One of the more unusual commissions Dalbeattie Men's Shed has received was for the reconstruction of a cart wheel believed to date back to the Napoleonic Wars. After some 200 years on French soil the once-sturdy wheel found its way to a new home in Kirkcudbright where it had pride of place in front of the owners' house and latterly served as an impressive plant stand.
But the passage of time and unkind weather conditions took its toll on the wheel with a substantial part of the woodwork completely rotted away. Unable to find a skilled cartwright to take on a restoration project, the owner was given some hope when one of the Shed members offered to help. The wheel was transported back to the shed workshop at Edingham, Dalbeattiie, where the true state of the wheel became clear - and it was even worse than first envisaged.
The centre hub had totally collapsed and about a third of the hardwood outer ring was beyond repair with other areas less seriously damaged. It was clear an historically-accurate restoration of the wheel could not be carried out and it was more a question of putting it back together as close to the original construction as possible within the limits of the skills and resources available.
A reclaimed mahogany fireplace mantleshelf was cut and shaped into a semi-circular form to attach to the inside of the iron rim and a new 'hub' was turned on a lathe from an off-cut of a fencing post. Fortunately, all the wooden spokes were still in almost as good a condition as they were when the cart first trundled out of the cartwright's workshop during the French Revolution and these were re-attached to the new hub and rim.
Finally, the wheel was repainted and treated with plenty of preservative to help extend its life for a good many more years. It has now been returned to the house in Kirkcudbright where the owner has been able to display her colourful pot plants again and the wheel, which looked almost beyond hope, is now enjoying a new lease of life.
*Dalbeattie Men's Shed is very grateful to the owner of the wheel for making a generous donation to Dalbeattie Men's Shed which has been used to further develop shed activities.