Wagon wheel preservation

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    • #133388
      Kyle Jansson

      The Oregon Parks and Recreation Department has a wagon wheel that was found submerged this week in a river in eastern Oregon. Approximately three feet in diameter, it has wood spokes with metal around the outer wheel. Currently, it is being stored under water in a “kiddie pool” until an appropriate preservation method can be instituted.

      The likelihood that the wheel has been underwater for a century or more adds complexity to its preservation. The department’s staff is wrestling with exactly what type of wheel it is and how best to preserve it and its integrity. What are your recommendations? A photo of the wheel is at oregonheritage.wordpress.com

    • #133390
      Ron Kley

      What use(s) are envisioneed for this artifact? What, if anything, is (or can be) known of its history? Is there anything that makes it more “preservation worthy” than other wagon wheels of comparable age that have survived on dry land? What staff and budget commitments are available to support preservation efforts?

      Those are the immediate questions that pop into my mind in response to this inquiry.

      A lengthy (probably months-long) immersion in a heated bath of high-molecular-weight polyethylene glycol (PEG) might be a tried and true way to go, but it probably makes sense to take a slightly jaundiced view of any such proposal ans ask whether there’s anything so special about this wheel or its history of submergence that makes it worth the investment that its preservation would require.

      Ron Kley

    • #133389

      Hi, I am with a large disaster recovery contractor. I have dried historic wood items that were submerged in river water for weeks. This includes museums with cultural artifacts, such as chairs, spinning wheels,etc. and building items such as wooden moldings, trim etc. The key is a gradual reduction of ambient humidity over a period of weeks. The spokes should be restrained with something rigid such as rigid aluminum to create jigs that will not allow the spokes to warp during the drying process. The wheel should have clamps installed to clamp the wood to the steel outer rim. The steel outer rim would in effect become the jig. We have freee drying chambers but i would not recommend them.

      You should try to remove the easy to remove sludge and debris while the wheel is in the water. Cleaning with ph neutral surfactants can help remove oils that may be clinging to the wheel. Change the water a few times.

      Others can comment on the restoratoin and preservation of the wood once it is out. Please call if i can provide further advice.


      Mark Rocco
      Vice President
      BMS CAT

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