Canadian Woodworking

Ship’s wheel

Author: Garnet Hall
Published: October November 2004

You may not have a ship to call your own, but follow this easy pattern and you will be able to display your dream ship’s wheel.


There are lots of lettering books that you can choose from, and it can be fun to think of what you would call your ship, when it comes in.

Shape with Sandstorm sander

Shape and sand with Flex Sander

Sand with Star Twister

Wood Selection

Careful wood selection will help insure an attractive project. I use 3/4″ stock for the project and 1/8″ Baltic Birch plywood for lettering.

Transfer the Pattern

Transfer the pattern to the wood by: tracing the pattern onto the wood with carbon paper, making a template of the pattern and tracing onto thin plywood or plexi-glass, or by cutting out the pattern pieces and gluing them onto wood.

Cut out the Pieces

Make sure that your blade is square to the table and that you remain on the cut line. A #3 Hook Tooth blade leaves a smaller kerf and results in an improved fit.

Assemble and Check for Fit

Try to keep within a saw kerf or 1/16″. Raise or lower the pieces as the pattern, or your imagination, suggest. Reassemble the pieces and mark reference lines. These lines help with the shaping, as you will shape down to these lines.

Shape and Sand

Before you start to shape and sand, make sure that you:

  • have your tools hooked up to a dust collector,
  • have an air filtration device to remove the dust in the air, and
  • are wearing a good quality dust mask.

Shape pieces so as to achieve a smooth transition from one level to the next.

I do most of my initial shaping with a small pneumatic sander in a flex shaft and finish shaping with a Flex Sander. When the shaping is done, sand to 180 or 220 grit.

Glue the Pieces onto a Backing

Re-assemble the pieces onto your backing material. You can use 1/4″ Baltic Birch, Oak, or Birch plywood or 1/8″ painted MDF. Trace around the project, remove the pieces, and cut out the backing. Glue the pieces onto the backing with ordinary carpenter’s glue. Lastly, round the edges of the backing.


Apply the finish of your choice. I put three coats on the front and one on the back, sanding between coats.

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