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Trad Chinese single-wheel barrow  RSS feed

 
Joel Bercardin
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Location: Western Canadian mtn valley, zone 6b, 750mm (30") precip
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This is an intriguing idea. There are some industrially manufactured versions, and then there are the old versions - probably often made in local shops - that represent the original concept. A single-wheel wheelbarrow, with a large wheel. Usually, when in use, much of the time the load can be balanced onto the wheel. So with skill, the user can get it to glide along on level ground. I’ve read that skilled users in Asia learned to handle these on sidehills, because in contrast to two-wheeled carts they don’t automatically tip toward the downhill side.

Traditionally, they often carried huge loads.

Here is a link to a discussion of the principle and traditional usage, on Low-Tech Magazine:
http://www.lowtechmagazine.com/2011/12/the-chinese-wheelbarrow.html

Here are a couple pictures of a manufactured type, from Gametote Cart. One pic shows the cart loaded with miscellaneous gear, the other has one loaded with 1050 lbs-worth of cement sacks. The Gametote has a brake on the wheel. Basic model is sold as a kit for $265 U.S.

But something like it could be a DIY project. I think you could homebuild a barrow of this type with either a wooden or welded-steel frame. A fairly large diameter spoked wheel with a fat tire would be desirable, and also it would be good if it had well-made sealed bearings.

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Dillon Nichols
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I've loved this idea since reading about it a few years ago.

The main catch to the one pictured IMO is keeping it upright when the user is no longer holding on. No obvious mechanism is present...

Looking at pictures of old chinese versions, they mostly do not use a flatbed, but rather enclose the wheel which sticks up in the middle of the deck; this lowers the main portion of the bed, and brings the beams/handles down closer to the ground, and then stubby legs are added to allow the whole thing to stand by itself on levelish ground.


While the flatbed certainly looks a lot more useful, and it would be great for something like plywood, I think the older design would suit many uses well. Timbers/lumber/tall things that need to stay upright could be easily secured to the wheel-surround, and it wouldn't really interfere with large sacks or similar loads.


There are also single-wheeled utility trailers meant for towing behind a vehicle; a combination of these two would be very interesting, but would require some thought, since these trailers used a castor-style pivoting wheel... http://www.singlewheel.com/
 
Todd Parr
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That looks like it could be made easily with a motorcycle tire and wheel as the base. As Dillon said, a wheel that sticks up thru the middle would lower the center of gravity and make it much easier to maneuver, esp on rougher terrain. It seems like a great idea for relatively flat areas. I like it.
 
Gilbert Fritz
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I've been very interested in these since reading about them in Low Tech Magazine. I've heard that some were even out fitted with sails! or, more practically, hauled by draft animals.
 
Joel Bercardin
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Location: Western Canadian mtn valley, zone 6b, 750mm (30") precip
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I agree that the low center of gravity would make for easier handling in some situations, but you'd definitely have to load it differently - and the frame, accommodating that wheel jutting up, would probably be limiting in certain respects. But also your home terrain would influence design decisions about center of gravity.

The idea of "stubby legs" to allow the barrow to stand on its own is good - I suppose that some sort of "kick stands", similar in function to what older bicycles often have, could work.

Do any of you guys know someone who's actually gone ahead and designed and built their own?
 
chip sanft
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I've seen a few of these in China. The ones I saw had the axle set so as to drop the center of gravity, as has already been suggested, and legs. Here's an example pic from the intronet similar to those. This cool page has a bit about them (in Chinese) with some more very good images: HERE.
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William Bronson
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Location: Cincinnati, Ohio,Price Hill 45205
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Great link, great photos.
I have been planning a two wheeled cart, I wonder what the advantages of a one wheel cart are?
My wheels are smaller, so the center of gravity will be lower, but do the smaller wheels have a disadvantage?
Two wheels take up more resources to make/buy/scavenge, and they need a wider path.
But they would take less stabilizing on the part of the user, so perhaps they would be less fatiguing.
Maybe I will try it both ways, given the large number of trashed bikes available..
 
Joel Bercardin
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Location: Western Canadian mtn valley, zone 6b, 750mm (30") precip
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William Bronson wrote: Great link, great photos.
I have been planning a two wheeled cart, I wonder what the advantages of a one wheel cart are?
My wheels are smaller, so the center of gravity will be lower, but do the smaller wheels have a disadvantage?
Two wheels take up more resources to make/buy/scavenge, and they need a wider path.
But they would take less stabilizing on the part of the user, so perhaps they would be less fatiguing.
Maybe I will try it both ways, given the large number of trashed bikes available..

What I'll say here is based only on having used ordinary "Western" one-wheel barrows, plus two-wheel garden carts, plus larger-wheel bicycles (like "mountain bikes"). And, in addition, on having read a little about the traditional Chinese single-wheel barrow. So I'm visualizing and speculating.

A larger wheel does better than a smaller one to smooth out minor ruts and bumps, so the travel feels more like a glide. This is one reason that, as teenagers and adults, we tend to appreciate a bike with 26"-28" wheels. To exaggerate the situation, think of a vehicle with skateboard or scooter wheels encountering small pot-holes and bumps, versus one with bicycle or motorcycle wheels & tires.

I've read that an experienced Chinese user of the single-large-wheel barrow can maneuver them well along a sidehill. A two-wheel cart will tip to the downhill side, but the handles of the Chinese-style one can be manipulated to keep the barrow more vertical (plumb).
 
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