Lee Valley Tools Woodworking Newsletter
Vol. 2, Issue 3
January 2008
Making a Wooden Bicycle

As a 16-year-old high school student in the International Baccalaureate program, I am required to complete a 'personal project' on a non-academic topic that is of interest to me. I have always enjoyed woodworking and design, so I decided to build a functional wooden bicycle. There was to be no metal used in its construction, only wood and glue. I wanted a project that would be a challenge.

This project came to mind as I was reflecting on the many stories my opa, Case Vandersluis, told me about his
  Wooden bicycle
Marco Facciola, a 16-year-old high school student, constructed this wooden bicycle to fulfill a class requirement.
adventures in Holland during World War II. Opa was roughly the age I am now when he had to build wooden wheels for his bicycle, as rubber was scarce during the war.

I wasn't sure my wooden bicycle would actually work. I quickly realized the first pieces of the puzzle I needed to figure out were the chain and the sprockets (gears), since the design of all the other components depended on these.

Designing and building a wooden chain that would actually work without breaking proved the greatest challenge.

I was mostly concerned that the wooden chain would break. I researched the strength of different types of wood and built jigs to test the stresses that each of the chain's components would undergo during use. First, I used my weight (150 lbs) to see if the wood could endure this amount of force. Then, my father would stand on the jig. I calculated that my dad's weight would be twice the force each chain component would need to withstand. I made the specs high to ensure the chain and sprockets would work even if the wood had imperfections. During testing, I made adjustments to the chain's components, and once I had it figured out, I realized that completing the project was within my grasp.

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