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John Tonen

Date joined: 28/08/20

About

I first became interested in Horse Drawn Farm Vehicles in the late 1970’s. My work took me into rural parts of Carmarthenshire and Cardiganshire where I would see carts rotting away in hedgerows at the side of the road. In researching the history of farming practice I learnt that increased need for food production during World War 2 led to greater mechanisation. The use of Horses for farming was becoming less efficient, leading to less need for such carts. I thought it was important to record this part of our social history before it completely disappeared. What was clear to me was that the people who built these vehicles were craftsmen. These skilled Wheelwrights and Cartwrights were key to supporting Farmers throughout the 19th and early 20th Century. I started measuring and photographing vehicles and implements on farms from which I made my own scale drawings. These drawings enabled me to make models using the same techniques practiced by the craftsmen who built the originals. Where appropriate Mortice and Tenon joints are used sometimes these are through joints others are hidden, occasionally joints were pinned with wooden dowels; all these were skills I had to learn. Nuts and bolts were made by the local Blacksmith and such nuts were square and was another skill I learnt. The Wheelwrights and Cartwrights used particular timbers for their properties and my models follow this practice. Ash was used because of its flexibility for shafts, framing and fellies (the wheel rim). Oak was also used for framing but more importantly for wheel spokes. Cleft or split along the grain the oak is strong in compression, needed for the load carrying spokes. Elm was used for axle beds and for wheel hubs. In constructing a wheel hub a lot of wood is taken away for the boring of the axle hole and the morticing of the spokes. Axle beds had Cast Iron axle arms set into them. Elm is tough close grained wood suited to these purposes. A completely wooden axle would be used where metal would prove too costly. Such wooden axles were constructed from Beech. All timbers were well seasoned, in many cases for several years prior to use. Generally floor boards would be cheaper timbers such as Deal as these could require regular replacement through wear and tear. Latterly it has become harder to find subjects, but I still find Carts in museums, private collections and sometimes derelict farms.
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