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Thread: How to build a ship's wheel.

  1. #1
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    Default How to build a ship's wheel.

    I'm at the mercy of the boat movers to get Heart of Gold II moved to my shop. While I'm waiting, I've decided to build a new ships wheel for her. I built a 32" wheel for a friend a few years ago and everyone liked it so I'm raiding my mahogany scrap bin to built one for myself.

    Here is the 32" wheel I made. Six spoke Honduras mahogany.




    The design is from John Guzzwells book Wooden Yacht Construction. (which I believe is now out of print.) This will be a 18" wheel with a one inch outer ring. The first step is to take a piece of 3/4 inch ply which is nice and flat, as any twist in the ply will be built into the wheel. Draw a center line and use an awl to punch a hole in the middle of the line to allow the compass to get a true center. I then set the compass to to a 8" inch radius to get the inner ring, and 9" to get the outer ring. From the inner ring, I use an awl to punch a small hole right on the top and bottom of the inner ring , right on the center. Keeping the compass set to the same radius, swing an arc through the inner ring in both directions from the top and bottom of the center line and connect the lines.
    The result will be a perfect six sided hexagon that I will use as the lofting to make the wheel. I then used a bevel gauge to pick up the bevels for the segments of the wheel and made my patterns.
    The completed lofting looks like this:



    The wheel will be made from three lamination's of 3/8" mahogany.

    If you guys want to see how I build this, I'll post post the entire process. I'm making the patterns now.
    " He who works with his hands is a laborer.
    He who works with his hands and his head is a craftsman. He who works with his hands and his head and his heart is an artist".
    St. Francis of Assis (1181-1226)

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    Default Re: How to build a ship's wheel.

    This is the center of the lamination's. It creates a very strong and stable wheel. I had a pile of cutoffs that I couldn't make myself throw out from an old project, so this will be a good use for them and get me in the groove for the big project ahead.
    " He who works with his hands is a laborer.
    He who works with his hands and his head is a craftsman. He who works with his hands and his head and his heart is an artist".
    St. Francis of Assis (1181-1226)

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    Default Re: How to build a ship's wheel.

    Nice.

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    Default Re: How to build a ship's wheel.

    Nice work, sure would like to see the process....

    Out of curiosity how did you've attach this wheel to the rod. The middle is wood, so I wonder how this is fixed so when the rudder is hard the wheel is still effective.
    http://www.peacefuljourney.ca/
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    Default Re: How to build a ship's wheel.

    yep, keep postin, the start looks awesome.
    LBPC member since page 14, wood flour tip, green cap, no chips....

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    Default Re: How to build a ship's wheel.

    Please sir, may I have some more?

    I'd love to see the process & that's a beeyootiful wheel.

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    Default Re: How to build a ship's wheel.

    Looks very nice. I will be interested to see the process to make it.

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    Default Re: How to build a ship's wheel.

    Please keep posting the progress on the beautiful wheel and the whole boat for that matter.
    A similar wheel caught my attention at the Georgetown SC. show on one of the Bluejacket boats.

    Egbert



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    Default Re: How to build a ship's wheel.

    Quote Originally Posted by ejds View Post
    Please keep posting the progress on the beautiful wheel and the whole boat for that matter.
    A similar wheel caught my attention at the Georgetown SC. show on one of the Bluejacket boats.

    Egbert

    Just about exactly the same wheel. Thanks for the pic!




    The pattern for the outer rim is picked up with dividers set to the two points of the hexagon. I try not to measure whenever possible as too many errors creep in. There are 18 of these parts in the wheel so It's important that the pattern is accurate. I suppose you could do all this directly on the stock, but again it's patience here that pays off.




    Transfer the measurement to the pattern stock baseline. The patterns as well as the stock for the wheel are all 3" in width. I then take a bevel gauge and set it to the angle from the lofting. All of the bevels in the wheel are the same .




    I cut the pattern on my bandsaw and hand plane to the line with a sharp block gauge. I do all this by hand because I want to sneak up the line, constantly checking the pattern against the lofting until it's perfect.

    The finished pattern.

    Last edited by Robmill0605; 11-02-2011 at 02:30 PM.
    " He who works with his hands is a laborer.
    He who works with his hands and his head is a craftsman. He who works with his hands and his head and his heart is an artist".
    St. Francis of Assis (1181-1226)

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    Default Re: How to build a ship's wheel.

