How to Build a Replacement Wood Sailboat Steering Wheel

How to Build a Replacement Wood Sailboat Steering Wheel
It is a very tense moment in the middle of a storm, stranded in the doldrums, or even marooned on a remote island, to have to find a replacement wood steering wheel. It's not quite the same as putting on a spare tire and limping into the tire shop. Even if there were shops that restore helms, FedEx does not yet air-drop. Focus on getting the boat able to sail when you rebuild a wooden helm in an emergency. Take care of a gorgeous, highly polished teak replica once you are at least in cell range.

Instructions

Difficulty: Moderately Challenging

Things You’ll Need:
  • Small saw Pitch Pitch brush Rope Leather belt Pumice stone or sandpaper
  • Small saw
  • Pitch
  • Pitch brush
  • Rope
  • Leather belt
  • Pumice stone or sandpaper
Step 1
Remove broken parts. Keep as much of the damaged wheel as possible. If all you have to replace are spokes, you are in great shape. If the outer wheel circle that you grip with your hands is also broken, the entire structure is weakened and you may need to rebuild a wooden helm.
Step 2
Cut two narrow sections from a wooden or plastic barrel that approximates the correct size for a replacement wood steering wheel. When replacing the spokes, apply pitch to glue both cut circles together. Smooth jagged edges with sandpaper or pumice stone, both of which you are likely to have on a wooden sailboat.
Step 3
Replace broken spokes with the spokes of the hand rails on the main deck or the helm sitting area. Carefully remove the handrail and store to be replaced later. Take as many spokes as you need. The ability to restore helms is more critical than the aesthetics of the rail.
Step 4
Cut the spokes down to size to rebuild a wooden helm. Smooth the ends to fit in the main circle of the replacement wood steering wheel.
Step 5
Paint the ends with pitch. This will help secure the new spokes of the replacement wood steering wheel.
Step 6
Lash the new spokes to the wheel with a rope or, if no rope is available, a leather belt. Wind the rope around the spoke five times and then crisscross to attach to the outer rim and to the center of the wooden steering wheel where it attaches to the stem or the tiller at least another five times. The strength of the rope or leather will determine how many times you crisscross.
Step 7
Lash the entire outer rim or hand-grip part of the wooden steering wheel to restore helms completely. After so much stress was applied, the wood may have been weakened. It is crucial for the replacement wood steering wheel to be strong enough to survive another storm and steer you safely into port.

Tips & Warnings

 
If you have nothing to make a round wheel, take a piece of the railing and attach it to the tiller to make a rudimentary steering system that will allow you to move the rudder and sail the ship.
 
If you have nothing to make a round wheel, take a piece of the railing and attach it to the tiller to make a rudimentary steering system that will allow you to move the rudder and sail the ship.
 
Check the entire helm. Loss of control of steering and the rudder means loss of control of the sailboat and that can mean an early appointment with Davey Jones' Locker.
 
Check the entire helm. Loss of control of steering and the rudder means loss of control of the sailboat and that can mean an early appointment with Davey Jones' Locker.

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