How to build a ship wheel

Written by steve smith | 13/05/2017
How to build a ship wheel
Wood ship wheels are a DIY project. (la barre d"un bateau image by MONIQUE POUZET from

A ship's wheel is a classic nautical decoration. You do not have to salvage one from a sunken vessel, however. A ship's wheel is a project that a woodworker with basic experience will produce with a great deal of authenticity, if crafted carefully. With this method the project takes about five hours to complete. It is for any sized ship's wheel made from any type of wood.

Draw a circle on your wood board 20 inches in diameter (or, make the circle as wide as you want the outside edge of your ship wheel to be), using a compass and pencil.

Draw another circle on the board 18 inches in diameter, with the same centre point as the first circle. You now have a 2-inch wide ring on the board.

Cut around the inside and outside edges of this ring using a band saw.

Trace another circle on the board with the compass that is 4 inches in diameter. Cut this circle out on the band saw.

Cut eight 14-inch dowels from a 1-inch diameter wood dowel rod using a table saw.

Divide the larger and smaller wood circles into eight equal parts by using a protractor and making a mark every 45 degrees with the pencil.

Set the wood ring into a vice and drill out a 1-inch hole at each mark using a power drill and 1-inch drill bit. Drill completely through the wood to the other side. Repeat this step for the smaller hole, but drill only 1 inch into the wood.

Slide a dowel through each hole in the larger ring and insert them into the holes in the smaller wood circle. After a dry fit, remove the dowels from the centre wood circle. Apply glue to the holes in the circle, and refit the dowels into them.

Hammer a small tack through the large wood ring and into each dowel to secure them in place. Drill a pilot hole first using a 1/32 inch drill bit and power drill to prevent splitting the dowel.

Sand the dowel handles with 300-grit sand paper to give them some shape if you like.

Things you need

  • Wood board at least 2 inches thick
  • Compass
  • Pencil
  • Band saw
  • Wood dowels
  • Table saw
  • Drill
  • Hole cutter bit
  • Wood glue

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