and started turning it down



When I got to the rim outer diameter, I defined the width from outside of forward rim to outside of aft rim, and turned those ends down till I got the hub diameter. I then took it off the lathe and marked the holes in the rim for the spokes:


 I don't have a dividing attachment for my lathe. And at this size, measuring and marking the locations with a protractor wasn't feasible. Further, I thought it would be an 8 spoke wheel. That makes it a little easier to get the angle (mark the rim in 4 segments and divide those segments).


Except it's a 10 spoke wheel. . .


So, I measured the circumference of the wheel on a strip of paper and divided it into 10 equal lengths. I wrapped it around the rim and marked my 10 spoke locations:




I left the hubs are long for putting back in the lathe. They'll be trimmed off later.



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I then put the piece in a vise and drilled the rim for the spokes. I drilled only to the center (I didn't have a long enough drill bit, and the bit would probably wander off center). Then it was back on the lathe to turn the area between the rims down enough to define the rim diameter:




Here's where I didn't get a picture and wish I had. I made a tool for the lathe that acted like a boring bar and cut out the middle between the spoke ID and the hub OD. I made sure to cut deeper than the rim width(the material all goes away anyhow). This is what it looks like after the boring operation:




I couldn't resist-I stuck some whittled down toothpicks in to see what it would look like with the spokes:



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I left the toothpicks in and started to turn the middle down. That's where I learned that toothpick won't hold the rim in place after you cut it away. This picture shows the first rim cut off and removed, and the second rim just breaking loose:




Note the pencil marks across the holes in the hub-those are my index marks to make sure I get the correct rim on the correct side and to line the rim and hub up. As much as I would like to make the rims and hubs perfectly interchangeable-well, I'm far from perfect.


After removing the second rim, it was a simple matter to turn the center section down to the correct diameter:




I wanted something better than toothpicks for the spokes, but I'm not yet able to turn the spoke with the correct swelling and the ends and fancy features in the middle. Yet, I wanted them to fit tightly in the hub. So, I turned them down with sandpaper and the lathe




I made 16 of these and glued them into the hub:



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What could I do to improve it?


Well, some of the spokes that go into the hub are not in the same plane. If I had drilled it using an X-Y table, I could have reduced that error.


A dividing head would have made it easier to drill the holes circumferentially. As it is, they came out fairly well spaced.


A true boring bar setup to cut out the middle section would have given me crisper edges.


But overall, I'm pretty happy with the results:







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I must confess I am the one who pushed Harvey to post this again. I have seen the model in person and more of the pictures. Harvey I think you are too humble this is a great achievement. I am sure there are many people who will never know how you did this or be able to tell. But if it were me I would be beaming for at least a week. Well done! Harvey I will add a link to this tutorial in the newsletter.

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A friend asked a couple of questions on drilling the spoke holes:


When you drilled the spoke holes, how did you stabilize/hold the work piece, V-block? 


I hope this clarifies things:




How did you ensure alignment for drilling on lines perpendicular to the long axis of the work piece?


The longer lines are parallel to the long axis. As long as I kept the long lines parallel to the vice jaws I could move the piece to the opposite end to drill the hole in the other rim. I drilled one hole in each rim before I rotated the piece in the vise to do the next 2 holes. Not changing the setup between drilling those 2 holes kept that error from creeping in.


Lastly, here's a picture of the installed wheel from Saturday's PSSM meeting. Thank you Mike Graff for the excellent photo:







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I want to use your technique on a model I'm building. I particularly liked your solution to the 10 spoke spacing problem. Positively ingenious!


What size drill did you use for the spoke holes? And I'm assuming it's long enough to go through the rim and into the hub all in one operation?


Also, I'm reading that some of the spoke alignment was out. I'm not sure I completely understand, but do you mean that if you had drawn a line around the edge of each rim in the center you would have avoided the problem?



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First off, I apologize for not responding sooner. I hope I'm not too late. . . :(



I just checked-I believe I used a #70 bit. I found that the small drill bit sets and a pin vise are slow and not always accurate enough (for me). I drilled these in a Dremel drill press with a 1/8" shank #70 bit. And yes, it goes thru the rim and hub, but only the spoke side of the hub. Otherwise, I'd have 20 holes in the hub and no hub left (literally).


Regarding the spoke alignment being out of plane, I did draw a circle in plane for the holes. When I drilled the holes though, I didn't put pilot holes in and the drilled holes themselves are out of plane. Something to remember next time.


Thanks for your questions. I'll try to be more responsive next time.



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