This section is from the book "Spons' Mechanics' Own Book: A Manual For Handicraftsmen And Amateurs", by Edward Spon. Also available from Amazon: Spons' Mechanics' Own Book.
For ordinary work, good sound deal board 3/4 in. thick is quite durable enough for the body of the barrow; elm lasts much longer under rough wear, but is much more costly and difficult to work. The dimensions will vary with the size of the person using the barrow, but on the average they may be as follows: Total length, including wheel and handles, 4 ft.; maximum length of body, 2 ft.; width of body, 1 1/4 ft.; depth of body, 10 in. While the body is 2 ft. long at top, it should slope back to 18 in. at the bottom, to allow for the wheel. The first step is to make a frame of 1 1/2-in. or 2-in. stuff, measuring 18 in. long and 15 in. wide, but with the long sides of the frame projecting about 1 ft. forwards to carry the wheel, and about 15 in. backwards to form the handles. This frame should be dovetailed together at the corners. The body of the barrow is made with the sides perpendicular, while the tail-board may slope a little outwards, and the head-board (next the wheel) much more so. This body is formed with mortice and tenon joints. It is fitted to the frame either by tenons let into mortices in the frame, or by rebating the frame about 1/2 in. all round on the inside. The legs are attached outside the body, and help to strengthen the whole.
They should be cut with a shoulder at such a height as to support the barrow, when at rest, at a convenient distance above the ground. If let in about § in. into the frame, so much the better; a 1/4 -in. iron rod may be carried through the legs and frame from side and side, and 2 or 3 screws secure it to the body. A good wheel can be made by cutting a 10- or 12-in. circle out of a piece of 1-in. elm.; a 2-in. sq. hole is chiselled out in the centre, to receive an axle formed of a piece of oak or ash, having a diameter of 2 in. sq. in the centre, but tapered off to about 1 1/4 or 1 1/2 in. at the ends. The wheel is strengthened by having a rim of stout hoop-iron "shrunk on," that is to say, the rim is made quite close-fitting, and is then heated ready for putting on; the heating stretches it and facilitates its being put on, when a plunge into cold water causes it to contract and hold firmly. The axle must fit very tightly in the wheel, and this is best secured by making the hole rather large and using wooden wedges for tightening up, driving them from opposite sides alternately. The ends of the axle are each shod with a ferrule, to prevent the wood splitting on driving in the iron pins on which the wheel is to revolve.
These pins are square where they enter the wood, and round in the projecting part, which latter passes on each side of the wheel to the front shafts of the frame of the barrow. About the easiest effective way of connecting these pins to the shafts is to drive a staple into the under side of each shaft, of a size large enough to hold the pins without preventing their free revolution. In this way the wheel can be added last of all, and can be removed and repaired, if necessary, without injuring the frame.