This five-section glossary of Wheelwrights and Coach Builders Terms has in the main been contributed by Guild Members John Ellwood & Ralph Beardow, to which thanks are due. Many of these names will not be listed in the majority of current day dictionaries, and as the wheelwrights and coach builders craft has now all but died out, these glossary terms will become increasingly obscure, and there is a real concern that many may disappear forever!
It is with this in mind that they are listed here in these five pages. A particular part of a waggon or cart may have had a great variety of different names – nave, hub, stock, naff and boss all refer to the central part of the wheel into which the spokes are set; and it depended on what district and/or wheelwright made these as to what it was called.
This list is by no means complete, and additional verified names will be added in due course, including names used in other parts of the world besides the United Kingdom.
Contributions would be welcome.
If you click on any of the blue boxes, it will open up an image to the relevant text description accompanying it.
GLOSSARY OF HORSE-DRAWN VEHICLE AND WHEELWRIGHT TERMS [A - E]
Adze. An ancient axe like tool with an arched blade at right angles to the handle used for dressing the felloes (q.v.). The wheelwrights adze is more curved than that of the carpenter.
Arbor. An axle or spindle for a wheel or pulley
Arm. The iron, or in the case of farm vehicles, the wooden spindle upon which the wheel turns.
Anchorhead bolt. A bolt head with an aperture for receiving a spring.
Artillery Wheel. A wheel first designed by the steam engineer Walter Hancock for use on steam driven vehicles. It was later adopted by the British Army for use on gun-carriages, ambulances and supply vehicles. The wheel had iron naves and reinforced spokes which butted against each other spreading the torque more evenly around the wheel. It was also used by railway companies in view of its strength.
Axle. A transverse shaft or bar at the end of which is set the axle arm (q.v.) on which the wheel revolves.
Axle Arm (or Beak). The outer end of an axle on which the wheel revolves.
Axle bed. The wooden beam to which the axle arm is fitted
Axlebox. The hard metal centre of the wheel hub, or nave, into which the axle is fitted. See also Box.
Axle case. A wooden beam or member supporting an axle.
Axletree. A crossbar or rod supporting a wagon or heavy horse-drawn vehicle into which the axle arm is set.
Back boards. The tailboard of a cart.
Bale hoops. Hoops or tilts supporting a waterproof cover on the vehicle.
Barge Wagon. Dating from the 1890's, this was an English farm wagon with straight, planked sides, prominent outraves (q.v.) and small front wheels with iron naves (q.v.) which were able to turn in full underlock. It was drawn by a single horse or two in tandem.
Barrow. A small wheel cart.
Bason wheel (or Basin wheel). Another name for a dished wheel (q.v.)
Beak. See axle arm.
Beak plate. See Clout.
Bed. A cross framing member on a wagon.
Bellied out. The inside concavity of the felloe (q.v.) (i.e. the Belly (q.v.)) was shaped with an adze (q.v.) with the work fixed in a felloe-horse (q.v.) or post vice (q.v.).
Belt rail. An arm rest on an open passenger vehicle.
Big Wheels. (also known as Logging wheels, Michigan wheels, Bummer carts or Katydids). Overstandard wheels of 9 feet, 9½ feet or 10 feet diameter they were originally used for logging in Michigan. Such was their success that they spread rapidly throughout the logging industry. They could support logs from 12 feet to 100 feet long. Axles were hard maple, rims with iron tyres and iron rings on the inside to protect the spokes. The wheels were always painted red.
Billet. Short timbers split, hewn or in the round for spokes.
Birlocho. (Spanish) A heavy, lumbering chaise, consisting of a one seat body mounted on strong leather thorough braces attached behind to vertical semicircular steel springs, running on two large clumsy wheels, and having shafts for one horse. On the outside of the shafts another horse is attached by a strong rope to some part of the vehicle, a hook on the other end of the rope slipping into a ring of his saddle girth. The driver is mounted postilion fashion on the latter horse, and directs the movements of the birlócho either by pulling the bridle of the shaft horse, or by urging in the opposite direction the horse he-rides against the shaft, at the same time punching the neck of the shaft horse with a formidable looking whip handle. The postilion's limbs are wrapped in leather leggings; and with bandit slouch and variegated poncho, knotted raw-hide whip—so called probably from habitual enactment as well as constituents—and colossal spurs savagely serrated, the birlóhero, as the postilion is called, presents—doubtless to the eyes of horses—a truly terrifying appearance.
