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Business wheely rolling along

CAPTION: Greg and Ali Lang owners of The Wheelwright Shop in Gladstone. PHOTO/BECKIE WILSON

By Beckie Wilson

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To some the skill of wheelwright may be a dying art, but Greg and Ali Lang have built their family, life and business around the ancient skill and want to keep it alive.

This year the couple are celebrating their 20th anniversary of running their business, The Wheelwright Shop, from the old Gladstone Store.

From what started as making vintage wooden wheels, developed into restoring many forms of early wooden transport.

CAPTION: The Whittaker’s chocolate cart used in its latest toffee chocolate promotion videos. PHOTO/SUPPLIED

A recent project has seen one of their creations at the forefront of the latest Whittaker’s toffee chocolate promotion videos.

“Whittaker’s had a plan and designers, and then came to us. We hadn’t worked with them before, they just googled us,” Mrs Lang, a Carterton District councillor, said.

The cart was a replica that Mr Whittaker used in the early 1900s.

“We are really proud about what we make,” she said.

Some of their first projects was wheels and carts for international movies including the Lord of the Rings trilogy, The last Samurai, and The Hobbit.

The couple, who have two daughters, started the business on returning from England in the mid-1990s where they had both learned the ancient trade.

Word of mouth and the internet has spread the word of their rural-based business around the world.

“Every week we are getting weird requests, but 99 per cent of them don’t eventuate,” Mr Lang said.

It can be difficult working with people who don’t understand the work that goes into wheelwrighting.

CAPTION: Greg and Ali Lang have nearly completed the restoration of an original Wellington tram. PHOTO/BECKIE WILSON

But knowing that people are interested in their business and the idea of wheelwrighting is a reassuring feeling.

“There is a lot of interest in people wanting to learn skills like that, and as a hobby, you hear of people saying that,” Mrs Lang said.

The couple are nearly at the end of a three-year project which has seen a 1904 Wellington tram restored to its former glory for the Wellington Tram Museum.

“Basically we broke it down into little projects and now we have finished, but for putting it together. It’s going to be beautiful,” Mr Lang said.

The next step in the business plan is to offer hands-on courses to keep the skills alive.

“It’s really important to keep the hand-skills alive, machines do everything. And once we move down a few generations, those skills will be gone,” Mr Lang said.


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