Picked up a vintage Spencer accessory steering wheel off ebay ($50) that needed a little work. After spending most of the evening sanding off the excess glue and stain from its last 'restoration', I'm left with a nice natural canvas to stain.
I'm curious if anyone can give me guidance on what type of wood this is and what color(s) were common for the period. Also, what grit sandpaper should I use prior to staining?
Some of those were Maple. They were ,for the most part painted black. If you want to stain and varnish,it is your choice. I prefer to do that myself.
Nice job. I have no idea what that wood is, but I would treat it like Poplar, which, because of it's close grain and light color, is a wood that has been used in the furniture industry to mimick more expensive woods (especially walnut and mahogany) by staining.
First of all you might want to remove the spider to do the finish sanding. The higher the number, the finer the sandpaper. I would sand with 220, then 320 and finish with 400 to be sure all the scratches have been removed or the stain will darken them and make them stand out. Be careful not to sand too much in one place or you might end up with a flat spot.
Once you have a nice smooth, scratchless surface, Take some paint thinner or mineral spirits and with a rag clean off the dust. After the dust has been cleaned off, take a brush and brush on a coat of thinner. This will allow you to see what the wood will look like when coated with Polyurethane, as is, without stain. If it is dark enough for you, you might want to coat it with Minwax clear satin polyurethane, without staining it. If it is too light for your taste then you should consider staining. Make sure the mineral spirits has totally evaporated before applying stain.
Golden oak is a nice warm stain or if you want more color, Red Oak is a nice stain to go with. If you want a dark brown color, walnut would be a good selection. Maple will give you an orangish golden color. I would stay away from mahogany as it is too red for my taste.
You can apply either a wiping stain, then coat it with satin poluyurethane, or you can get a polyurethane with the color already mixed in for a one step application that will stain and coat in one step. I prefer staining separately and then coating because the colored polyurethane has a tendency to obscure the grain and leave brush marks if you spread it on too thick, where, if you stain separately wiping it on with a rag, it leaves no brush marks and the stain is absorbed dep into the wood, makeing the grain stand out and you have a sort of 3D effect. Also, if you stain separately, you can adjust the color if it is too dark, by taking a cloth with thinner on it and rubbing the stained surface, thereby removing some of the stain and lightening the color. Once it is to the shade of your liking, let it dry for a couple of days (until it is dry to the touch and has no, or little smell), then coat with clear satin polyurethane using a clean brush.
Always flick your dry brush to be sure there is no sawdust, dust or dried paint flecks in the brush bristles. Hold it in the light and if you can see a powder of dust appear when you flick it, you need to clean your brush until all that is out of the brush, or you will wind up with little dust flecks in your finish that will be rough to the touch. I like to get my brushes from art supply stores like Michaels. Sable bristle brushes gives you the smoothest finish.
The best thing to do before staining is to go to "Home Depot" and go to the paint aisle, where the stain is. Minwax, to me, has the best stains and the best clear satin polyurethane. They also have great displays that will help you to see what the finished stain will look like, so go there and pick what you like, since it will be for your enjoyment.
Before you start, be sure and shake the can of stain well, as well as, stir the pigments from the bottom with a clean stick. Same goes for the clear satin polyurethane. The soft satin finish comes from an additive that is added to the gloss polyurethane that breaks up the reflected light and tones down the shine and if you do not stir the additive from the bottom and thoroughly mix it up into the polyurethane, you will wind up with a gloss finish. I'm sure I have forgotten alot but this is enough to get you started.
Thanks Jim that's very helpful! I'll check out the Minwax products.
Is there another sealer I could use besides polyurethane? If I remember correctly, polyurethane wasn't invented until the mid-30's, and I'm pretty anal retentive about anything post-1931 on this speedster project (heck, I'm even doing the woodwork with period hand tools).
I have used boiled linseed oil extensively on 19th century muskets & rifles but never over a stained surface. Is there anything nowadays that comes close to replicating 1920's era varnish?
Test, only a test don't reply
Shellac was used extensively back then, however, it dries very fast and is difficult to apply and will leave thick brushmarks if you are too slow at feathering it out. It is, however, a very dark reddish brown (brownish red?) color and will most likely give you the warm deep brownish red finish you are looking for, without staining. Brushes are cleaned with and shellac is thinned with denatured alcohol. Warning. It does not stand up well to water or sweaty hands. Jim Patrick
PS. When it comes to varnishing, I would not go with 19th or early 20th century products such as shellac. You want to take advantage of the advances that have been made since then that provide you with a finish that is hard and durable and will protect the wood while looking great and no one will know the difference (except you). All they will know is what a great job you did.
