Our custom Dakota Cowboy Chuck Wagons always begin with a historic foundation wagon. Some of our favorite "famous maker" wagons: Peter Schuttler, Weber, Newton, Mitchell, John Deere and Studebaker to name a few. Charter Oak, Birdsell and Fish Brothers among others are just as collectible, but less common. Along with the foundation wagon being historic, it is always structurally sound including the wheels and running gear. All our Dakota Cowboy Chuck Wagons will stand the rigors of the open trail.
A thorough cleaning of the wagon, especially the running gear is the starting point for preserving the wagon components and bringing the existing finish to life. Pay special attention to the removal of grease residue on the axles and wheel hubs. For surfaces with existing paint, use the gentlest cleaning method possible to avoid removal of the paint. We like water with Murphy's Soap and a chamois or natural sponge. If the paint is flaking use a dabbing motion rather than rubbing. Preserving the original paint, striping and lettering adds to the historic and intrinsic value of the wagon, so always try your cleaning technique in an inconspicuous spot first.
Once the cleaning and detailing is complete, a penetrating sealer is used over all the surfaces. Here the wagon box has had a finish applied and the wheels and axles are ready for a coat of sealant. We use an oil-based sealer to protect the wood and existing paint. It also serves to brighten and enhance the existing pigments. (We do not recommend any type of urethane finish.)
Once the base wagon has been cleaned and finished, we build and assemble all of the components used to convert the restored wagon to an historic chuck wagon. Adding chuck box, tool boxes, tools, bows, canvas and other components to an existing farm or box wagon is the same method used historically to create the chuck wagons used on the original cattle drives.
Our 5/8" thick steam bent Wagon Bows are positioned and clamped to the wagon box. The proper positioning of the Wagon Bow Clips is marked while bows are in place. Bows are removed and cut to length, then stained. Bow clips are riveted to wagon box. (Although not historically accurate, bolting the bow clips to the wagon box is an option for do-it-yourselfers).
All other components including chuck box, pan boot, tool boxes, barrels and buckets are stained and sealed using multiple stain colors to give a patina that coordinates well with the antique finish of the original wagon and running gear. Boxes, tools and other components are installed using hand-forged hardware.
The chuck wagon now has all the components in place and the bows are measured for a custom Sunforger Wagon Cover. Here is a link to the information on which measurements to provide for ordering a custom cover for your wagon project.
The proud owner comes to pick up his Dakota Cowboy Chuck Wagon and Dean and Doug get to work setting up the chuck wagon camp. First, the custom wagon cover is positioned over the bows and Doug goes over the process of installing and tying the canvas off to the wagon box.
The Cooking Fly with hemp ropes is set up using Fly Poles that are stored on the side of the wagon box with hand-forged brackets and leather straps. Hand-forged Fly Stakes secure the ropes that attach to the webbing loops sewed along the edges of the fly. You can buy the fly, poles and stakes separately or save money and receive free storage bags when you purchase the Sunforger Fly with Poles and Stakes as a set.
Authentic Hand-Forged Camp Sets with all the Cooking Utensils is essential to a functioning chuck wagon. All of our camp sets are designed for ease of use and storage.
A final picture before we break down the chuck wagon camp and pack everything away in the wagon for transport to its new home.