Restoring An Old Farm Wagon March 08 2017, 0 Comments

I’d wanted a smaller farm wagon for a long time, but they’re hard to find used. We borrow wagons for haying, so I didn’t need a big rig with tall sides. I was looking for more of a pumpkin cart, something I could use around the farmstand, and take on the occasional hay ride.

I couldn’t believe my luck. While driving in to work one day, I saw a wagon for sale which looked to be the perfect size. The deck had obviously seen better days, but the running gear and wheels were in decent shape. The seller predictably told me the wagon had belonged to a cranky geezer who kept it in his barn all year, rolling it out in the Fall to haul squash. I put money down on the spot, although I wasn’t exactly sure how I’d transport 25 miles back home. I was a little nervous about the prospect of making the trip at 20 mph along the busy commuting route, so I paid my neighbor who has a flatbed trailer. The next day, a 60+ year old wagon was sitting in my driveway.

An old David Bradley farm wagon

On the back axle was a David Bradley logo. Some quick research revealed these wagons were sold throughout the 1940’s and 1950’s in the Sears Robuck catalog, and were very popular on small farms of the day. The beams and cross joists were attached to the running gear with U-bolts and old square nuts. These were part of a hardware “kit” commonly sold with the wagons. I decided to replicate what was probably the original rigging, re-using the old hardware. The first step was dis-assembly.

Deck removed from old farm wagon

The sides and deck came off easily. I couldn’t find a socket to fit the nuts on the U-bolts, so I had to take them off with a crescent wrench. I’d upgrade to modern hex nuts for sure. In fairly short order though, I had it all taken apart. The wheels came off after a bit of coaxing with a mallet. I was down to all metal, and ready to take to tackle some rust.

Restored and freshly painted running gear

Nothing fancy, no sandblasting or anything exotic. Just a whole lot of wire brushing and scouring with tough stripping pads. I bought a few cans of spray primer from the hardware store, and splurged on some cans of IH/Case red from the tractor supply place. David Bradley wagons were a reddish-orange, with slightly yellower John Deere green on the wheel rims. I didn’t like that combination, so I opted for some IH/Case white for the wheels. I didn’t take the tires off. I just taped the rubber and sprayed away. Everything looked shiny new, and it was time to visit the lumberyard.

New hemlock plank deck on the old farm wagon

I’d been told rough cut hemlock was the way to go, and fortunately there was a mill not too far away. I bought 2×10’s for the beams, 2×4’s for the joists, and 1 1/2 boards for the deck. Unlike planed lumber, those are actual dimensions with rough cut. The wood was green, heavy, and smelled wonderful. I’d seen more beefy setups, but it was close to what was on there originally. Plus, I had a feeling this wagon would have a pretty cushy, light-duty new life. I put it all together using the old hardware, and a bunch of new nuts, washers, lag and carriage bolts too. It was looking good.

I ordered stake pockets and corner brackets online from Tractor Supply. I wanted the sides to be removable, and I thought it would be nice to have both a tall set for hayrides as well as a short set for harvesting and other chores. The stake pockets were mounted with more carriage bolts. I used pressure-treated 2×4’s for the stakes, and 6-inch barn board for the sides. The short sides would just be one board high, but without a model for reference, I wasn’t sure how high to make the tall sides. In the end, I figured one haybale high, plus enough to come to an adult hayrider’s shoulders would be good.

Restoration complete. The new farm wagon is ready to roll.

As soon as the last board was screwed down, the family piled in for ride around the field. It was great fun. I even drove around the town green to show it off. I think the materials totaled close to $300, well worth it. I’ll use it for all sorts of things, and it will look great down on the farmstand. What a creampuff.