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Refurbishing the Meadowbrook

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  • Refurbishing the Meadowbrook

    I bought a nice cart that needed sanding and refinishing. I wanted to get away from the clear coat and stain the red oak a nice shade. I got some quotes from professionals and the cost far exceeded the value of the vehicle. So, I commenced on the project myself.

    Here are some of the life lessons I've acquired, plus my question.

    1) the first vehicle you refurbish will not end up as your show cart.
    2) they call it 'stain' for a reason.
    3) Even if you think you'll remember where all the bolts go, you won't.
    4) Pigeons are evil, and cottonwood season is not the best time to apply sticky coats of anything.

    That said, I am now at the wheels. I thought I would have to replace them for size reasons, but we put the Haflinger between the shafts and the cart does not sit too tall with the 46" wheels.

    All the spokes are tight. The rubber is tight. The metal band holding on the rubber has rust, but is intact. The wheels are round, with a dish, i.e. slight concave bend of the spokes towards the body of the cart. It rolls evenly. My question - one spoke only has developed some cracking on both sides at the base where it enters the rim, but the spoke remains firm.

    Is this a death blow to the wheel? If you replace one, must you replace the other? I presume that my husband's suggestion of 'gorilla glue' is probably not the proper solution! The crack does not seem to be particularly deep; the finish on this cart was really ruined and it looks superficial.

    I will attempt to get a pic. Thanks!
  • Original Poster



    • #3
      Just a suggestion, take the wheels to a wheelwright and have them checked over.

      How long has it been since a wheel man has seen them? If you don't know, take them to be inspected. If there is nothing to be done, they might charge a small inspection fee for his time. If he finds something, it is well worth the cost in time and cash, to prevent having an accident later on. Some wood cracks are important, others are not. Unless YOU know wheels, you can't really tell enough to put your life on the line. Not worth it.

      An old story of ours. We bought a very nice cart, looked "showroom perfect" as we unloaded it. However it was an antique, had no history with it. Husband and I had an agreement, any new vehicle purchased would have wheels inspected by the wheel man BEFORE taking vehicle out for a ride. Gosh we were TEMPTED to ignore this reasonable agreement, everything looked so great!! Yet we are not wheel experts, and our wheel man friend had gotten us to make the agreement by telling some ugly stories of wrecks.
      We managed to resist, but it was hard.

      Husband hauled the wheels of vehicle up to wheel man friend the NEXT day! Got the wheels out while telling George all about the great bargin, lovely vehicle, we had gotten. George was the original silent type, just giving the "Uh-huh" replies. George got out his little hammer and started tapping on the spokes. Husband cringed, WAS a great paint job! George then gave it a BIG WHACK with the hammer, just like Julia Childs in the commercials!! The spoke shattered with parts flying everywhere. "Yep, just didn't sound right" says George. The shattered spoke was made of plaster!!

      Then George proceeded to whack the other spokes, felloes along the tire. Husband said he had to cover his eyes, plaster flying and dust everywhere. George was grinning, having a great time, as he went over the wheel. When finished, there was some wood for each spoke, some of the wood felloes left, and a LOT of green and white plaster that had been knocked off.

      Same with the other wheel, filled and painted, totally unsafe to drive on.

      George pretty much replaced all the wood, hubs were sound, then put rubber tires on instead of the steel tires, and sent them home to us. He saved a couple spokes and a felloe with plaster still on, for examples to show other people.

      The newly re-built wheels were great, rode fine, and we had no problems with them ever.

      We would NEVER have guessed that there was any problem by looking at them, even with our basic vehicle knowledge. Sound of the wood was the key, to the trained ears. There are several tests they do with the wheel, listening for sounds, to ensure solid, tight wheels.

      We still have all new (to us) vehicle wheels checked by wheel wright before driving them. George got a lot of good laughs telling that story over the years. Saved us from a bad wreck.


      • Original Poster

        Wow, the things that people will do, it is (to me) unethical to sell a vehicle as anything but a yard ornament with wheels like that.

        Thank you for the story, I will check around in our Amish community for a wheelwright. It will save me a lot of sanding if the underlying spokes are bad! I still have plenty of work to do on the rest of the vehicle. It should be perfect by winter



        • #5
          Looking back, we kind of figured the vehicle had been standing in someone's carriage house as part of an exhibit. Looks are everything when you are just showing stuff off. Many collectors never use the vehicles at all. Collections of vehicles come and go at the yearly auctions. There was no history with it, and it is always "buyer beware" in an auction setting! You have to take the good with the bad when you find "bargins".

