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Thread: Building an English wheel
12-03-2008, 08:00 PM #1
Building an English wheel
Just getting in to the idea of building an english wheel anybody have some tips/pointers? I've never seen one but I have the basic idea down. With that you can see I can use all the help I can get.
12-03-2008, 08:33 PM #2
12-03-2008, 08:37 PM #3
You'll want to head over to the Metalshapers group.
or the original group is located at:
They have TONS of pictures of peoples shop-built e-wheels. The basic idea is build the frame about 5x as stout as you think you need to build it.
Being a machinist, you're at an advantage for building the thickness adjustments (a big, fine thread), and quick release mechanisms. For simplicity, it is possible to buy pre-manufactured upper and lower wheels.
Regarding the wheels, egocentricity is important. On the lower wheels, they can be elliptical or have blended flats of various widths. Also, if you can easily manage turning hard materials, make them hard, but it's not mandatory for a hobby machine.
12-03-2008, 08:45 PM #4
Regarding the wheels, egocentricity is important.
(don't take offense Al, I couldn't pass up that straight line. )
12-03-2008, 08:45 PM #5
We built one several years ago. Depends what you want to form but if you build it stronger and heavier than any purchased one you have seen you will be OK.
This one uses hard turned 4140 wheels and the stub axle is from the rear of a Chevy Cavalier. We can quickly remove the wheel and change to a planishing hammer if desired.
The bottom 1/2 of the frame is filled with sand and the top half has spray in foam insulation for sound control with a hammer.
12-03-2008, 08:48 PM #6
The basic problem with home built, or even ready made wheels like the one pictured is lack of rigidity. Much as I despise Jesse James and his whole ilk, he did have a killer english wheel. Solid cast iron and probably 3tons. No flex, and thus able to really move metal the way it is supposed to be done.
At the museum, we had a good sized one out of 4" or so tubing. Very expensive name brand machine (not HF... can't remember the name, something motorsports out of FL). It flexed too much to do any real forming. It was VERY good for planishing out dings after you worked a dome into a sandbag, but there just was not enough rigidity to really get the metal to flow between the wheels (and that's the WHOLE idea). You could get some flow, but it took forever and you worked yourself to death. You could see the frame flex (wheels would visibly move apart) when you pulled off a part only .032 thick.
I used it for several years. Knowing what I know now, I'd put the time and effort into finding a good Pullmax instead. If you want cheap, fast metalforming, look into the HF planishing hammer that uses an air hammer in a frame similar to this wheel. It makes a racket, but it will do anything the wheel will do better and faster.
12-03-2008, 08:49 PM #7
12-03-2008, 08:55 PM #8
12-03-2008, 09:06 PM #9
Building an English Wheel
This topic is one which appears and appears.
Unless the wheel is built like the proverbial English brick sh1t house it will be a complete waste of time. One needs massive rigidity to torture sheet metal. The published designs would just about pull the skin off a rice pudding.
For those who want to get some idea should consult a book like the Repair of Vehicle Bodies by Alan Robinson-- who taught me
12-04-2008, 01:35 AM #10
Here is another site that has more info than you have time to read about English Wheels. http://www.metalmeet.com/ use the search function or just read through the section dealing with English wheels.
Lots of discussion about the Harbor Freight wheel pictured above and what junk it is (although they have a new version in their catalog that looks to be much better). They have advertisers such as HoosierPattern that make the wheels and are very good quality. I wish I had known about this site before I built my wheel, I wouldn't be re-doing it now.
12-04-2008, 01:59 AM #11
12-04-2008, 03:07 AM #12
I can appreciate rigidity being an issue but what would make a solid good one? I saw the one Jesse James used a long time ago and can't really remember what it looked like. I've googled english wheel and basically got so many different types I don't know which are good and which suck. I mean would a C type be better? Make it out of one big chunk of steel?
12-04-2008, 05:59 AM #13
Somewhere, somehow, there will be something like an old Archdale which I used.
