Coventry Woodworks

custom furniture, interiors & automotive woodwork

Marc's Steering Wheel

A really fun automotive job we did was for a gentleman in his mid-50's who works for Boeing Aircraft in Seattle.  He was in the midst of restoring a 1958 Austin-Healey Sprite, the model commonly known as the "Frogeye". 

He had owned the car since he was eighteen and had many fond memories of driving it around the pacific northwest.  The steering wheel that was on the car, while not the stock one, was the one that had come with the car when Marc bought it so he was keen to see if it could be restored. 

The biggest problem with the wheel was that the metal ring which provides the structural strength had broken and the wooden rim quickly cracked and eventually broke into bits.  The first step in restoration was to drill out the rivets which hold the aluminum spokes so the broken ring could be welded back together.  While that repair was underway a circular form was constructed, then a series of mahogany strips about 1/16" thick were carefully cut to length and added to the form, two at a time.  Once the steel ring had been repaired, the newly polished aluminum spoke section was re-riveted in place.   Eventually, 18 strips had been added around the form to build up the correct thickness of the wheel.

At this point, the assembly was removed from the form and the dried glue cleaned up.  
The wooden ring was then stood up on the table saw so it could be split in half through it's thickness.  The two halves were then routed out with a groove that would accept the steel ring.

Using nearly every small clamp in the shop, the two halves of the wooden rim were re-joined over the metal portion.  The final steps were to file the glue joint smooth then layout and add the finger indentations on the back of the wheel.  A final sanding and 6 coats of exterior urethane and the finished wheel was ready to be reunited with the car.