          We were fortunate to have JUST enough information/knowledge about our ignorance, to get expert help, before using the vehicle. THANK you experienced drivers for telling us that information! We figured only one bad hole in the deal, since we found no plaster fill in the vehicle body or shafts, when George checked everything else out for safety. Interesting to watch husband cringe at the sound of the little tapping hammer! With wheels fixed, we were in business, ready to hitch and go.

          Was and is unique model here, a very attractive vehicle, had the desired features, with a maker's name on the hubs. Was imported from the UK, fit the horse we wanted to use for driving. I decided I LIKE lime green pinstriping on deep green! Not a combination I ever would have ordered previously, but it really did look nice and grew on me. Always got compliments on the turnout, when we went someplace. Had a lot of fun using it, got some good photos. Actually had people come hunt us up, demanding that we sell it to them!! How often does that happen? So we made money when we sold it, timing was just right. The old horse was not drivable anymore. We had changed to the Cleveland Bay crosses, vehicle was too small for them.


          • #6
            OK, professional restorationist here....I was all ready to post a smart reply until reading goodhors's horror story. Now I feel I should keep my mouth shut.
            Actually, for a long time I refused to work on chairs just because of the safety factor, wheels are even more critical. I'd bring it to a pro just for your own peace of mind safety factor.

            The wood looks strong and sound to me. If it was mine, I would remeld the glue and add slurry to it for reinforcement strength upon drying, but that's all. Like a $15 job, nothing big. But I had a lazy bombproof pony.

            If you ARE going to stain that wood, make sure you try a small area underneath first. You'd be amazed how quickly golden wood can become "black" with stain. I've certainly made the mistake before, which is why I don't take chances any more. Minwax makes the best stains, imho.

            Also, try to stay away from synthetic "poly" finishes. They seal wood and prevent it from getting moisture & "breathing". Eventually will lose elasticity and it can't be removed by stripping, you're done for.
            Use a natural varnish: marine spar is my favorite. You can give spar varnish a quick touch up coat when it gets dull or even scratched, it never shows as a "spot" touch up. Again, I recommend Minwax Marine Spar Eurethane (not POLYeurethane)


            • #7
              A few weeks ago, I re-did my meadowbroke that we have owned forever and the varnish was looking yellowed/rough in some places. I gave it a quick sand and painted it with a quality black enamel. I did a bit at a time and only on days where the weather was non-humid. I used those little sponge brushes and threw them away as soon as they started to fall apart. It took one quart of paint. I had to go back and do a second coat but only very lightly. The wheels took forever, but I just kept turning them to find spots that I had missed.

              It looks fantastic (if I do say so myself).

              I (luckily) didn't take it apart. I didn't worry too much about it as it isn't our show cart but I am very good with a paint brush and i am SO glad I didn't refinish with stain after your story. I didn't try to do anything fancy. I didn't do pinstriping. Just black paint -it looks really good...
              Luistano Stallion standing for 2013: Wolverine UVF


              • Original Poster

                I didn't realize I should stay away from polys, I used the standard Minwax cherry stain which turned out a little brighter than expected but not totally overwhelming. One of my teenage boys said with sincerity, "that's going to look great with the Haflinger's red coat", so I was pleased that he noticed!

                If it would quit raining every day I might be able to get it done, next week is my vacation week. It's been like Seattle here (without the good restaurants.)


                • #9
                  Originally posted by lisae View Post
                  I didn't realize I should stay away from polys, I used the standard Minwax cherry stain which turned out a little brighter than expected but not totally overwhelming. One of my teenage boys said with sincerity, "that's going to look great with the Haflinger's red coat", so I was pleased that he noticed!

                  If it would quit raining every day I might be able to get it done, next week is my vacation week. It's been like Seattle here (without the good restaurants.)
                  I bet it looks good!

                  I was told to stay away from the spar varnishes for outside woods because they yellow so much with any sun exposure (but they may be formulated differently than they once were). I have always had good luck with the poly for my little products.
                  Luistano Stallion standing for 2013: Wolverine UVF