Introduction: Pirate Ship Helm

Make your living room into the deck of a Pirate Ship starting with with this Pirate Ship Helm - It's great for photo ops during your pirate party.

Step 1:

Step 2: Materials

The wheel is made from Styrofoam and the spokes are made from wood spindles. The center is made up of thin plywood and cardboard.

I started work on the Styrofoam wheel

Step 3: Cutting the Styrofoam

I bought a 4 inch thick rectangular block of Styrofoam from A.C. Moore art supply store. I marked off arc shaped pieces and cut it with a band saw. The Styrofoam is easily cut, so you could use a hacksaw blade to cut it if you don't have access to a band saw. Another method involves a hot wire which I did not try.

The arc shape pieces are then assembled into a circle and glued together. I used a water based wood glue which was not the best choice - it took several days to dry.

I used 'hot glue' sparingly to hold it together while the wood glue was drying. Too much hot glue can cause the Styrofoam to melt!

Apparently there are glues available at the art supply store that would have been more appropriate.
(lesson learned!)

This was actually the most expensive part of the project - about $15.00

Step 4: Wheel Spokes and Hand Grips

I found some wooden spindles at Home Depot that were exactly what I needed. They cost only a few bucks and had the shape that I was looking for without needing a lathe!

The spindle must be cut in half, and the ends sanded smooth.

I needed to buy only 4 spindles to make the eight spokes and hand grips.

Step 5: Adding Detail to the Wheel - the Cove Cut and Holes Drilled

After the glue was dry, I needed to make a cove cut along the inner and outer edge of the wheel. I considered using a router and a cove bit, but I decided on using a hole-saw bit. I held it on its side and twisted it with my fingers and cut through the soft Styrofoam.

The Styrofoam wheel also needs holes for the spokes to go through. I used a hole saw for this too, and a hacksaw blade to make the holes square.

Step 6: Center Hub

While the paint was drying I worked on the center hub which is a sandwich of 3/16 inch thick plywood on the top and bottom, and several layers of corrugated cardboard in the middle. The cardboard is glued together and then cut as shown to provide a place for the spokes to fit into.

Why cardboard? It's cheap, lightweight and I happened to have some lying around the shop.

The plywood top and bottom is glued together forming a sandwich. The rough edges can be filled in with wood putty or spackling compound.

(Note: I erroneously said 3/8" plywood in the video... it should be 3/16 inch)

Step 7: Filling in the Styrofoam Holes

I didn't want the Styrofoam to look like 'Styrofoam', so I filled on the holes with several layers of latex wall paint.

The Styrofoam really soaks up the paint. Allow for time to dry between coats.

Step 8: Assemble

Assemble the spokes through the wheel and glue into the center hub.

Do a dry fitting first, and trim the length if necessary.

Step 9: Painting With a Rustic Look

I painted it with a very dark brown latex paint, but I wanted more than a flat look to it, so I added touches of lighter brown paint to give it a more rustic look.

Instead of a brush, I used some electrical ribbon cable to give the paint a scratched effect.

Step 10: Mounting

I cut and painted a 4 by 4 post to mount the wheel to and attached it to a sheet of MDF using four angle irons at the base. A piece of cardboard covers the nuts.

I made a cap to cover up the Hex head of the bolt from a scrap of MDF.
I cut it with a four inch hole saw in my drill press. It is held on with hot glue.

And it's done - just in time for the party!