“Since the last issue I collected five side laced wheels (J2 wheels) from James Wheildon. The wheels were in good condition but were dark blue in colour and I wanted them to be silver. I was pleased with the result and the cost (for powder coating) was £45 per wheel, which I thought was reasonable. I asked James if he would be prepared to write a brief article for the magazine and he has duly obliged. Over to James…..”
“I became a wheel builder by accident when in 1990 I took a damaged motor cycle wheel to a local wheel builder. On that visit I learned that Roger would be retiring shortly and closing down. At that time I was in partnership in the building trade but I arranged to work with Roger for 2 days a week until he retired. I then bought the business from him, dividing my time between the two businesses. Soon I went full time into wire wheels.
At first I concentrated on motor cycle wheels but gradually started taking in car wheels. At the height of this business I employed 5 people and was rebuilding well over 3,000 wheels a year. Some seven years ago I reorganised this business and now two of my former employees concentrate on motor cycle wheels while I now only build car wheels. I undertake anything from replacement of one spoke to building new wheels in their entirety if required. Most of my work is on pre-war wheels as for many later classics, motor factors have new wheels available off the shelf. However I can, and do occasionally, work on post-war wheels.
Some of the rims I use come from as far afield as New Zealand as these are of the very best quality. Most hub types are also available.
The spokes I use, around 30,000 spokes a year, are manufactured to my specification. In the past when buying ready-made spoke blanks from recognised sources, I had intermittent spoke failures in wheels and when I investigated spoke quality I discovered a better specification was available. Now I seldom have problems with spoke failures.
These spokes I buy in straight lengths with only the head and each spoke has to have a set introduced and then cut to length and threaded. For five Rolls-Royce wheels with 84 spokes each, it is almost a day’s work just to make up the spokes!
The rims come in to me blank and have to be dimpled to take the nipple on the end of the spoke and pierced at the correct angle to reflect the dimensions of the hub. With the spokes in hand and the rims dimpled and pierced then the wheel can be “laced up”.
I have a variety of jigs and spindles for mounting the wheel prior to final truing and tightening. This is done entirely by hand and eye and can only be learned by practice. The first 50 wheels are the hardest – I think it took me a whole day to true up my first motor cycle wheel!
Wheels are usually finished either in powder coating which is cheap and tough or two-pack paint which has a greater variety of colours and a better quality finish obtained. The choice is up to the customer.
Now the wheel has almost turned full circle and not too far into the future I too shall be looking for someone to pick up the spoke key and run with it. Many of my customers over the years have become friends, and we all have a common interest in our many and varied vintage vehicles.
Contact details: James Wheildon, Old Brickwood Farm, West Grimstead, SALISBURY, Wilts. SP5 3RN Tel: 01722 712967
E-mail: jameswheildon(at)yahoo.com (please substitute the (at) for @).