Sorry I have no plans on how to build a handcart, but here is
Description of Handcart Construction from Handcarts to Zion p. 53-55
"The handcarts used by the different companies varied in size and
construction, but the general pattern was uniform. The carts resembled
those used by porters and street sweepers in the cities of the United States.
They were constructed with little or no iron. The axles of many consisted
of a single pole of hickory, without iron skeins. Some of the wheels were
hooped with thin iron tires, others were not. Many of the carts, made in
a hurry and of unseasoned wood, shrank, warped, and cracked as they were
drawn across the dry plains during the summer heat."
Josiah Rogerson, a veteran of the handcart emigration gives the following
description in the Salt Lake Tribune, January 4, 1914:
"The open handcart was made of Iowa hickory or oak, the shafts
and side pieces of the same material, but the axles generally of hickory.
In length the side pieces and shafts were about six or seven feet, with three
or four binding cross bars from the back part to the fore part of the body of the
cart; then two or three feet space from the latter bar to the front bar or singletree
for the lead horse or lead man, woman or boy of the team."
"The carts were usual width of the wide track wagon. Across the bars of
the bed of the cart we generally sewed a strip of bed ticking or counterpane.
On this wooden cart of thimbleless axle, with about a 2 1/2 inch shoulder and
1 inch point, were often loaded 400 or 500 pounds of flour, bedding, and extra
clothing, cooking utensils and a tent. How the flimsy yankee hickory structure
held up the load for hundreds of miles has been a wonder to us since then."
"The covered or family cart was similar in size and construction with the
exception that it was made stronger, with an iron axle. It was surmounted by
a small wagon box 3 or 4 feet long with side and end pieces about 8 inches high.
Two persons were assigned to the pulling of each open cart, and where a father
and son of age and strength were found in one family, with smaller children,
they were allotted a covered cart, but in many instances the father had to pull
the covered cart alone."
Upon being requested for suggestions relative to the construction of
handcarts, C.R. Dana wrote F.D. Richards from Manchester, England on
Feb. 7, 1856: "Supposing that a suitable person should be sent to the
Iowa for that purpose, he should in the first place seek out some good
timber adjacent to a saw mill, an near to outfitting point. He should
selected hickory for axle-trees, red or slippery elms for hubbs, white oak
for spokes and rims to the wheels, white ash for fills or shafts, and for making
of cribbs or beds. I am of the opinion that the axle-trees should be sawed
two and a half by three and a half inches."
"The oak for the rims should be sawed into boards about three quarters of an
inch thick, and ripped into strips three inches wide, or two and a half might
possibly do. The timber for them should grow on low ground, as that kind is much
easier to bend, and very tough. The axle-trees, hubbs, and
spokes should be first prepared, so that they could have time to season."
"When the hubbs are prepared, the spokes driven and tenoned, the rims should
then be mortised, or bored, to receive the spokes. The inside corners of
the rims should also be rounded off to prevent sand from gathering and remaining
on them ... I am confident that the carts could be built that would be
substantial, light, and easy to draw; and I will venture to say that they need not cost more
than four or five dollars each; for there would be no necessity for any planing, or
any polishing, only the arms or spindles of the axle-trees, and very little about
Millennial Star, xxmissioni (1856) 127-128
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