Tonight, my son was examining one of our original spokes that I removed from the 1923 Touring. He was impressed that the spoke was nearly 100 years old. Then something occurred to him that had never occurred to me. The wood in the Model T spokes is not 100 years old. The wood for the spokes came from trees that took a long time to grow. It is probably at least as old as the Civil War days and perhaps older than that. The same may be true for the other wood in our cars.
Has anyone considered this rather obvious point that I had somehow managed to overlook and has anyone figured out the approximate "real" age of the wood in our cars?
I have heard that one reason Ford went to steel spoke wheels on the later Ts and the Model A was because it was becoming difficult to obtain enough old growth Hickory to meet the demand for wood spokes. Might be urban legend, though.
Good point Eric. I have thought of this many times. I am a carpenter and work on many old buildings. The cabin I am working on now was probably built mid 1800s. The underground railroad house a few years ago was built 1844. Wondering how old trees were and when you cut a piece of wood, you are the 1st to ever see that grain. Im sure some of these trees have been around since 1700s. On the rafters for the cabin I counted 50 or more rings in a 4 inch round piece. Locust is slow to grow and hard as iron.
All the wood in our 12 is original so more than 105 years
A steel wire wheel, smelted, forged and formed in one factory vs buying the forest, cutting, shipping, making spokes, and hand assembly. Availability of hickory had nothing to do with the death of wood wheels- it was LOW LOW cost high volume steel. Henry was CHEAP.
Dallas, you just solved a mystery. A few years ago I replaced a window in my 1800's farm house. I finally had to resort to a chain saw to cut the wall planks and that would hardly cut it with a fresh chain. Always wondered what kind of wood it was.
2017 - 1927 = 90 years at least!
And just how sure are we that our spokes are even THAT old?
The iron in those wire wheels is likely millions of years old.
After sniffing around the World Wide Web for a bit, I learned some interesting tidbits about shagbark hickory trees. These trees could live to be 300-350 years old. A 40 year old tree would only have a diameter of about 5 inches and would be about 40 feet high. The trees reach maturity at around 40 years and really produce good seeds at that point. I suspect the super old trees were not ideal candidates for the Model Ts since the aging wood may have been more brittle.
So, it might be reasonable to conclude (without any real solid Model T historical proof to back me up) that the wood used for the Model T spokes was at least 40 years old and perhaps 100 - 200 years old when Ford used it in the 1908-1927 time period.
That means the dirty spoke that is currently sitting on my kitchen counter, much to the dismay of my lovely and tolerant wife, is about 140 -170 years old (95 year old car + 45 to 75 year old wood at the time the spokes were made). Pretty cool.
Now that I know how old these things are, I wonder if she'd let me stack a few more of them on the counter.
I sold and moved away from a gold mine!
Our lot in Ohio had about 20 shag bark hickory trees 16 plus inches in diameter. They were a pain to mow around and in the fall it took two weekends to remove the leaves from the yard.
According to the website link below, a 90 year old tree has a diameter of about 11 inches. Your 16 inch diameter trees were probably much older than that and might have sprouted before Andrew Jackson (Old Hickory) became president.
Semantics, but I would contend that the tree lived for xx years and ceased to be when the lumberman cut it down. That is the day that it started to cure, was cut up, and commenced to be wood. Unfortunately about, the only original wood in any of my cars is the aftermarket wood tourabout body on my 1912. About 105 years old, then.
Some aged wood get tough. Swamp tamarack was used in many Minnesota barns in the northern side of the state. Old tamarack is hard to cut.
The body of my T is built from the ceiling of the grain room in the barn. The grain room was built prior to 1911. I guess that the trees were cut down at least 10 years prior to my T being built. The boards were rough cut when I started building the body. They were 18-20 foot long and 6-13 inches wide