Project Log -- Steering Wheel

So, this one is a little out of the ordinary for me, but that's why I am so excited about it.  I've always wanted to do the paneling on a classic car interior with real wood.  I didn't quite get that, but I got an inquiry from a fellow who was looking for someone to finish a wooden steering wheel to match the original imitation wood trim in his '69 Pontiac Firebird.  I'm not posting pictures of the car to protect my customer's privacy, but if he consents when the project is finished I'll try to get a pic with the wheel in place.

So I started off with the raw wheel.  It had a factory milled finish on it and a lot of small imperfections.  so the first step was to give all of the wood a light sanding to smooth the surface and clean things up.  Also, it has been handled a lot, so I needed to get rid of dirt, skin oil, etc.

The next step was to mask all of the metal pieces.  The wheel has a metal core that is exposed along the perimeter both inner and outer.  Also, you might notice the chromed rivet head counter sunk in, I had to cut and place all of those, too.  I made a punch that fit in the countersink hole tightly with a sharp edge , so I just layed the tape over the hole and punched it out.  It worked pretty well.  I only had to use a dental pick to adjust them to center.   

Once I had the masking in place, including thin strips for the exposed perimeters, I oversprayed the entire wheel with a seal coat of clear satin poly.  We're going to use poly on this to take advantage of its durability.  I'll be using a hand tinted poly glaze to dial in the color coats.

Here's a closer look at the masking and the seal coat.

 Finally, after a light sanding of the seal coat, I applied the first layer of color.  I let that sit for 72 hours.  I gave that coat another light sanding and applied the second coat of glaze.  I think I'm getting pretty close.  Maybe one more color coat and then I'll seal it with clear satin poly.

 Here's a look at the panel I'm trying to complement.  I can't match a burl, but I can pick up the color.  Unfortunately, the color in the picture is a bit yellower and lighter than actual.  I'll be taking the wheel out to the client to check the match before I got too much further.

I conjured up a color that I think picks up some of the red of the car and the darker brown in the simulated wood trim.  

 Here's the original wheel, black plastic.  
 Here's the new wheel.
I'm pretty happy with the results and John (owner) was happy, too.  I think it really does look awesome in the car.

 Here's another angle -  thanks again to John Magno for these last (in situ) pictures.
Thanks for reading.  This one is going to in the finished file.  Ya never know, there may be more automotive in the future.  I love working on and being around classic cars.


Anonymous said…
Incredible transformation.
Gadget Geek said…
We are very happy with the finished product. Check our our blog at

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