The Tower Handbook
Wood is still preferred: oak for the spokes, ash for the sole, chestnut and elm for the shrouding , although the spokes are now sometimes made of Asian hardwoods such as ramin, and the shrouding is sometimes made of plywood.
The most common problems concern the shrouding. In older installations this is usually fixed by means of iron nails. These tend to rust and expand cracking the wood, so bits of the shrouding drop off. If the damage is not too serious replace the nails with either brass or plated screws. Remember to drill a pilot hole first or you may cause more splits as you force in the screw.
The other trouble spot is the attachment of the wheel to the headstock. There is usually a bolt passing through the vertical spokes of the wheel and the headstock itself. If the wheel is a loose fit around the headstock the nut on this bolt will need to be tightened very hard to stop the wheel moving on the headstock. This over tightening can cause the nut to bite into the wheel. Use some sort of heavy gauge steel washer to spread the load and avoid further damage to the spokes. Some installations have a U-bolt or two through the headstock and these are less likely to damage the wheel, but you should still check them for tightness.
Warped wheels can cause two problems.
Most older installations have two (or sometimes four) braces or stays screwed to the wheel at one end and the headstock at the other. You may be able to relocate these at the headstock end and so pull the wheel back into alignment. But beware, the screws into the headstock will not give up easily and you'll have to be careful not to damage the braces.
Wheels on metal headstocks are less likely to go out of true. They are usually bolted firmly to vertical flanges on the headstock. Occasionally you may find that the flanges themselves are not actually true and need some sort of packing.
If the sole or any of the spokes of the wheel are breaking up, or if you have a bad warp you cannot cure, then the wheel will need repair (or possibly replacement). Seek advice before doing anything. This is not a job for an amateur. You may know a carpenter or joiner, but unless he's 'au fait' with bell fittings get advice before letting him loose on your wheels!
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