Timber for Coach-Makers


The Carriage-business is of a nature so peculiar, that it is of the utmost importance that manufacturers should at all times have on hand a good supply of well-seasoned and well-selected timber. This every manufacturer who has been in the business long must have learned from experience. At how dear a rate has many a coach-maker obtained this knowledge in the first year!

Having very little experience in practical business life and taking everybody to be as honest as himself, he, with limited means, goes to a lumber-merchant and purchases a quantity of “stuff,” which he is told is dry. Now, there is a vast difference between seasoned and dry timber. No one knows this better than the lumber-merchant, and yet we have known many—honest men, no doubt—who would, if they could, palm off on the unsuspecting an article represented as dry, which, when it come to be worked, would be found as green as the duped purchaser.

Some may say, We never go to a lumber-yard for our stock. Then you are fortunate. But there are a great many new beginners—for such we a writing—whose purses are limited, and whose credit has not yet become established, who are obliged to do so. The consequences are, that they are soon taught a lesson for which they are called upon to pay dear in the school of experience—that to trust to the word of a lumber-dealer will never do.

The joints in that newly turned-out carriage—at a time of all others, the time for establishing a reputation for good work—very soon convince the manufacturer, as well as his customer, that a “screw is loose somewhere.” Perhaps the want of seasoned timber is one of the most serious drawbacks a beginner ever finds in his business pathway.

To remedy this every carriage-maker should select, if possible, and have a stock housed and seasoning for at least one year in advance of his time for commencing, especially should his business require a large proportion of oak. Six months of summer weather might do for ash and hickory, although advantages would be obtained by giving them—although more quickly drying—a longer time.

From a long experience at the business we have found that the best capital a carriage maker can have, is a capital supply of well-selected and well-seasoned timber. Iron and other materials can be purchased as needed, but with timber the case is different, it must be well seasoned, or it will be found impossible to turn out a creditable carriage.

The New York Coach-Maker’s Magazine – March 1861

—Jeff Burks

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5 Responses to Timber for Coach-Makers

  1. Jeff Faulk says:

    I gotta say, that reeeeeeeal skinny bit between the coachman’s seat and the rest of the coach? No way that’s wood alone unless they used something ridiculously strong there. More likely that was reinforced with strips of steel. And no wonder they ask for seasoned timber, you’d NEED that for such a thin structural component…

    • Jeff Burks says:

      You can see a high resolution photo of a landaulet here.
      All carriages from this time period used timber and wrought iron components.

  2. smbarnha says:

    “Some may say, We never go to a lumber-yard for our stock.”

    What would have been the preferred alternative? To place a custom order or go through a sawyer directly?

    • Jeff Burks says:

      To have several years’ worth of material on hand in your own drying shed so that you could personally verify that each part had been properly seasoned.

      He is saying that they are never obliged to visit the lumber yard on short notice to purchase parts for the job in hand because they had already acquired those parts years ago in anticipation of the need.

  3. Very interesting,… do you have anything about Wainwright or Cartwright and their needs?

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