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Hello everyone,

This Instructable will show you how to make a fancy and great feeling wooden shift knob for your manual transmission vehicle.  Shift knobs are simple and easy to do, and making them out of wood means they will be cool in the summer sun and warm in the winter.

The one I have done is for my Mitsubishi Lancer which is an M10-1.25 thread.  Some other manufacturers use this thread as well but you should ask Google what thread you will need for your make and model.  As far as I'm aware virtually all cars use a threaded mount for the shift knob.

Step 1: Tools and Plans

The idea is straightforward; make a steel insert for the wooden sphere, allowing the knob to be screwed on and off just like the factory knob.  Wood is a nice material because it looks good and is thermally insulative, so it will be cool in the summer and warm in the winter.  The steel insert gives it more weight to match the feel of the original (in my case, cast white metal wrapped with leather).

Feel free to print the PDF attached to this step for a convenient reference for all dimensions.

Materials:
  • ~2" wood sphere
  • 3" length of 1" diameter mild steel round stock
  • Lacquer/varnish
  • Wood stain
  • Epoxy

Tools:
  • Drill press
  • Metal lathe
  • Belt sander (optional)
  • 3/4" forstner wood bit
  • 11/32" and 1/2" drill bits
  • M10-1.25 tap
  • Tap handle
  • Knurling tool for lathe

Step 2: Preparing the Wood

I will confess that I bought the wood sphere because the local craft store sells them for $2.30 for use as doll heads, and I do not have the skills or the correct tools to turn my own wood sphere.  If you have the ability to do so, I encourage you to make your own!

The first step is to add a flat to the knob where the insert will go.  This can be done easily on the belt sander or by hand.  The flat should be 1" in diameter.  Consider where you place the flat based on the wood grain so that it looks nice.

Next step is to drill into the center of the flat to a depth of 1.5" as per the drawings in Step 1.  Use the 3/4" forstner bit to do this.  Securing the wood can be difficult so what I did was use a roll of tape as a base to keep the ball in place and held it firmly with my hand.  Forstner bits are pretty smooth drilling so holding it by hand isn't an issue but you may need to explore another way to hold it if you are using a spade bit or similar.  If using a spade bit do not drill too deep because the point may come out the top of the sphere!

Since my sphere was intended for a dolls head it came with a small hole pre-drilled and a flat area.  Forstner bits do not like holes in the way when drilling so do not drill a pilot hole for them.

Step 3: Staining and Finishing

The wood is nearly finished.  All that remains is surface finishing.

Sand the surface of the sphere to clean it up and prepare it for stain.  My sphere had been burnished by the manufacturer so I had to rough it up to get the stain to absorb better.  I did this by sanding it on the lathe as seen in the picture.  Run the lathe at about 150rpm so that if it hits your hand while sanding you won't get hurt.

Apply stain and wipe off excess.  Allow it to dry before applying lacquer or varnish.

Apply lacquer as per the manufactures directions until the coating is to your tastes.  I used a spray-on clear coat (basically lacquer and thinners in a can) and after 5 coats or so the sphere was looking perfect.

Step 4: Turning the Insert

I'm going to be brief about machining here because if you have access to a lathe you either know how to use it or have someone nearby who does. There are also plenty of guides online.  If you have a lathe and don't know how to use it, don't.  They are very dangerous if misused.  They can and have killed people in the past.

By turning the outer diameter down to 3/4" and knurling it, the part will fit snugly in the wood sphere and can be permanently affixed with epoxy.  The knurling raises some steel up a little bit so the size-on-size fit is tight, and gives the epoxy more to grip to.

The reason for the two drill sizes is that one is for the actual thread and the other is to clear the secondary thread on the shaft, which is M12-1.25.  This thread appears to be utilized by the alignment nut used on the original shift knob but in this case the 1/2" cleared area will give an edge that the knob can tighten on.  Don't worry about having a drill point taper at the bottom of the 1/2" hole.

I sprayed the steel with black BBQ paint and then gave it a shot of the same spray clear coat lacquer I used on the wood. 

Step 5: Assembly

Coat the hole in the wood with epoxy and press in the insert until the lip of the insert touches the wood.  Finished!

Step 6: Installing in Car

Unscrew the old knob by twisting counter-clockwise.  Screw on the new one until tight.  That's all it takes!

Improvements: Using different materials, finishes and metals makes this a very customizable project.

If you have any questions or comments please leave them and I will respond.  Thanks for reading!
<p>This is excellent, Thank you!</p>
<p>Reminds me of the sphere on my grandma's stair baluster. Never recognized the tepid feel of it though.</p>
<p>I did the same thing and used the craft store 2&quot; ball. I flipped it so the flat side was up and sanded it down until the flat spot was the diameter of the shift pattern badge which I cannibalized from the old shift knob. I also salvaged the plastic threaded insert after carving away the foam. I drilled a hole, pressed in the insert, sanded it and buffed it super smooth and gave it a coat of wax. </p>
Looks awesome! What stain and varnish did you use? It matches perfectly with the faux wood grain in my car and I would like to make the same one
I think the wood is maple, and I used Minwax Red Mahogany stain with Tremclad Clear spray. The spray takes half a dozen coats but the result is very even and shiny.
That is one fine looking knob! Great job and thanks for the clear instructions!
VERY nice. I wonder how it would look with the shift pattern burned into it?
Glad you like it. I considered that but I couldn't think of a way to do it that wouldn't look ugly.
So amazing!
BEAUTIFUL!

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