Wooden Steering Wheel Restoration - Alfa Romeo Bulletin Board & Forums

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Old 08-29-2008, 07:23 PM
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Wooden Steering Wheel Restoration

Hi Guys,

I have searched some of the other steering wheel post but haven't found all the info I'm looking for.

From reading the other posts I know that I should be looking for "Interlux Schooner Varnish" or something similar for the refinishing of the wheel. Also working through the various grades of sand paper to get a perfect smooth finish. Polishing the aluminium spokes isn't a worry either.

What I haven't been able to find is how I should be repairing the cracks in the timber.

What kind of glue is needed?
How visible will the glue be after varnishing etc... ?
Am I trying to close the cracks or simply fill them?
If I'm trying to close the cracks is there a particular type of clamp i should be using or just any old "G" clamp? (with care!)

Pics attached of the wheel I'm talking about.
1970 GTV 1750
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Old 08-29-2008, 10:35 PM
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Wink Wood wheel refinishing

Hi Adam,
I've done some worse than that, but yours is pretty bad. first you need to get the existing finish off. Sanding is NOT the way to do this. You will end up removing far more wood than finish. I have used aircraft paint stripper in a rattle can. If the finish is an epoxy, all this will do is soften it. Time for steel wool and more stripper. When all the finish is off, wash it with soap and water. liquid Dawn works well and will show where finish remains (blotchy). It will also raise the grain in the wood, and clean up grease. With all finish off, let it air dry about a week. Then experiment with strong twine to see how much you can close the splits. If twine won't do it, go to clothes line.
When you find out how much you can close the gaps, buy some clear Devcon Epoxy. NOT the 5 minute hardening type. You will need more time than that. Mix epoxy and poke into the cracks with a toothpick. You do not need to do the whole wheel at once. Wrap tightly with twine or clothesline past the glued area and allow to completely harden. Then get as much of the twine / clothesline off as possible. It will be glued to the wheel. Continue until all the cracks are repaired, and the wheel is a fuzzy mess. Attack the stuck on wrap fragments with a dull knife like scraper. Remove fuzz and dried epoxy, not wood! When you have as much off as possible, now is the time for 220/ 400/ 600 wet and dri sandpaper, CAREFULLY, by hand, removing remaining epoxy , not the softer wood. When satisfied, moisten with a sponge, allow to dry, raising wood whiskers. With 600 paper or 0000 steel wool, polish off the whiskers. I prefer a 2 part marine epoxy clear finish, sprayed on. Once dry, steel wool again, and apply a second coat. (You did mask of everything you did not want coated forever with epoxy, right?)
If you did all this correctly, you will have a wheel that looks better than new. If you are not up for this job, there are several wood steering wheel repair sources listed in Hemmings Motor News. Still cheaper than a new wheel. Have fun!
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Old 08-29-2008, 11:31 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Gordon Raymond View Post
Then get as much of the twine / clothesline off as possible. It will be glued to the wheel
Would wrapping strips of wax paper, or mabe even aluminum foil, over the glued area under the string/clothes line prevent that from occuring, or would it make the epoxy cure funny onnaconna it couldn't get as much air as it should to help the process along?

Just tossing that out there in the event it could be a useful addition to the process.
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Old 08-29-2008, 11:59 PM
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Interesting, Darren, that some epoxy release agents are dishwashing detergent! I have also tried Saran wrap with mild success. It sticks pretty good to aluminum foil though I have not tried wax paper. On the label of some Devcon products (the best I've found), it lists things you can and cannot glue with the stuff. Perhaps some of the "cannot glue" things would help avoid the mess. Being used to it, I just work around the problem.
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Old 08-30-2008, 11:18 AM
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Adam,
My wheel was in similar shape....it really is doable to restore it. In my case the cracks are visible if you really look for them, also because of where they were, but the overall appearance is pretty darn good

Check out this thread:http://www.alfabb.com/bb/forums/gt-1...l-removal.html
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Old 08-30-2008, 12:21 PM
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i did my steering wheel about 9 years ago. seems like everyone had similar issues and fixes as me

i tried many different brands of epoxy removers. the best they would do is to barely soften the skin of the clear coat. i sanded away as much of the clear as i dared, without hitting the wood underneath. i resorted to slowly and carefully cutting the remaining thin clearcoat away with a utility knife. yes, this all took a very loong time, and there were lots of tiny chips of wood cut off from the knife, but i sanded those out later.

