Here is how my good friend and techshop Jedi Danny Garcia made a cool steering wheel for a vintaqe style race car we are building at Techshop San Francisco
Step 1: Making the Metal Blank
Here we made the aluminum middle part of the steering wheel with a simple 2 d drawing and cut it out on the water jet. The only critical dimensions are the bolt holes and shaft diameter hole where it bolts to the steering column. A little careful measuring goes along way. It turned out to be a 9 minute cut file for the water jet.
Step 2: Danny Garcia at the Controls of the Shop Bot Table Cnc Table Router
For the shop bot, we move to 3d drawings because we want to make contours. In this case, we want to round the outer and inner edge of the top piece of our three piece steering wheel, as well as make all the finger indentations in the back piece. An Autodesk program like Alias is perfect for projects like this, and provided as part of the member experience for all techshop members.
By using a 3d modeling software available at Techshop and Danny's Jedi like mastery of it, we come up with a file that gives us a nearly finished piece right off the router.
The basics of gluing up the blank are not covered here, but planing of the wood and the glue surfaces was done in our wood shop, and then glued and clamped to make a square blank large enough to cut both pieces from. The wood we used wash Ash, chosen by me for the blonde color.
Step 3: Bottom Section Cut of Vintage Steering Wheel
Here you can see the bottom section getting cut. Notice the flutes and reliefs that create the finger indention that make the wheel easy to grip. This pattern was taken from Danny's vintage Volvo 122 and adapted to our diameter for the Rallier Roadster. Although easy to get done this way, beware, the cut took a little over three hours of machine time total.
Step 5: A Little Light Sanding
Here are the front and back sections ready for a little light sanding. We are going to take a short cut here by only sanding out the largest machine marks with 80 and 120 grit. Normally we would continue with finer grits to make it glassy smooth, but we are going to use a high build epoxy that fills in all the imperfections and creates a neat depth effect.
Step 6: Pour on the Epoxy!
Really, you pour this stuff on. That is why I hung then conveniently over a trash can. You mix equal part of this magic stuff, and pour it on like chocolate syrup on your Sunday. It will drip off the edge, but it sands easily. We applied two coats, and then a final coat of brush on marine epoxy.
Step 7: Ready for the Finish Line!
After the wood was properly coated, we then used a quick set epoxy glue to sandwich the aluminum piece between the wood and deep set some aluminum rivets to finsh it off. you can see we also used the laser to cut out our logo, enameled it, and gave it the same clear coat epoxy treatment as the rest of the wheel. The center cross bars were polished bright, and then machine turned using a felt pad and the drill press to create the jeweled effect you see below.
This was a great project to be involved with, and I had great help from the entire Techshop staff - Danny Garcia, Vinny Truchess, Ivan Lopez, James Irmeger, Sarah from Techshop Detroit, and many others.