    The pattern and the stock are three inches wide because it must cover the wheel design completely for reasons which I will show when I machine the segments and cut the shape of the wheel out with a router and template.
    We are almost ready to start cutting the actual stock. One thing left to do to the lofting, and if you forget it, you will never get the wheel to spin true.Bore a 1/4" hole through the lofting exactly in the center. This is why I used an awl to punch a tiny hole to spin the dividers from as well as make this critical hole. It has to be bored straight, and that can be a pain in the middle of a sheet of ply. I'm sure there are several ways to accomplish this, I used a 1/4" brad point bit and a dowel jig with a drill to a perpendicular hole dead in the middle of the wheel.

    " He who works with his hands is a laborer.
    He who works with his hands and his head is a craftsman. He who works with his hands and his head and his heart is an artist".
    St. Francis of Assis (1181-1226)

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    Default Re: How to build a ship's wheel.

    Time to build a wheel. Once again, there are several ways to do things, this is just my method. I could use a chop saw to cut the parts but:

    1) I don't have one.
    and
    2) I don't like the noise.

    I use a marking knife to transfer the shape from my pattern to my stock. The reason I do this because a pencil line is too thick and once I start hand planing I lose where I am. So I use a sharp marking knife and score a deep line in the mahogany which I have cut oversize on the band saw.




    Then it's off to the band saw again to cut close as I dare to the knife line. I used a shooting board and a freshly sharpened block plane to cut right to the line which I split. Only seventeen more to go............





    The result is a perfect miter joint on all the segments. Taking my time here will show in the finished wheel which I intend to spent a lot of time steering blissfully.

    The finished miters.

    " He who works with his hands is a laborer.
    He who works with his hands and his head is a craftsman. He who works with his hands and his head and his heart is an artist".
    St. Francis of Assis (1181-1226)

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    Default Re: How to build a ship's wheel.

    The first layer of the outer rim is held in place by brads, which are placed outside of the wheel area and the miters are held together with tiny dabs of super glue to temporarily hold the miters together and the layer to the lofting, so that I can make the patterns for the spokes from actual wheel. Once again patience pays off here in the final product.

    I make the spoke patterns by transferring the bevels to a center line drawn on the pattern stock. I already know it will fit, and it does perfectly at the top. Then I align the center line over the stock and pick up the exact length and the bevels directly from the actual rim stock.





    Same procedure for the other two patterns for the spokes. The patterns are now complete and will be used to get out the spokes in mahogany.

    The completed patterns and first layer of the rim of the wheel.

    Last edited by Robmill0605; 11-02-2011 at 02:35 PM.
    " He who works with his hands is a laborer.
    He who works with his hands and his head is a craftsman. He who works with his hands and his head and his heart is an artist".
    St. Francis of Assis (1181-1226)

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    Default Re: How to build a ship's wheel.

    " He who works with his hands is a laborer.
    He who works with his hands and his head is a craftsman. He who works with his hands and his head and his heart is an artist".
    St. Francis of Assis (1181-1226)

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    Default Re: How to build a ship's wheel.

    For anyone who is interested, Amazon has several used copies if that book. I was able to pick one up for $12.00

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    Default Re: How to build a ship's wheel.

    I am curious why you did not use four laminations instead of three. Seems like the front and back sets of pieces will have their joints supported only by the single inner piece. WIth four layers, every joint is backed up by at least two layers that have no joint at that spot. Might be more uniformly rigid.

    Very interesting process. Can't wait to follow along!
    Now is a good time!


    Steward of MAKOTO [WB Magazine #232], and Honored Member of the LPBC

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    Default Re: How to build a ship's wheel.

    Quote Originally Posted by Cogeniac View Post
    I am curious why you did not use four laminations instead of three. Seems like the front and back sets of pieces will have their joints supported only by the single inner piece. WIth four layers, every joint is backed up by at least two layers that have no joint at that spot. Might be more uniformly rigid.

    Very interesting process. Can't wait to follow along!
    Good question. The wheel would be a little clunky for me at that thickness. Also the laminations are very strong ,and the wheel will have a center hub bolted through the wheel which adds tremendous strength .
    " He who works with his hands is a laborer.
    He who works with his hands and his head is a craftsman. He who works with his hands and his head and his heart is an artist".
    St. Francis of Assis (1181-1226)

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    Default Re: How to build a ship's wheel.

    Quote Originally Posted by mucrewbtp View Post
    For anyone who is interested, Amazon has several used copies if that book. I was able to pick one up for $12.00
    $52.56 today.......