Bit, nut wrench. A box spanner in the form of a Brace Bit, made in sets for square or hexagonal nuts or bolts from 1/4" to 5/8". Used by wheelwrigts and others for running nuts on bolts in places where an ordinary spanner cannot e used, or when a more rapid method of nut turning is requires.
Blank. Wood roughly sawn to size for a specific purpose (the making of felloes (q.v.) Shafts (q.v.) or spokes (q.v.)).
Blocks. Blocks of wood used in conjunction with springs to allow the clearance of the wheels.
Bodybrace. An iron or steel support for the side of a wagon.
Boat Wagon. A smaller, shallower version of the Barge Wagon (q.v.), it was drawn by a single horse.
Bolster. A transverse timber located above the axle to increase the clearance for the wheels particularly in wagons.
Bolster plate. An iron plate fitted to a bolster (q.v.) to reduce wear on the fore-carriage when turning.
Bond. See Collet.
Boot. Any type of luggage compartment on a vehicle, usually projecting from the main body of a carriage on which a seat is normally set..
Book step. A folding step on a coach or carriage.
Boss. See Nave
Bow Wagon. A traditional four-wheeled farm vehicle mainly associatedwith the Cotswolds and South West Midlands. The sides and outraves (q.v.) were arched above the rear wheels while the fore-end was waisted to allow a better turning circle. Drawn by a single horse, or two in tandem, it was usually painted yellow wih red wheels.
Box Wagon. A traditional four-wheeled farm vehicle associated with the East Midlands and eastern counties of England. It had dead-axles (unsprung) and higher, straighter sides than the Bow Wagon (q.v.) but a shorter wheelbase and limited turning capability.. Usually painted blue with red wheels.
Box-way. The hole cut out in the centre of the wheel-hub ready to receive the Box (q.v.)
Boxing. The operation of fitting the bearing box (q.v.) into the centre of the nave(q.v.) in which the axle arm (q.v.) runs.
Brake block. A wooden, rubber or metal block shaped to the profile of the wheel rim against which it is pressed to reduce the speed of the vehicle.
Breast mark. A gauge mark lightly incised around the nave (q.v.) while being turned which marks the face edge of the spoke mortices.
Breeching hook. A hook fitted to the shafts of a vehicle to which the breeching, or rearward body harness is attached.
Broad axe. See Wheeler’s side.
Buckboard. A lightly constructed four wheeled carriage with a long body.
Bush. The metal bearing in the centre of a hub or wheel nave in which the axle-arm runs (q.v.).
Bummer. A truck with two low wheels and long pole for hauling logs.
Bummer carts. See Big Wheels
Calash. A hood fitted above the front windows of a Britzscha (q.v for wheeled vehicle glossary))and some Hansom Cabs, it had both front and side windows and was designed to protect the passenger.
Cant rail. The protective rail on the roof of a coach or van.
Cape Cart. A light South African cart drawn by two horses and used by the Military during the Boer War.
Carriage. The wheels, axles, springs and other underbody parts which form the foundation of a coach or carriage. It is from this term that “carriage” is derived.
Carriage parts. All components of the undercarriage on any vehicle.
Cart. A general term for a two-wheeled vehicle, both agricultural and passenger e.g. "dog cart".
Cee or C-springs. Coach or carriage springs formed in the shape of a “C” used on pleasure or passenger vehicles. A brace (q.v.) was used to connect the spring to a spring bracket on the body of vehicle.
Chamfer. The trimming of spokes and body members, particularly of wagons, with a wheelwright’s adze (q.v.), a wheeler’s side (q.v.). and finally a spokeshave q.v.) to reduce their weight and, in the case of vehicle bodies, to provide decoration.
Channels. Grooves in the wheel rim into which solid rubber tyres are fitted.
Chapman (John). One time clockmaker and manufacturer of lace-making machinery who later redesigned the Cab originally designed by Joseph Hansom (q.v.)
Cinch. A saddle girth.
Clog-wheels. Wheels used in Yorkshire Dales until the early 19C which did not revolve around their axles but were firmly fixed to them.The whole axle-tree revolved between four pegs fixed under a cross beam.
Closed top. A carriage with a falling hood (q.v.) and permanently or semi-permanently raised sides or quarters.
Clout. An iron plate let into the arm of a wooden axle's underside to take the wear of the box (q.v.) in the revolving wheel.
Clouting the axle arm. Arming the arm of the axletree (q.v.) with iron plates to keep it from wearing.