the aforementioned dish soap was to remove the epoxy remover. it is water soluble.

i used "2-ton" epoxy to glue mine back together. the string method of squeezing it together doesn't allow much force. i used about 20 C-clamps to do it all at once, but my only "crack" was around the seam. i used small blocks of soft pine between the clamps and the steering wheel rim wood.

wax paper is excellent to keep things from sticking to other things. i use it all the time !

the epoxy dries perfectly clear, so it visually disappears when you clear coat, making it great for filling small gaps left after gluing. cut the excess epoxy off with a knife and scraper after it has set, but not completely hardened.

the varnish WILL make the wood look darker and more red. if you fill in any spots with wood filler, use the pre-stained type, because it will not change color like the wood.

i used a spray-on spar varnish, so it left an orange peel surface that needed to be color sanded and polished to the final luster. brushing it on makes it very easy to leave drips.

before the existence of the BB, i did an extensive multi-part write up on my steering wheel for the Alfa Digest, but i can't find it now . i have a little info on mine here : http://www.alfabb.com/bb/forums/car-...mod-gtv-3.html
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Last edited by darth dino; 08-30-2008 at 12:29 PM.
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Old 12-04-2008, 05:41 PM
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I used Formby's(Home depot) and fine steel wool to remove ALL of the crap from my steering wheel with no damage and no mess and no sanding, so no original stain removed, reglued cracks with epoxy and "squeeze clamps", no problem, resealed and varnished w/ formby's and a brush!! it looks like factory job and feels even better, you can build it up, let dry for a week, done!!!. Forby's furniture refinisher kit ($15.00+/-)
Alfa4ever I didn't even take it off the car, but stainless was ok in my case.
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Old 12-21-2008, 02:13 PM
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Steering Wheel Refinish

I have been following the threads on refinishing the Nardi Mahogany Steering Wheels. I have two that I am currently refinishing.

I decided to not use any paint remover. I did not want to get any chemical into the old wood. I scraped the epoxy finish off with a painter's tool. Also used a gsk, good sharp knife, to chip the epoxy off a little bit at a time. I found that scraping it quickly yeilded the best results. I had to do some glueing and clamping to fix a couple of cracks. I used a 60 minute epoxy and that worked well.

I followed the scraping with light sanding and then stain. That was followed by clear coats of finish. I used minwax stain and minwax clear coat for exterior use to protect the finish from UV.

I also polished the stainless to a near mirror finish. This was a long process and involved wet sanding with wet/dry 220 then 400 then 600 then 800 then 1000. Always sanded in same direction. then I followed that with semichrome metal polish applied with my dremel and the little fiber wheels. This was very time consuming but produced very good results.

I have pictures. There are only 3 coats of clear on the finished wheel. It will need about 8 or more coats to completely fill the grain.

I did notice that there is a date stamp on the back of the stainless spoke. Both of the wheels agree with the vehicle years.

Overall, this took a lot of time but the wheel looks almost brand new. I have more clear to apply and then will give the stainless a final polish before reassembling.

The first picture is the wheel ready for stain.
The second is one wheel with stain only.
The third is stain only on one and 3 coats and polished stainless on the other.
the last two ar of the wheel that is polished and has 3 coats fo clear.

I will post photos of the before wheel next.
Gary
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Old 12-21-2008, 02:27 PM
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Wood Steering Wheel Refinish

These sorta tell the story.
Original condition had finish cracked and chipped with some cracks in the wood. The horn thingy was heavily oxidized along with the stainless spokes.

Getting the epoxy out of the finger recesses on the back of the wheel was the toughest part.

Hope this helps someone considering this. It is worth the effort.

Gary
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Old 12-21-2008, 03:37 PM
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Great job, Gary! Your middle name must be "patience" !
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Old 12-21-2008, 05:16 PM
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Shire:

Here are a few additional thoughts:

Since you are in Sydney, the easiest thing to do is search out the best guitar repairman/restorer or one of several excellent guitar makers and take the steering wheel to them (good antique furniture restorers can do this, too). This will be an easy job for them. They can repair your cracks and finish the wheel with a eurethane finish that'll look great and last for years.

