Fixing tires by making fires, this Oklahoma blacksmith will ‘fix your wagon’

Great State

DOUGLAS, Okla. (KFOR) – Building a fire is no big deal for a blacksmith.

“This is the way I do it,” says Tom Nelson as he lays pieces of wood over a steel ring.

But he doesn’t get a chance to build this kind of fire very often.

“Every one of them is different,” he states, “But the process is the same.”

On this breezy morning, he’s attaching steel tires to wood wagon rims.

It’s a job that every blacksmith in every town used to perform on a regular basis.

“Around statehood in 1907, there were blacksmiths in every town,” Nelson continues. “Covington is four miles east and they had a blacksmith. Douglas is three miles south and they had a blacksmith.”

Photo goes with story
Tom Nelson

Careful measurements are the best preparation.

The simple physics of expansion and contraction take care of the rest.

Tom and his helper for the day heat their steel tire to around 900 degrees, not enough to throw any color, but just enough for it to expand to fit over the rim.

“We pour water on it to shrink it and it fits tight,” he says.

Knowing when it’s ready is something he learned by watching.

“Old timers had ways of seeing if it was heating right,” he says. “They would take a pine board and slide it along the metal. If it scorched the board then it was time.”

Tom’s Cross Around Forge does a few of these every year, not enough to keep him in business, but enough to keep him happy.

“It’s not a full time job but that’s okay,” he smiles. “It’s my hobby job.”

There aren’t so many wagons driving even the back roads between Douglas and Covington, Okla., any more.

Photo goes with story
A wagon wheel made by Tom.

But on one flat spot, one blacksmith stands alone.

If you need a tire fixed, this kind of shrinking business is still around.

Tom’s Cross Around Forge does wagon work for people in several surrounding states.

For more information on what he does, go to his Facebook page.

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