Exactly six weeks ago I shipped a set of front hubs, an early teardrop spoked round fellow wheel, and a set of rear hubs to Stutzman wheel shop in Baltic, Ohio. Mr Stutzman called me when he received the parts and estimated that it would be six to eight weeks before he could have new wheels made for me.
On Tuesday of this week Noah Stutzman called and informed me that my wheels were ready for pickup. Being interested in seeing an old fashioned (I imagined) Mennonite and Amish run shop it seemed like a good excuse to take the day off for a road trip.
Yesterday the 240 mile (one way) trip was made. What I found was wonderful but not as expected. These guys have a mix of modern and ancient technology. First it must be noted that there is a very large Amish / Mennonite community here. The area is just a mile or so west of the Erie canal about 60 miles southwest of Akron Ohio.
The Amish guys cut the hickory from the forest and prune the logs before loading them on logging wagons pulled by 4 draft horse teams. There was one of these wagons coming down the hill when I was there, with the horses snorting and the driver hanging completely over the side of the wagon with all his body weight on the brake handle!
Stutzman family has a saw mill where they cut all the wood. There are drying barns where the wood is stored and aged before use. The smell is fantastic, of course they have wood for many purposes other than just wheels. There is hickory. cherry, oak and poplar to name just a few of the local varieties.
The wheel shop itself spreads out among several buildings, each with a wood fired stove obviously. There are pneumatic fixtures for clamping wheels together, and duplicating lathes for making exact copies of an existing spoke. A large area seemed to have nothing but Model T and other old car wheels. Another area had nothing but wheels for buggies, still another had wheels for heavy wagons. Each area had devoted tooling made to suit the tasks at hand. They have modern table saws, band saws and belt sanders along with old fashioned hand rasps, adze and planes being used each to its advantage. It is real old school craftsmanship with some very intelligent purpose built tooling.
Sorry for not taking any pictures but I did not want to make these guys mad. The work is fantastic, the prices lower than anybody else, and the service exceptional. You should consider them if you need wheels respoked, particularly the early round fellow wheels.
Stutzman Wheel Shop 330-897-1391 (no computer stuff LOL)
Noah and Melvin are quite the father/son team. I knew that once the word was out about their operation, they would have more work than they could handle. You were smart to get your wheels in right after the touring season. Most people wait until the spring and then want them "right now". There have been other wheel makers in the area that have been shamed out of making wheels for the "English" because of their religious beliefs. Let's just hope that the same does not happen to the Stutzman's.
BTW, Noah is very aware of the prices that other antique wheel businesses are charging; so, don't feel in any way that you are taking advantage of these "poor backward people". They are very well aware of what they are doing. If you watched the process when you were there, you'll figure out that they can produce a Model T spoke from rough lumber to finshed product ready for the wheel in under 5 minutes.
I'm sure that you will be quite satified with your wheels. They are all custom fit.
Thanks for the info, Royce. Did you find out what variety of hickory they use?
Somewhere I have pix of North English and South English, Iowa.
They had a young boy working there and some Amish guys delivering wood yesterday. I asked the young boy, who appeared to be about 12 or 13 years old, if he was a Stutzman too and he replied "Aye, we are all Stutzmans". So hopefully the torch is being passed to another generation of Stutzman.
I realize the social implications for Mennonites and Amish making parts for us "English". We all need to be careful and respectful of their beliefs to ensure not losing this valuable resource. For that reason I was careful to wear plain clothing with no advertising, and did not ask to take pictures or try to take them without asking. Any careless foul language or even a magazine advertisement showing a woman in a low cut dress on the seat of your truck would surely result in you (or possibly all of us) not being able to do business with them again.
I watched the boy build a very large (perhaps 60" diameter) carriage wheel in about 10 minutes from the time he began inserting spokes into the hub until it was ready for the steel hoop.
Royce - living here in southern Maryland, we have a very large population of the Amish. I had my '22 Touring wood bows made by a buggy shop here. I gave them the old bows and the irons to which they fitted everything perfectly. The cost for all four bows and labor, $127. The turn around was less than a month. I also took the bows to the Amish during the winter last year. This was the start of the new buggy model year, so the shop was busy building buggys. They were happy to accomodate this "English" for a change of pace.
Several years ago I was on a flight from Salt Lake to Cincinnati. There was a young Amish couple on the flight. The movie that was showing was "Beach Blanket Bunnies" or some such. Full of lots of nubile young things. Suddenly a young woman's voice rang out, "JOSEPH, MIND THINE EYES!!" I tried not to laugh but along with everybody else on the plane, had quite a chuckle over it.
We have several Amish communities that have started up in Montana. They have faced the realities of Montana living and now have a plain white pickup and a plain white van for transportation. The community that is closest to me is 18 miles from a tiny town and when it is 30 below and the wind blowing you need a pickup. They are 50 miles or so from Butte and probably 50 from Dillon or Bozeman, the closest towns with any substantial services such as a doctor or hospital. Somewhere I have a picture of them baling hay with a John Deere baler with an engine on the baler and a team of horses pulling it. They love auctions and we quite often see them at farm sales. They have a quilt sale every year and also do some smaller furniture making and woodworking in the off seasons.
The part about a magazine on the seat of the truck is a little much. I live close by and know several Amish. They have a sense of humor and reality. I doubt anyone would be banned from an Amish business for wearing the wrong clothing. English or Amish our money is all the same color and we all know the value of it.
I do agree Stutzmans is an amazing place, but I don't think they have a dress code.
For those of us in northeast there is a shop in New Holland PA.
that does wheel work for carriages, cars, trucks and cannon wheels for the national park service .
WITMER COACH SHOP
1070 West Main St.
New Holland, PA. 17557
I have been using them for 35 years for carriage wheels. [ I have over 20 horse drawn carriages in my collection ]
They are Mennonite, father, JACOB , drives a horse, sons all drive pickup trucks.
If anyone would like to phone me for reference, OK call Jack 315-682-9319
Just purchased 1912 Torpedo
I recently had Noah build a set for my '15. He received the parts on August 20th. I received a call from him about 9/25 saying they were ready. Even with the shipping round trip from California it was financially reasonable. The wheels are beautiful. if you live in Southern California and want to check them out I live in Camarillo, near Ventura.
i wonder if these guys can re rubber high wheel bicycle wheels?
Bob, I think many Amish would consider modern industrial era things like bicycles "english" too ;-)
For high wheelers there are clubs & forums - former T forum regular Terry Horlick wrote about how he rerubbered his Rudge highwheeler:
I'm quite sure WITMER COACH will do your bike tires.
They just put new rubber on 1909 SEARS HIGHWHEELER for me.
Around $250 for 4 wheels.
They do more work for us " English " than for Amish.
Carriage collecting & driving is a huge hobby.
They ship world wide.
Amish live in the 21st century just like us. They ride bicycles they even have "them thear new fangled" bikes that you sit out flat on. How many English do you know that have these recumbent bikes or even know what they are??
This is closer to me than Callimer's. They told me they have about a 6-12 month wait all the time. This has me rethinking where my wheels are going, especially since I could have my non-demountables back for the '15 before the snow is gone!
Thanks for the info.