4 Jul 2017

Wairarapa wooden wheel business thriving

11:40 am on 4 July 2017

A Wairarapa couple has built a thriving small business around centuries-old skills.

Greg and Ali Lang from the Wheelwright shop in Gladstone.

Greg and Ali Lang from the Wheelwright shop in Gladstone. Photo: RNZ / Jonathan Mitchell

Greg and Ali Lang run the Wheelwright shop in the small community of Gladstone, 16km from Carterton.

It's a step back to a time of horse-drawn carriages, wooden wheels, and metalworking.

Over two decades, the company has restored Dutch barrel organs, horse-drawn trams, railway carriages as well as made all variety of wheels and one-off items for movies and weddings.

They developed the business 24 years ago after learning the tricks of the trade overseas.

In recent years, the workshop was running at full capacity making props for The Lord of the Rings and Hobbit movies.

Among their current major projects is the restoration of an early 20th century Wellington tram.

Ali Lang said the business worked in a low-key, low-cost way which allowed them to combine business and lifestyle.

"It's all been word of mouth really...we do it and it gets talked about by the customer and goes down the line...that's how a lot of our business has happened, we haven't done any big advertising," she said.

Greg Lang said like any small business there were challenges.

"Cash flow is always a big one...but we try and work on monthly payments on the big jobs... sourcing timber is quite hard... and sourcing carriage hardware," he said.

Looking ahead, the couple is eager to preserve the skills and want to pass on their expertise to the next generation.

While they get enquiries from overseas, high freight costs mean they generally stick to local work and they've got enough business to keep them busy for the next couple of years.