I need to redo all four wheels on a 1923 Touring. I ran across Steve Jelf's amazing video where he installed the spokes and feel confident that I can pull it off successfully.
I am interested in varnishing the spokes and would love any tips the Forum can offer on how to hang them, how to apply varnish (brush or Spray), and any other tips. I will need to do 48 spokes so I'm hoping for efficient tips to make the job easier.
Here's what I did:
Here is a picture of the sealer and varnish that I used, I put on two coats of sealer and four coats of varnish, with light sanding and a wipedown with a clean rag between each coat:
I used Minwax Spar Varnish Polyurethane clear with a brush. A couple of coats. I'm happy with it. Two down, two to go. With all of the hand sanding, 40-50 hours per wheel.
The wheels in your link are the exact look that I am hoping to achieve. Your method of hanging and clamping the spokes so that they could be sealed and varnished was exactly the type of thing that I was looking for to make this a bit more efficient.
Any other tips from anyone else who has embarked on this adventure would be appreciated. I plan to use new spokes from one of the catalog suppliers.
You may already know this, but there are two lengths of spokes available. The Kelsey felloes and Hayes felloes use a spoke that is 1/32 inch longer than the spokes for the Ford felloes.
Also, there are two tenon sizes, 1/2 inch and 5/8 inch, measure the holes in your felloes to make sure you get the right size tenons.
As you're pressing the wheel, keep an eye on the base of the spokes and straighten them out if they try to twist out of alignment. If you keep pressing with them twisted, you can crack an edge off of a spoke. Also, watch each tenon and make sure that it is "turning the corner" and entering into the felloe hole. They can sometimes jam on the side of the hole without going in.
Luckily, the pressing process goes slowly, so you have plenty of control.
I ordered 50 spokes just in case I messed one or two up during the process. Turned out I didn't use the two extras.
I blended two colors of "Old Masters" stain (which I purchased from the local Aboffs store), "Crimson Fire" and "Rich Mahogany." I wiped on two coats on consecutive days and then followed that with about ten coats of Epifanes high gloss clear varnish (marine spar varnish with UV protection).
Here's a photo of how my wheels turned out.
If you like, I'll e-mail you Chip Button's directions for properly applying the varnish.
Bob, did you use the press on those wheels? You are braver than me. On wooden fellow wheels I assemble the wheel then heat the rim and set it in place. The rims shrink to make a tight wheel.
If not tight enough I add a galvanized shim between rim and fellow.
Eric, one tip you may find useful. Staining raw wood can be problematical getting an even stain and getting the stain the same colour on each spoke. A painter and decorator taught me to mix the stain in the spar varnish, as long as they are compatible. That way the colour is evenly applied. You have absolute control over the depth of colour. It just gets a bit darker each coat. If you have the colour as you want it within the first coat or two, just omit the stain from subsequent coats.
Hope this helps.
Allan from down under.
The key to doing a long lasting finish on any wooden structure is to prevent subsequent moisture changes due to humidity or liquid water exposure. If you control the moisture content, you will control swelling and shrinking of the wood over time. Wood is naturally similar to a sponge, in that it soaks up moisture very readily, and swells and shrinks with changes in moisture content. Most finishes, on the other hand, are pretty brittle compared to the wood, and tend to crack if the wood swells much at all. Once the finish cracks, then moisture enters the wood much more readily, further cracking and peeling the finish.
So you need to totally seal all the wood surfaces, especially the end grain. I know, that means the dimensional build-up on the tapered ends of the spokes due to paint thickness can be a problem. You just have to deal with it either by starting out with slightly smaller spokes or by avoiding excessive paint film thickness.
First consideration: When you receive your spokes, allow them to reach moisture equilibrium with your work area. That means storing them in your shop - the place where you will be applying the finish - for at least a couple of weeks. Storing parts in a damp basement probably isn't a good idea, especially if they were shipped to you from a dry climate.
Second: Apply a good grade of sealer over every surface of the part, well thinned for penetration, and let it dry thoroughly. It should soak in like water the first time. Then, after a couple of days, put on another coat, maybe not quite so thin.
Hint: It you are working in an unheated environment, plan to apply finish at the warmest time of the day. The ambient temperature should be declining after the finish is applied. If the part is cooling during the drying process, it will "inhale" as it cools, pulling the liquid into the cells of the wood. If you warm the part after applying the finish, the wood will exhale, causing microscopic pathways in the finish for later moisture entry. Setting the spokes out in the sun to make them dry faster is counter productive in that it can produce a porous final finish. If you really want to do the finish out in the sun, set the parts out in the morning to warm up and then apply the finish later in the day after the sun is past its zenith.
Third: Put on a couple more subsequent coats of thinned finish, giving each coat ample time to dry. When you see that the current coat of finish doesn't soak into the wood, you know that it's sealed. This may take more coats on the end grain than on side grain.
Once the wood is well sealed, the mechanical protection phase is complete. But the physical appearance may not yet be what you are looking for. If you want a thicker, slicker finish, then you can go ahead and assemble the wheel and do all your final finishing in the assembled state. That way you don't have excessive film thickness on the mating surfaces.
What brand of finish ? Most any good sealer & varnish will last for years if properly applied. It's not so much the brand as it is the thorough application that counts.
All I did was stain and varnish the wheels that Mr. Stutsman re-wooded for me.
This forum is amazing. The depth of detail included in so many responses on the forum, including in this message thread, never ceases to impress me.
I never considered mixing stain and varnish, but that seems like a good plan. I also had no idea about the impact warming or cooling had on the wood. I'm in Orlando, Florida so it will be warm all the time. It was 86 today. 😀
Thanks for the great input.
I used a mixture of boiled linseed oil and turpentine, I think a 50:50 mix. Looks good and it will never peal.
I had great success with EPHANES Varnish. Use Ephane thinner and do 8 coats. Almost as strong as steel! Available at US Marine and on line.
Minwax Helmsman Polyurethane Spar varnish and a brush. Sand with #320 grit between coats. Beautiful and tough permanent finish.