I am sorry to appear rude but it is preferable to actually involving you or anyone else in constructing a thing which will warp and twist.
A true English wheel- let's drop the English bit- is a massive casting weighing tons.
Again, I would suggest the book by my late and very lamented old tutor.
My kind regards
12-04-2008, 07:08 AM #14
Well, since "true" English Wheels have large cast-iron frames, and in most cases haven't been made in any real quantity in forty years or more, the "good" ones tend to be highly sought after, very expensive, and even more costly to ship.
That's not too much of a burden for a shop doing extensive sheetmetal work, and/or a shop with buckets of cash to burn, that's a bit out of the range for most of us home-shop types who might simply want to build one car. Or in some cases, even just make one panel.
The Harbor Freight kits- the yellow one above- is said to be inadequate crap. There are many who have bought it, since they can't even buy the material for that price, and then extensively reworked it and reinforced it. That's an option, as I'm told the wheels, while not truly hardened, are pretty decent for the price, and as long as you don't wheel over chips or grit or weld seams, will do surprisingly well.
There is nothing at all special about the frame. It needs to have the throat clearance sufficient to accept the largest panel you plan to work, and it needs to be rigid enough to not flex greatly as it's bearing down on the sheet.
As casting an iron frame is a bit out of reach for most of us, we're stuck with welding something up out of structural steel. Rectangular tubing is usually the most popular, but I've seen round tubing, pipe, I-beam, channel, and frames fabricated from plate. Some work well, some are too light, and all too many try useless additions like sand or foam to fill the hollows.
The fillers help dampen the noise when you're using the frame with an pneumatic planishing hammer, but are otherwise worthless. They make the frame heavier, but that's about it. Flex between the upper and lower wheels is the only critical issue, and any loose filler cannot and will not help this.
I've seen some people fill their frames with mortar/concrete, but I doubt it helps as much as adding half that weight in additional steel bracing would have.
If you're doing it on the cheap, HF sells just the wheel kit. They're only adequate, but they're inexpensive, and better wheels can be retrofitted later if need be. Then, as somebody said above, design a good strong frame, then at least double it. The frame can't be too strong.
Forget about fillers or dampers, they're just needless weight that doesn't do anything. Use some big casters that can lock, and take the time to make the lower wheel adjustment and quick-release as good as you can make it. That's the key to a wheel's user-friendliness.
12-04-2008, 08:06 AM #15
I bought a kit similar to the HF model pictured above. I got it for half price as there was something wrong with the spindle. If you follow the same route be prepared that the cheap models will need some work to improve is.
Other than cleaning up the spindle I had to align the wheels properly and true up the big wheel in the lathe as it was wobbly. I intend to add some bracing to improve ridgidity.
If you intend to use a wheel professionally I would recommend an old fashioned one in cast iron. If you use it for hobby purposed and have limited space like me, buy a cheap(er) import but be prepared to do some work to it before it will be a usable tool.
12-04-2008, 04:05 PM #16
Before considering buying a Harbor Freight wheel, you might want to look over my web page about one:
For serious work with steel sheet metal, you really need a more robust frame/wheel/anvil set.
Good heavy duty US made models are readily available as complete units, kits, or wheel sets.
For work with softer metals a lighter weight wheel setup can work - depending upon your needs.
12-04-2008, 04:35 PM #17
I love your pulling tractor. Do you pull, or are you smart, and just take other folks money for doing the fun part.
My two kids pull Garden Tractors, it is really a fun and affordable sport.
Oh, yeah, I don't know anything about English wheels, or English Brick $#!t houses.
12-04-2008, 04:40 PM #18
12-04-2008, 11:53 PM #19
Magicmaker said, "Good heavy duty US made models are readily available as complete units, kits, or wheel sets."
So in this case he is talking about an "American Wheel". No doubt 60* included angle? It would have to be 55* to be English?
12-05-2008, 01:40 AM #20
Ok so now I'm sorta at a loss. I guess the amount of rigidity and flex is personal opinion? I do like the mods done to the HF model. That looks like something cheep and easy.