IMHO, the best way to remove the finish from the wheel is by scraping. A single edge razor blade held by vice-grips makes a fine scraper. Mount the wheel so that you can easily turn it and then work your way around the wheel. Save the sawdust.

Crack filling (something I learned from guitar makers): Regular white wood glue will make an excellent repair. Moreover, it will dry clear which makes refinishing a lot easier. Work the glue into the crack and then clamp. An even better way is to get strong twine and firmly wrap the wheel, closing the crack and keeping it under constant and even pressure.

Crack filling Pt2: As you scrape the finish off you will generate a certain amount of filings. Light sanding (600 paper) can also produce some usable sawdust. When you are gluing the crack work some sawdust from the wheel into the crack. The sawdust will mix with the glue and serve to disguise the crack. Then use a spray on eurethane, spray, sand, and polish until you are happy with the results.

Even though I know how to do this, I'm lazy enough that I'd still take it to someone who does this work all the time and let them do it.

Good luck.
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Old 12-23-2008, 06:15 PM
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Thanks guys also for all the really helpful advice on this, since I too need to do my 1750 GTVs original wheel. I was a little concerned re the cracking in the woodrim on my wheel but am confident now this shouldn't be a problem.

Luckily as I am used to restoring antique furniture this sort of thing should be fairly straightforward to me, and a job I actually am looking forward to doing.

The only thing I am unclear on is how actually to take my wheel off the car. I assume it is a matter of prising off carefully the centre cap, and unbolt it, disconnecting the wiring for the horn. Just one thing though how difficult is it actually to get the wheel of the steering column, for instance does it need some surgical taps underneath to make it loose ? Dave
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Old 12-23-2008, 09:25 PM
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Steering Wheel Removal

You will need a couple of items to remove the steering wheel.
1. A puller, you should be able to get one at a auto parts store. The one that has three slots and a center screw will work ok.
2. You will need to get a couple of Metric allen head bolts and some washers. I think these are an 8mm and they should be at least 20mm long. The socket head screws are a little stronger.
3. You will need a heat gun.
4. You may want to have a rubber mallet on hand. Do not use a hammer.

Remove the large nut that holds the steering wheel on the shaft.

Line up the puller so the two socket head screws can be threaded into the two holes in the steering wheel. You will have to put a washer or two under the heads. The puller will have a large center screw that will need to line up with end of the steering shaft, you may need a washer on the end to prevent the screw from going into the hollow shaft.
Tighten the socket head screws as tight as you can get them, this will pull the large center screw into the end of the shaft.You want to get these screws as far into the threads as possible. This is where all of the pulling force is applied to the wheel.

Tighten the center screw on the puller. This will push against the end of the shaft and the two socket headed screws in the steering wheel will pull on the wheel.

Now take the heat gun and heat up the exterior hub of the steering wheel around the shaft. Be careful to not melt the rubber sleeve. Apply the heat all around and keep tigntening the large center screw. You may want to gently rap the side of the steering wheel hub with the rubber mallet. Not a good idea to hit the end of the center screw. This could damage teh steering box. With enough heat and tighteneing of the screw, the wheel will pop loose.

I took both of mine off that way and had no problem. I did have to torque pretty good on a crescent wrench on the center screw.

Also, do not try to pull the wheel off by tightening the socket head screws after you have tightened the large center screw on the puller. You will strip out the threads in the steering wheel!

This method works, others have posted the same results.
The key is to get the puller adjusted right and the center screw to push against the hollow shaft end. I had to put a small washer on the end of the center screw on my puller as the end of the screw was able to go inside of the steering wheel shaft. Just go slow and you will see how it works.

Good luck.

Gary
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Old 12-23-2008, 09:49 PM
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Very good technical discussion Gary!
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Old 12-23-2008, 11:05 PM
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You missed one very important step !!
Loosen the big nut on the shaft, but don't remove it !! You want the center of the puller to push against the big nut. Otherwise, the thin threaded end of the steering shaft can distort and make your life miserable.
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