Calimers wheel shop

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    I sent two wooden spoke wheels from my ’32 limo to Calimers wheel shop in August of 07 to be rebuilt. After no contact was made for 5 weeks I called to find out the status. I was told he had not even started working on them due to projects he had to get done before Hershey. Strike one. The week after Hershey he sent me the empty rims and hubs and I had them powder coated and sent back within a week. December rolls around and I contact him via email to find out the status of my wheels. He informs me his wife went in for surgery and that he had not worked on them, plus with the holidays coming up, blah, blah, blah. Strike two. It is now the middle of January and I called him once again to ask about my wheels. You guessed it, they are still not finished. When I inquired why it is taking so long I was told he had to make master patterns for both wheels before making the spokes, and that he had other orders to fill as well. Okay, since I do not know anything about patterns and what it takes to do make these wheels happen, I have given him the benefit of the doubt. And yet, I do not know why he can spit out wheels for other people in a matter of a few months not be able to finish these. I am running out of time and patience and I still have four other wheels I need rebuilt before the summer starts.

    Can someone recommended someone with a little more reliability than this guy? Any information would be most appreciated. Thank you.


    Hi- one point I forgot to mention, if the powder coating that you had done is meant to be a final finish, you may get disappointed. I believe there is a heat step involved in shrinking the rim on the felloe (fellow?), which, combined with the dried wood soaking moisture from the air, forms an extremely tight wheel. This heat may discolor or damage a coating, I know that the primered rims on my sets of wheels had to be redone. Something else to be clear about with Bill.

    Again, good luck! David Coco



    Thank you for the heads up. I guess I will just have to wait and see with my wheels. If it is going to take as long as you said it might, it looks like I won’t be doing any touring this year. As for the powder coating, it was not my idea, if they come back discolored I will refinish the rims with a good coat of paint. Thank you for all your help and suggestions.



    Hi- just as further information (and you can tell I spent some time in his shop); his father used to run the business, and as mentioned it is pretty much a one man shop now. In a good week, he turns out two sets of wheels (each set of 4 wheels). In this big world, 100 sets of wheels a year is pretty exclusive; most of the wheels he seems to make are the early brass cars it seems. He uses hickory if I remember correctly, it has to be cut a certain way with the grain to make the blanks. He has a machine into which he puts a good pattern (and can use one of the spokes off your car is one is good enough), and then it makes 6 or 8 spokes at a time from that pattern. He will choose better grain wood if you are going to stain and varnish wood wheels, but if to be painted grain appearance is not important. All wheel wood is put in a special room which reduces it to 1.5% moisture content. After dry (and it takes weeks to get to that low moisture content), he fits and assembles the wheels, and the moisture in the air rehydrates the wheel (I think normal wood is 30% moisture or more), swelling the wood to make a tight fit (remember the old trick of driving through a stream to tighten Model T wheels). Remember, a wood wheel is a compression wheel, with weight supported by bottom spokes of wheel at time of tire contact with road; wire wheels are suspension wheels, with weight of car supported by upper part of rim hanging from spokes. Then he has a machine which makes the hub hole true, and he finishes the wheel. It is all very low tech, but he turns out a true wheel which will last you another 100 years or more. All this trivia is rattling around in my head and am glad to let it out a little. Happy (Pierce or Franklin) Motoring! David Coco


    I am working on an update to the parts & service directory and came across The Vintage Wheel Shop, 19842 Via Redonda, Sorena, CA 95370. The proprietor is George Garrigan at 209-533-0468 and I spoke to him today to verify current information. You may wish to try him.


    That’s SONORA, California, not ‘Sorena.’

    George in Calif. :-)

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