Uncovering Another Legend

Published by: David Sneed, Wheels That Won The West® Archives, LLC
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Researching the lesser known parts of America’s early transportation industry is a challenge full of anticipation,surprises and excitement.  Unfortunately,it’s usually wrapped in layers of dull, monotonous study mired in puzzles ofmissing information.  In other words,it’s a lot of work.  Successfuldiscoveries require constant vigilance and access to plenty of primary sourcematerials.  From the original vehiclesand parts, themselves, to business papers, photos and written accounts from thesame period, it’s all especially helpful. As a result, over the years, we’ve worked to gather a literal storehouseof supporting elements for our writings and evaluations.

As part of those efforts, our Wheels That Won The West® archives are also privy to our vehicle,sign and seat collection.  Thesesurvivors lived much of their days outside and hearken to a time when wheelswere wood, tires were steel and horseflesh dominated the road.  Consisting of brands like T.G. Mandt, Weber,Studebaker, Schuttler, American, Springfield, Owensboro, Gestring, Florence,Birdsell, Bain, Weber & Damme, John Deere, Nissen, Cooper, Newton,Overland, Carver, Charter Oak, Winona, Pekin, Milburn, Moline, and others, thispart of the collection is equally important when it comes to assistance withidentification and authentication efforts. 
As part of our research,Peter Schuttler vehicles and background materials have long been of particularinterest to me.  So much so thatdocumenting early pieces from this maker has become a priority.  Recently, we were fortunate to locate anothercentury-plus-old Schuttler.  This highwheel wagon includes its original manufacturer impressions dating it to theyear 1900.  While it has been well used,it was apparently well taken care of too; at least until a few years ago, whenit seems someone attempted to cover the wagon with numerous layers of thick anddirty linseed oil.  The result transformedthe surface of the entire gear into a depressingly dark and rock-hard, black coating.  At our core, we are preservers of history so wetook a chance to see if we might help this aging piece to once again show itsoriginal colors, patina and finish.   
Once we had the wagon onsite, I made a closer examination and the extent of the treatment wasunbelievable.  This wasn’t just a tough,dense and heavy caked-on finish that clung to the gear, it appeared to bemultiple concentrations of encrusted tar or perhaps even deposits of creosote.  The solid coating was applied directly overthe existing grease, dirt, manure, grain, sand, paint, hair, seeds, and feathers(yes, feathers!!) that were stuck to the wheels and undercarriage.  
I’ve seen similarsituations of darkened gears before, but never anything to this extreme.  So imposing was the covering and texture thatany attempts to remove this “treatment” seemed likely to destroy possible survivingpaint underneath.  Nevertheless, over theyears, we’ve experimented with numerous techniques to improve the presentationof original wagon paint.  In the process,we’ve been able to develop several multi-stage approaches to vehicleconservation and cleaning that can prove beneficial to many of the mostdiscouraging situations.  I had no ideaif we could help bring this gear back to life but, we were compelled to give itour best efforts.  Surprisingly, sectionby section, the tragic coating is coming off. It is a methodical process, but the results are certainly cause forcelebration!  When we started, there wasa solid gear with a black tar-like covering that made it impossible for thevehicle to be properly evaluated or appreciate in resale value.  Now, the original orange Schuttler paint,crisp, well-defined wood contours, and even faded elements of the vehicle’searly striping patterns are emerging. Its visual presence is certainly much more engaging.  

The photos above show the before-and-after look ofone of the 52” rear wheels.  While thereare still details to finish on this wheel and the rest of the gear, it’s easyto see the difference.  What a transformation!  The reversal of so much over-treatment to thesurface means this piece will soon be able to be showcased as a rare, turn-of-the-centuryhigh wheel Schuttler in exceptional condition. Its ultra-narrow 1 ½” tire, through-bolted construction, near fullcircle iron, and wider 60” track all add to its legacy as a unique andnoteworthy example of early wagon design. As time allows, we’ll try to share even more progress by occasionallyhighlighting the work involved in bringing back the surviving finish of thisChicago made legend on wheels. 
In the meantime, if you have any questions or wouldlike to see us cover a particular topic within this blog, feel free to drop usan email at info@wheelsthatwonthewest.com
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