How to Make a Pirates Ship Wheel

IMG_0399If you’ve built the Cannon, now you need a Ships Wheel.  You’ll need a lathe, router and a bandsaw (or jigsaw).IMG_0346All projects start with raw materials.  I used dimensional lumber from the home center. Two 2x4x8s, two 2x6x8s and two 1x6x8 pine boards.IMG_0345I began by drawing a full scale template to determine my angles, lengths and patterns for the project.  I researched various ship wheel styles and settled on a look I liked.IMG_0347I then cut my 2x4s into square blanks for turning on the lathe.  My template determined the length.IMG_0349Using another pattern, I turned each spoke and was careful to make 8 duplicates using my first one as reference.IMG_0351Because I chose to use dimensional lumber, which is a lesser quality, I am getting some chip out.  That’s OK, as I’m looking to age this wheel down quite a bit. IMG_0354I’m constantly checking against my template to make sure I’m getting the fit I need.IMG_0355 I cut a pattern out of mdf based on my template and used it to trace off the curved sections between each spoke.  I cut them out of the 2×6 material.IMG_0356I then did a dry fit to determine the final length of each spoke.  This is why the full scale template is so important.IMG_0357Once everything fit, I was ready to cut the the hub and the outer rings.  I first used a 1/2 inch round-over bit in my router and softened the edge of each curved insert.IMG_0361The inner ring of the spokes was cut using my template as a guide.  They fit snugly between each spoke giving the proper placement.  The hub plate was then glued on top and nailed in place.IMG_0362Using another pattern off my template, I made 16 identical curved plates that will be secured to each side of the wheel with glue and nails.  This holds everything together.IMG_0363After they are secured in place, I ran my router around the edge using a roman ogee bit.FullSizeRenderAfter some sanding, I took the wheel outside and did a random dusting of grey primer.  This will act as a base for the aging process later.IMG_0375Time to turn the handles.IMG_0376I used iron threaded dowels to attach them to the end of each spoke.IMG_0378I drilled holes at each intersection using a Forster bit and filled them with Bondo.  This will give the illusion of pegs holding the wheel together.  Additional Bondo was added for texture and to help with the ageing process.  Do this in a well ventilated area.IMG_0383Using a combination of paint and stain, I began to age the wood.  Painting over wet stain and then sanding it helped to bring out the grain.  Wear gloves.IMG_0388Sea Creatures?  Yes, my wheel was brought up from the depths for display in my Pirate Bar.  Can’t find barnacles?  Then make some.IMG_0387I sculpted 3 different barnacles in Sculpey and then made a mold using Smooth On silicone and cast them using Smooth On plastic.IMG_0389I then arraigned them on the wheel in what I thought would be a natural pattern.  I added other shells and starfish purchased from my local hobby store, and then painted the barnacles to match.  A final light dusting of grey primer gave me the weathered look I was looking for.IMG_0398And there you have it!  A ships wheel directly from Davy Jones Locker and ready for display. Now lets steer a true and proper course mateys!


About PhillipFreer
Draws, paints and builds stuff. Designs Theme Parks, places and family destinations.

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