English Wheel Project.

I have a (very) long term goal of making a car from scratch. I’d like to make the panelwork out of steel and so I figured I’d need to obtain an English Wheel in order to do it.

I was unimpressed with the range of English Wheels out there for sale- they generally had weak small-section RHS frames, compliant adjustors, generally poor build quality and not much in the way of customisability. I decided to make my own. Here’s how it’s going so far:

Like all my major projects, I started with a CAD model. This is a habit I picked up from my first full-time job as a draughtsman.

The intial CAD model of the machine.

It’s a pretty standard concept. I decided to have the C-shapes laser cut, rather than fabricating the whole thing our of RHS, as for something this large, the material cost far outweighs the cost of having it cut. Not that there’s anything wrong with RHS; I just wanted a bit of flair. The holes cut in it are to put pipe spacers in to make it easier to put together. There’s still a lot of room for the side panels to deflect/oilcan, so I decided to weld in some stiffening plates as well.I decided to have the quick release on the top with the pressure adjustment at the bottom.

The ergonomic model, incidentally, is a FSAE driver. If you tilt your head to the right, you can see that he’s still in his in-car-racing position.

Upper roller with quick release

Cross section of the upper roller showing how it rotates on eccentric bushes

Here’s how the quick release works. It’s pretty simple; just two eccentric bushes for the axle to sit in with a handle to turn them. There is no detent in the CAD, but rest assured, I’ll include one. The wheel, incidentally, is 4340, which I’ll harden.

The roller I actually made has undergone some weight reduction. I hogged a couple of kilos out of it by having the outside supported by a rib rather than having the whole thing the same thickness. Also the speed holes. To go faster.

lower roller and adjustor

Cross section of the lower adjustor and roller showing gibs and adjustment method

I spent quite some time thinking about the lower adjustor and how I’d make it. I was concerned about slop about the vertical axis and I figured the best way to ensure that was minimised while still being able to make it myself was to use teflon gibs that I could tighten up to adjust the clearances. This way, I have a way to deal with wear and I can still use inaccurate RHS (provided I clean up the inner piece). Other methods I’ve seen looked either prone to wear (keyed shafts) or difficult to manufacture (hex-bore holes). You’ll also see that I designed in some adjustment for the lower roller in order to ensure that its axis of rotation is horizontal (or at lease parallel to the upper roller). I’ve also designed it so that I can unbolt the clevis and bolt it back on at a 90 degree angle if I want to roll a panel in and out of the frame, rather than side-to-side.

The rollers themselves will be En36A, which I’ll nitride when I’m done. I haven’t made these yet, as there’s a lot of work in making 7 of them without a CNC machine. I was hoping I’d get lucky and have a friend make them, but unfortunately, that didn’t eventuate, so I’ll be machining them manually soon, it seems.

Here are the pieces that will support the lower roller axles. I’ve machined and hones them to fit, leaving them a little tight, so I can lap them together later.

Pieces of the main frame

Here’s the laser cut sections. I couldn’t transport them whole, and I wasn’t sure if the laser cutter were using standard size sheets or not, so I had smaller sections cut to weld together.

This is one side fitted together

Here’s a sample of the welds. I’ll never again look down on arc welding. Most of the time it looks like crap, but if you clean the metal up well and use a fresh pack of electrodes, they come up like this. I used the same electrodes a few months later and the weld quality was nowhere near as good, even though I sealed them up in the pack with electrical tape. Next time, I’ll try drying them out in an oven.

I bought two of these trolleys from bunnings. Wanna guess why?

That’s why! One trolley at $18.99 gives two wheels that I could buy individually for $25. I wanted to use fat, pneumatic wheels so that I can easily maneuver the machine over carpet and gravel.

This is a triaxial soil testing machine- or part of one. They’re used to apply pressure to soil samples to test their mechanical properties in three axes for civil engineering purposes. They’re basically a calibrated leadscrew with a frame. I may or may not have retrieved this from a dumpster. I endeavor to never be too proud to jump in a bin to find treasures like this. The leadscrew here is perfect for an English Wheel as it has an internal gearset which gives super fine adjustment. The frame isn’t relevant to this, but it is a great support for my 44-gallon-drum-open-woodfire.

Here I’ve tacked in the pipe spacers. Same electrodes as before, less cleanup, much worse weld quality.

Trying to get the damn thing flat with an anvil, some steel strips, straight edges and hammers. I should have tacked the whole thing together before seaming anything, but I had to do parts of this build many weeks and kilometers apart, so I did what I could, when I could. It’s not too far out after all this effort.

Here it’s starting to take some shape.

At this point, I enlisted some help from my friend and my father in order to stand it up and weld on a basic frame for the wheels.

Now it’s on a rolling frame…

Making some real progress now!

We fitted the outside flat by tacking and bending into position by hand, then tacking again. It worked pretty well, but obviously doing the inside is going to be harder. You can see the heat patterns along the side section from welding in an internal stiffening plate.

This wheel spindle was made out of two R31 skyline rear brake caliper brackets, a thrust bearing carrier and thrust bearing from an r30 skyline, one of the trolley wheels, part of the trolley frame and some flat bar.

Here it is from another angle.

If I was to ride it like a bike, this is how I’d do it.

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