    But - less here: http://www.alibris.com/search/books/...90/used/Modern Wooden Yacht Construction%3A Cold-Molding, Joinery, Fitting Out

    I just got one for 18 with shipping. Others in better condition for more (I didn't care that the jacket was scuffed!)
    Last edited by Garret; 11-03-2011 at 10:51 AM.

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    Default Re: How to build a ship's wheel.

    nice detail and good explanations. Thanks for sharing.

    George
    George

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    Default Re: How to build a ship's wheel.

    very nice indeed, continued thanks.
    LBPC member since page 14, wood flour tip, green cap, no chips....

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    Default Re: How to build a ship's wheel.

    Gstanfield.... 10 types of people who understand binary means three...
    Now is a good time!


    Steward of MAKOTO [WB Magazine #232], and Honored Member of the LPBC

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    Default Re: How to build a ship's wheel.

    This first layer of the wheel is completed. The next step is to mark a center line on the rim segments because the inner layer is rotated and the spoke joinery is a little different.




    This is the completed first layer of the wheel with the center lines marked out. I'm now ready to do the joinerwork on the inner segment.





    I glued the rim segments together to position it on top of the first layer. Line up the center lines with the joint lines in the rim segments and clamp it it down to hold it's position. Glue up on the wheel is done after all the parts are made.



    It should look like this:
    " He who works with his hands is a laborer.
    He who works with his hands and his head is a craftsman. He who works with his hands and his head and his heart is an artist".
    St. Francis of Assis (1181-1226)

  22. #22
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    Default Re: How to build a ship's wheel.

    Each layer of the wheel will have one full spoke crossing over the half spokes to lock them into the lamination. With the inner rim clamped down, strike a center line on the spoke stock, and fit it full length. the ends are a 90 degree cut here, unlike the first layer. The book from John Guzzwell doesn't make this part of the construction very clear.( at least not to me.)




    Now I use my pattern to get the shape of the hub and another 90 degree cut on the rim end.

    " He who works with his hands is a laborer.
    He who works with his hands and his head is a craftsman. He who works with his hands and his head and his heart is an artist".
    St. Francis of Assis (1181-1226)

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    Default Re: How to build a ship's wheel.

    I worked my way all around the spokes using my patterns to pick up the angles and fitting each one by hand with my block plane. The inner segment of the wheel is now completed.




    Time to make the final layer. Once again I glue up the rim segments to form the hexagon only this time I line up the hexagon with the first layer of the wheel on the lofting. I made the first layer with the through full spoke vertical . The second on an angle in the inner rim, and now the last to cover half segments so that each layer has one full length spoke covering half spokes. The joinery is the same as the first layer .
    The joinery is now completed, the next step is glue up. I'm headed over to my shop to do that today. I hope this helps anyone who would like to try this wheel. It's not really that hard if you are patient and work carefully. I will post the construction all the way to the finished wheel.

    Last edited by Robmill0605; 11-09-2011 at 07:45 AM.
    " He who works with his hands is a laborer.
    He who works with his hands and his head is a craftsman. He who works with his hands and his head and his heart is an artist".
    St. Francis of Assis (1181-1226)

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    Default Re: How to build a ship's wheel.

    Thanks, Rob. Looks great so far.



    Steven

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    Default Re: How to build a ship's wheel.

    Interesting!
    Nice wheel.
    A very good old friend has made a few ship's wheels... It's definitely a niche market.

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    Default Re: How to build a ship's wheel.

    I got into the shop and glued up the first lamination. I'm using Plastic Resin glue because it has a long open time, is very strong and is brown in color which will help minimize the glue lines. I use a respirator and eye protection when mixing this as it has a formaldehyde base and is not very good for your lungs or your eyes.





    A couple of years ago I made some bow clamps which work great in creating even pressure all the way across whatever I'm clamping. I use them a lot gluing face frames to the case. They have about a 1/4" curve across them.I'll use them across the plywood caul to clamp the lamination tightly,. This is another area where it's nice to have a heavy flat workbench to clamp to ,but some heavy weights would also work. A vacuum bag would be ideal.




    " He who works with his hands is a laborer.
    He who works with his hands and his head is a craftsman. He who works with his hands and his head and his heart is an artist".
    St. Francis of Assis (1181-1226)

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    Default Re: How to build a ship's wheel.