Tung Oil willgive you a very nice finish
Thanks fellas, I'll try out several different things on a scrap of poplar to see what I like.
As always, excellent advice all around!
One other idea is what I did on my period accessory wood steering wheel. Sanded as you did, used minwax dark walnut oil based stain. Due to the wood being dense, the darkness of the stain was not overly done, and is easily controled with this product durring the staining process. Once that was dry, I used a few coats of minwax "natural satin wax" finish on it. After it dries, buff it by hand with a soft cloth. Looks nice, not to shiney, just nice and soft and warm. It is not the most waterproof finish, but I do not plan to get it wet often. Will post a few photos later if you wish(at work at the moment)
Forgot to mention that this finish looks period correct to my eye. Also, I used gun cold blue on the stokes as they were a ferrous casting. This looked great and gives a measure of rust protection. The satin wax coats covered both the wood and the steel spider. Nice look and fairly easy to do.
Would love to see the wheel Erich...that sounds like a great plan of attack!
I agree, I like Tung Oil too.
Tung oil should not be brushed on as it takes an incredibly long time to dry and when brushed, might look nice, but will not attain its' full beauty, however, when gloss tung oil is applied with the finger tips in short feathered strokes it begins to resemble a deep, satiny smooth semi-gloss French polish finish. A French polish finish is one of the most desirable finishes and is most often used on pianos and fine table tops. When applying tung oil in this way, one should use a few drops on the finger tips and keep rubbing it in in the same direction until it forms a tacky film on the finger tips then another drop and continue rubbing it in until it feels dry. The longer you work it in and lightly burnish it with your finger tips, the nicer and smoother it becomes. When you are done, it is virtually dry from the warmth and friction of your finger tips. It takes some practice but when you catch on you really get motivated as the finish become deeper and more beautiful as you go. Jim Patrick
Saw Tung oil in the hardware store today...will have to pick some up. How much 'darkness' will the Tung oil impart?
The tung oil I use to use in the method I described above was "Formby's", high gloss tung oil that came in a white squeeze bottle. Thirty years ago, it was very popular and I remember Mr. Formby doing his own commercials on TV. I don't know if it's still available and I haven't done a tung oil finish in decades. As for the color...I don't believe there is much difference between the amber color of polyurethane and tung oil. Jim Patrick
I like it for some things,but moisture/rain makes it turn a whitish haze. East to reapply another coat,but it will haze.
I used red oak stain on mine then finished with clear.
Tried to upload pic but having trouble sorry...!
I did one for myself using Cabernet stain and clear eurethane spar varnish. It came out bueatiful,and another guy bought it.The finish looked about 2 inches deep on it.
I like tung oil, I prefer it over varnish. If you wipe the wood with water that is the look tung oil will give it. My dining room table has 6+ coats of tung oil on it. The surface is durable as I wipe the table down every night. Last summer I added two more coats and it was quick and easy. Get the gloss version, it will take multiple coats to get any gloss. I use tung oil over stain al the time. But I have never used it over polyurethane stains. If you choice is to stain the wood first start out with a light colored stain and if you want it darker add another coat of a darker stain. You can always make it darker but you cannot change your mind and go lighter after a dark color has been applied. I commonly have 3-4 different colors on a piece until the color is just right.
Best of luck
I have an aftermarket wood rimmed steering wheel on my '25 coupe. I found it at a flea market about twenty years ago. I sanded the rim, which I think is Maple, and used Tung oil on it, and it sat in my house until I installed it on the coupe about a year and a half ago. About six months later, I noticed the finger joints were spreading open. I reglued it and sanded it again and sprayed it with spar varnish in a spray can. I don't recall the brand name for sure, but it may have been Minwax. Anyway, I have not had anymore problems. Tung oil looks nice, but IMHO, it won't keep out moisture. Here in the midwest, we get a lot of high humidity. Dave
Teak oil stain is the way to go, in my opinion. It is used for indoor and outdoor furniture. It may take four or five applications (one each day) before the surface achieves the gloss you are looking for.