In 1991 I searched for a horse drawn carriage that I could use to start a carriage service. After ordering numerous catalogs, looking at used ones for sale and visiting Amish settlements I still could not find what I wanted. Finally through encouragement from my father, I started gathering information on carriage styles, wood preferences and procedures used by the old-time buggy makers and began building my own. The first choice was a Phaeton which some would call a fringe top surrey. Most of the wood was sawn with a woodmizer saw-mill. The wheels were made for me by a wheelwright in Cornelia, Ga. The carriage took about seven months to construct and was completed in July of 1992.
In 1993 I decided to construct another carriage called a Visa-V. In December I cut down a poplar tree that was 30 inches in diameter at the base. It was cut in 12 foot lengths and left in log state for about five months. In April it was cut into boards with a portable sawmill and stacked with spacing between each board for almost another year. By then I had built the frame. My wheelwright had retired so I had an Amish man in Ohio make the wheels for this one. The seats like the Phaeton were fabricated by glueing a series of boards together and hand planing it down to give it concave and convex shapes. The upholstery and top was a challenge in itself.
In 1998 I procured the sleigh. Extensive restoration was required since outside storage had taken its toll on this vehicle. Also the rear seat was not an original and had to be replaced. The dash had to be replaced using steam bent oak and bendable plywood layered for strength. It was completed in November of 1998.
If you have a carriage in need of repair or restoration then we can help.
- Joe Watkins