A Labor of Love: Restoring Horse-Drawn Vehicles

Everybody needs a hobby, or so the old saying goes.  Many take up gardening, fishing, or photography, but Abatron customer, Barbara Lee, of Oregon City, passes the time by bringing antique horse-drawn-carriages back to life.

 Before image Restoring Horse-Drawn Vehicles    

    Before                                                       After   

Barb’s labor of love dates back to her childhood.  She fell in love with the antique vehicles while watching westerns on television, and she acquired her first “pile of wreckage” on April Fool’s day in 1978.  This marked the beginning of a hobby that would see countless carriages come and go.  She now keeps a journal of her projects on a Blogspot Page, allowing us to keep an eye on what she’s working on.  When asked what fuels her passion for the hobby, Barb replied:

“The carriages themselves are not about horses or nostalgia, or riding around in buggies. They are functional art, lost technology, the graceful marriage of wood and iron, textile and paint. When you strip off the peeling paint and rust, the beauty is still there, waiting to come to life again!”


Some call it restoration, some call it refurbishment.  Any way you say it, every carriage poses a fun challenge for Barb’s do-it-yourself spirit.  However, due to the wide range of skills required to restore one of these vehicles, sometimes the rehab process requires enlisting the services of skilled craftsmen, such as wheelwrights, blacksmiths or carpenters.  The costs of these services can escalate quickly, so anything that Barb can repair herself, she does.

We asked about the challenge of restoring original parts as well as finding replacement parts, when necessary.  Barb explained, “Identical replacement parts may be impossible to locate…In the matter of wood, there are sometimes virtually no replacement options.”

Luckily, Barb stumbled upon a book by the Carriage Museum of America which detailed Abatron’s products as effective for strengthening old screw holes.  Feeling adventurous, she tried applying the products to a carriage which had irreplaceable wooden members plagued with dry rot.

After applying the wood consolidant and epoxy wood filler, Barb found that “Those repairs are still strong, 13 years later, outlasting glue-and-wood repairs.  Abatron products allow me to address damage in these old wood components both structurally (returning them to soundness) and aesthetically (permanently repairing joint shrinkage, etc.) as well as keeping every splinter of original wood that I possibly can.”  Barb notes that her process demonstrates “…the kind of ‘sacred trust’ of the restorer; to save the past for the future.”

Epoxy applications play a profound role in Barb’s labor of love.  Recently, she revealed to us the transformation of a wooden tailgate on one of her carriage projects, utilizing LiquidWood to strengthen the soft cracks that ran along the grain of the wood.  After sanding and varnishing, the original piece looks good-as-new.

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        It went from dismal…                                …to stunning!
 Another project required applying a combination of epoxy with wooden wedges and reclaimed wood chips into gaps caused by decades of weathering on this carriage’s hub.  Barb’s creative applications demonstrate the ease and effectiveness of consolidation and epoxy repair.

      H:\John Whitford\blogs\Horse Carriage Blog\hub front.jpg    H:\John Whitford\blogs\Horse Carriage Blog\Hub finished.JPG

With vision, dedication, and the right tools at your disposal, anything is possible!

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Barb Lee resides just outside of Portland, Oregon with her husband, horses, and beloved dog.  Follow her latest project HERE, and contact Abatron, Inc. for more information about the products she used.