SWEETWATER-Often, historians and
scientists are asked to name the most important invention to mankind. Most often in the top two
will be the wheel. It is such a simple thing but when you think about it, not many things operate
with out some version of a wheel being involved.
Willoughby is a wheel man. He retired from the military years ago and, since that time, has worked
in Monroe County as the Chamber of Commerce CEO, the jailer at the county jail, and a private
investigator, but what he always seems to come back to is working with his hands. Willoughby likes
to make things, fix broken things, invent things, and find new uses for things tossed aside.
When his wife, Pat, opened an antique shop in Madisonville,
Willoughby would encourage her to purchase old and broken pieces of furniture at yard sales because
he was sure he could make the part needing replacement. He usually accomplished that.
In the last few years, Willoughby has given up a 9-5 job and has focused
on working in his shop. By the way, he built the shop from cast off metal supplies. In that shop,
he would make the missing parts from Pat's yard sale purchases. Once Pat closed her shop, he was
left with time and energy to dedicate to a project.
say, at this point Willoughby rediscovered the wheel. He started where the primitive man did; he
decided he could make a wagon wheel and from there he decided he should make the wagon to match one
he had seen while on vacation. Not wanting to make something that people would question the
usefulness, he decided he would make models of wagons with a historic background.
First, he had to perfect the wheels and, after some research, he decided
it necessary to make the surface coming in contact with the road, out of steel. That necessity
created a problem in that it is difficult to bend a steel band smoothly enough for it to fit flush
with the surface of the wooden wheel. That made it necessary for him to create a tool designed to
bend the steel in a perfect circle. Once the band was bent correctly, he had to weld the ends
together to make it a solid band.
The first wagon was a simple
replica of what he calls a "goat wagon." He followed with what had been used in the era before
trucks as a freight wagon.
Most recently, Willoughby noticed
the wheels on the civil war canon. Having no canon, he decided to make the entire replica of a
canon. Doing some research on the Internet, he came up with photos of what he could look for. He
found duplicating the shapes of the wooden frames for the canon was not that hard for him, but the
barrel of the canon was another thing.
He solved that problem
with a piece of a 6 by 6-inch wooden post. He placed the post on a lathe and created a replica of
the common canon barrel. When painted black, the barrel even looks as though it was cast iron.
When asked what he intended as the use for his wagons and the canon,
Willoughby says, "That depends on the person. I think I will use them around the house as yard art.
I might even use the canon next to a flag pole."
The mention of
his works being used as a business idea brought a smile to his face.
"I did not do this for that reason. I just
wanted something to do and to see if I could create a smaller version of these historic designs. I
guess I would make one for someone for $300 to $400. I have no intentions of getting into
manufacturing them- I am retired, you know."