Wagon wheels make good décor or landscape items and are often used in rustic or Western-themed projects. Wagon wheels are also used in horse-drawn transportation, but these require metalworking skills to fit and mount the steel tire. However, building a wagon wheel for decorative use is a less demanding, but still challenging woodworking project requiring a turning lathe, band saw and other tools.
Use a lathe to turn the hub of the wagon wheel. Decorative wagon wheels can be built of any wood and to any size necessary for the project. The hub of a moderate-sized wheel, 14 to 20 inches in diameter, can be about 5 or 6 inches long and about 4 inches in diameter. Drill a hole through the middle to accommodate the axle. Drill tenon holes, spaces to glue the fitted ends of the spokes into, along the center line of the outside of the hub for the spokes. Once finished, the hub will be a roughly 4-inch round cylinder about 6 inches long with a hole through the center of the long dimension for an axle.
Cut the spokes. The size of the wagon wheel determines the length of the spokes. Usual dimensions are about an 1.5 to 2 inches in width and 3/4 inch thick. Cut tenons on each end of the spoke.
Cut the felloes. Felloes are the curved wooden portion of the rim of the wheel. The series of felloes, when laid out, should form the complete circle of the outside of the wheel. Lay out 2-inch boards in a manner that approximates the outer diameter of the wheel on a workbench. Anchor a string at what would be the center point of the wheel and use a string and pencil to mark out the inside and outside diameter of the felloes. Use a band saw to cut the felloes. Drill tenon holes in the inside of the felloes.
Assemble the wheel from the inside out. Dry fit all pieces before gluing in place. Fit the spokes into the tenon holes in the hub before fitting the felloes to the spokes. If everything fits well, glue the project together. Use a band clamp to pull the project together while the glue dries.
Paint or stain the wagon wheel. Apply finishes that impart a rustic look if that fits the décor. Use exterior quality paints if the wheel will be used outdoors.