    I left the whole thing alone over night to set up Also I forgot to mention that I waxed the lofting and the caul so that it will release. This morning I removed the clamps and the result looks like this.




    I aligned the last lamination to cover the remaining the spokes and repeated the whole process. The lamination's are now completed.I'll leave them again over night to dry, and finally release it from the lofting to machine the segments and get this mess looking like a wheel!
    " He who works with his hands is a laborer.
    He who works with his hands and his head is a craftsman. He who works with his hands and his head and his heart is an artist".
    St. Francis of Assis (1181-1226)

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    Default Re: How to build a ship's wheel.

    Back into the shop to move this project along. Before I release the wheel from the lofting there is one last thing to do. I drilled the 1/4" hole through the wheel from the back side of the lofting. This puts my center hole right in the middle of the wheel. I will use this to align my patterns to shape the wheel.





    Here is the wheel released from the lofting. Looks like a real mess, but I'll fix that. I sanded both faces of the wheel after this to level the surface.




    This is the fun part. I could pick up the pattern for the spokes from the lofting, but I find it's easier and cleaner to just do a half lofting of the wheel and then lay out the design the way I want it. So I took a 1/4" piece of ply and drew the wheel. I used a 1 3/4" circle for the hub and the spokes to the rim. This gives you a nice preview of how the wheel will look. Once I was happy with it, I cut it out on the bandsaw and used a forstner bit on my drill press to cut the circles out, and drill a 1/4" hole on the center line.

    " He who works with his hands is a laborer.
    He who works with his hands and his head is a craftsman. He who works with his hands and his head and his heart is an artist".
    St. Francis of Assis (1181-1226)

  29. #29
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    Default Re: How to build a ship's wheel.

    Time to get out the router. I used a 1/2" up spiral bit and a bushing guide on my plunge router. I will be removing a lot of waste so I am using a large bit to help reduce bit chatter.




    All set to go. I lined up the pattern and used the center line to align the pattern with the wheel.. I took the time to check everything to make sure I would hit my marks all the way around by drawing each segment on the wheel.

    " He who works with his hands is a laborer.
    He who works with his hands and his head is a craftsman. He who works with his hands and his head and his heart is an artist".
    St. Francis of Assis (1181-1226)

  30. #30
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    Default Re: How to build a ship's wheel.

    These are 1 1/8" deep segments so I took my time taking many shallow passes. The wheel starts take shape.




    Last edited by Robmill0605; 11-13-2011 at 10:05 AM.
    " He who works with his hands is a laborer.
    He who works with his hands and his head is a craftsman. He who works with his hands and his head and his heart is an artist".
    St. Francis of Assis (1181-1226)

  31. #31
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    Default Re: How to build a ship's wheel.

    I work my way all around the wheel and the end is in sight!
    I will complete the wheel Monday,
    Good thing because it looks like Heart of Gold II is finally getting moved to my shop!

    " He who works with his hands is a laborer.
    He who works with his hands and his head is a craftsman. He who works with his hands and his head and his heart is an artist".
    St. Francis of Assis (1181-1226)

  32. #32
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    Default Re: How to build a ship's wheel.

    Cool to see this thing come together.
    If one advances confidently in the direction of his dreams, and endeavors to live the life which he has imagined, he will meet with a success unexpected in common hours.
    -Henry David Thoreau-

  33. #33
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    Default Re: How to build a ship's wheel.

    Quote Originally Posted by Sailor View Post
    Cool to see this thing come together.
    Thanks, been a while since I made one, but it's worth the trouble. What's nice about this technique is that a wheel of any size and any species of wood can be made by an amateur to rival anything a pro can produce and end up with a very satisfying result.
    " He who works with his hands is a laborer.
    He who works with his hands and his head is a craftsman. He who works with his hands and his head and his heart is an artist".
    St. Francis of Assis (1181-1226)

  34. #34
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    Default Re: How to build a ship's wheel.

    Very nice work, although now I can no longer use an off the shelf wheel without feeling like I'm cutting corners the point being, you make it look too easy!
    George

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    Default Re: How to build a ship's wheel.

    Quote Originally Posted by gstanfield View Post
    Very nice work, although now I can no longer use an off the shelf wheel without feeling like I'm cutting corners the point being, you make it look too easy!
    LOL. Thanks!
    " He who works with his hands is a laborer.
    He who works with his hands and his head is a craftsman. He who works with his hands and his head and his heart is an artist".
    St. Francis of Assis (1181-1226)

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