Coach. The first comfortable passenger vehicle was constructed in Kocs, a village in Hungary in the 15th century. The original was known as a "Kocsi" - from Kocs. It became extremely popular among the Austro-Hungarian and English aristocracy where its name was corrupted to "coach". For more details see "VEHICLES - PASSENGER - FOUR WHEELED".
Coach box. An open framework of metal supporting the driver’s seat.
Collar. A rim or ring on the inner side of an axle arm to prevent the wheel from binding.
Collinge axle. A patented metal carriage axle in which lubricating of the wheels was incorporated.
Coom (or Coomb). A northern British dialect term for the matter which collects at the naves of carriage vehicles.
Coomed-up. Said of a wheel on which the greace had gone dry and stiff,
Copse. An iron stay keeping the outrave (q.v.) in position
Coupling pole. See Perch.
Cranked axle. An axle “cranked” or bent to carry a heavy load with low ground clearance. Examples of vehicles using cranked axles include the milk float and market cart in the late 18th and subsequent centuries .
Crook. The curved section of the sides of a “waisted” wagon.
Crossledge. The main, central cross member of a wagon body to provide maximum support.
Curricle gear. A specialised pole gear attached to the saddle pads of a pair by means of a T-shaped bar and rollers. A similar gear was used by the Romans.
Currus. The Roman term for Chariot from which the Curricle and its gear was derived.
“D” links. Shackles used to support a rear transverse spring to the longitudinal springs on a cart.
Dash. The raised front panel of a vehicle immediately behind the horse forming a shield to protect the driver and passengers from mud thrown up by the horse.
Dasher. See Dash
Dashboard. See Dash.
Dennett springs. Patent springs dating from the early 19th century in which two longitudinal springs were connected to a transverse spring under the body of two-wheeled gigs and dog carts.
Dirt iron. The metal plate between the axle bed and the nave (q.v.)
Dish. The inward, or concave angle at which the spoke is set into the hub giving the wheel a cone-shaped appearance. The dishing provids greater strength and security to the wheel.
Dog bollocking. This is a somewhat colloquial term used by gypsy wagon builders, and the gypsies (Romanies) themselves, to describe the butterfly chamfers found on many of the extensively carved timbers of Bow Top, Reading and Ledge caravans. This was done with a draw-knife, and finished off with a light, rounded spokeshave.
Dog stick. A wooden stick fitted to the axle tree (q.v.) which, when dragging along the ground, prevented a wagon from running backwards downhill when ascending an incline.
Donkey saw. See Frame saw.
Door styles. The framing of a coach or carriage door with an aperture accommodating a drop down window.
Dos-á-dos. The seating configuration in light carriages and buses where passengers sit back to back.
Dowel. Used to connect the ends of one felloe to the next.
Dowel bound. The state of a wheel in which the dowelholes were insufficiently deep, so that the dowels keep the felloes (q.v.) apart instead of allowing them to meet.
Drag. A private coach, similar to the Stage or Mail coach usually driven by an amateur owner.
Draught pin. A metal pin used to connect the shafts (q.v.) to the splinter bar (q.v.)
Draw (also nip). The amount deducted form the circumference of the tyre-bar length to effect tightness on the wheel.
Draw (or Drawing) knife. A tool used for shaping and chamfering work during construction.
Drayel. A staple or hook fitted to the fore end of a shaft to which the trace gear for a tandem, or trace, horse may be fitted.
Dressed. A term applied to wood that is surfaced or planed on one or more sides.
Dress-up. To finish off woodwork by planing or sandpapering.
Dressing. Planing and finishing woodwork.
Downward spoke. (also face spoke). The lower loaded spoke of a dished wheel (q.v.) which, when becoming perpendicular, momentarily takes the weight of the loaded vehicle.
Drugbat. See Skid pan.
Dutfin. An East Anglian term for a horse bridle.
Eake. See axle.
Eake plate. See Clout
Earbred (also Earbreadth). Fore or rear the earbred take the same position as the splinter bar (q.v.) or fore or hind shutlock (q.v.). They effectively support the ends of the summers (q.v.)and sides of a carriage.
Elbow Rail. The side pieces of the body framing in carriages at “elbow height” to which the upper and lower panels are attached.
Elliptical spring. A curved iron or steel leaf or leaves bolted to form an elliptical or semi-elliptical shape. The resulting spring is hung at its extremities from the main body of the vehicle to provide comfortable suspension.
Ex bed. The axle bed of a heavy vehicle.