Rural Heritage Equipment Shed

How to Build or Repair a Horse-Drawn Wagon
by Rod Chiodini

A request we hear frequently is for plans or instructions on how to build or restore a farm wagon. I have no plans for building wagons. I know how to build them simply from dealing with wagons. Most farm wagons are built essentially the same way, with variations based on the maker, function, and so forth. A farm wagon has a removable body that can be easily replaced—one running gear, many bodies.

When restoring a wagon, you must have enough left of it to determine the individual peculiarities associated with it. From that, combined with a basic knowledge of farm wagon construction, you should be able to reconstruct the wagon back to original condition.

The next thing you need is basic knowledge. Here is my best advice:

  1. Go to the library, use inter-library loan if necessary, and look for books in which you can examine the construction of as many farm wagons as you can find.

  2. Locate as many museums as you can in your area that have farm wagons. On the East Coast we have half a dozen or so. Ask anyone who sells or has horse-drawn carriages or equipment about museums and private collections. By examining the wagons in these collections you can develop the basic knowledge needed to accomplish your goal. On more than one occasion we have reconstructed wagon or carriage parts for which we had only the steel, simply by examining similar vehicles. Wagons do not vary much (carriages can be a different story). If you find a wagon using the same steel parts, you can be pretty sure the same wood was used.

  3. If any wood is available on the original wagon, determine what type it is. If it is hickory, the wagon was built in the Southeast. If it is oak, the wagon was built in the Northeast.

So that's it: Learn basic wagon construction, find any picture of the particular farm wagon in question, and the rest will be a breeze.


Rod Chiodini operates Custom Carriage and Wagon Works in Rehoboth, Massachusetts, and is an occasional contributor to Rural Heritage. This article appeared in the Winter 2001 issue.

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29 April 2012 last revision