Finish for a Grant Wooden Steering Wheel

Mudeblue

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I purchased a Grant Wooden Steering Wheel which is "walnut." I assumed it was going to be "Black Walnut" but when it arrived it appears to be "English Walnut" which I questioned, (I managed a Black Walnut Sawmill for 30 years, like the Lexus wooden steering wheel - ours). I questioned if it even was walnut but a major question was because of it's softness (English should be harder than Black). In any event, did not like the color so I stained it "dark walnut" it with an oil based stain. Looks good but could look better but now "it is what it is." In any event, I now want to put a finish on and I have researched many finishes from Tung Oil, Teak Oil, French Polish (actually a process), Hand Rubbed Wax, etc. The finish has to exterior and stand up to heat and sun since it is for a convertible located in Arizona. Worst case, cover it when just joy riding and uncover for events. Has anyone done this, what did you use, how did you apply and how did it stand up. I am leaning towards and exterior Tung Oil. Thanks.
 

patrick66

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Many years ago, I had a '66 Belvedere II that had a Grant wheel from the previous owner. It looked kinda rough, but I did something similar to what you have in mine. I sanded it down to clean it up somewhat. Then I used three coats of Min-Wax Black Walnut, followed by three coats of clear polyurethane. It came out a little darker than I had expected, but it still looked so much better that before! I painted the four spokes satin black and used a clear satin to keep things scratch-resistant Topped all that off with a cool old chrome horn button that was on a Manx-style dune buggy, and reinstalled the wheel. This was back in around 1987, so I have no pics of it. Wished I'd taken a few, because I was very proud of how that all came out!
 

volksworld

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Mar-k is a manufacturer of truck beds and wood kits and about 15 yrs ago they did comparisons of various clear finishes for the bed wood...they all failed but Minwax Spar urethane held up about the best...i think any of the tung oil or teak oil finishes would still be porous and if you grabbed the wheel with greasy hands it could permanently stain it....possibly a 2 part urethane automotive paint like the guys that restore steering wheels use but idk how well it would stick to stained wood...their "walnut" is probably something that somewhat resembles walnut from a third world rainforest somewhere
 

CBODY67

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I would have figured that "walnut" was the color on the wood, NOT the type of base wood in the wheel.

i suspect the MinWax + polyurethane would work well for at least a few years. I concur that any oil finish might later cause issues on a hot day. Either "bleeding" onto your hands or greasy hands leaving their marks on the wood. Not the same as on a coffee table in the living room, although some sort of surface protection would be needed there too.

Enjoy!
CBODY67
 

Mudeblue

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I would have figured that "walnut" was the color on the wood, NOT the type of base wood in the wheel.

i suspect the MinWax + polyurethane would work well for at least a few years. I concur that any oil finish might later cause issues on a hot day. Either "bleeding" onto your hands or greasy hands leaving their marks on the wood. Not the same as on a coffee table in the living room, although some sort of surface protection would be needed there too.

Enjoy!
CBODY67
Everything I read says not to use polyurethane or urethanes because in the sun and heat they will crack and turn white. That is the reason I am looking for something else. At the same time there is the issue of interior and exterior and I have to stick with a exterior? Marine tung oil?
 

volksworld

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any clear finish will fail because it has no uv blockers...but i dont think you plan to leave your car outside for 2 years with the top down either
 

patrick66

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My '66 was a garaged car before and after I refinished the steering wheel. It went to North Dakota in early 1988 and I never saw the car again. Now I'm curious where it went from that point...!
 

Mudeblue

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My '66 was a garaged car before and after I refinished the steering wheel. It went to North Dakota in early 1988 and I never saw the car again. Now I'm curious where it went from that point...!
Ahhhhh, North Dakota! Where the winters are whiter and brighter and the summers are greener and cleaner. Wish I was back there right now instead of Phoenix at 112 and going to get “warmer!”
 

HOT FURY

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I'd use an exterior polyurethane. Won't "bleed" any oils or similar chemicals onto your hands once cured and has UV inhibitors. If you use an old based one rather than water based it will slightly darken the wood finish and give it a rich golden hue in the light.
 

fury fan

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any clear finish will fail because it has no uv blockers...but i dont think you plan to leave your car outside for 2 years with the top down either

When I remodeled a kitchen and laundryroom some years ago, I clearcoated the cabinets/doors. Over time, the laundryroom cabinet (done with Minwax oilbase poly clear) showed a change in coloration between the exposed cabinet frame and where the doors overlapped. The kitchen cabinets (done with Minwax water-based polyurethane) did not show any 'fading'.

While this isn't necessarily comparable to a steering wheel for the amount of UV exposure, it does suggest the water-based might be better in such usage. The waterbased also painted and flowed out a helluva lot better (both done with spraycans).
 

volksworld

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i've used both and the water base is really clear while the oil base has the gold tint to it
 

HOT FURY

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When I remodeled a kitchen and laundryroom some years ago, I clearcoated the cabinets/doors. Over time, the laundryroom cabinet (done with Minwax oilbase poly clear) showed a change in coloration between the exposed cabinet frame and where the doors overlapped. The kitchen cabinets (done with Minwax water-based polyurethane) did not show any 'fading'.

While this isn't necessarily comparable to a steering wheel for the amount of UV exposure, it does suggest the water-based might be better in such usage. The waterbased also painted and flowed out a helluva lot better (both done with spraycans).
the "yellowing" has to do with the oil base with polyurethane. With medium to darker woods it gives it a rich deep color hue, with lighter woods it will cause a slight yellowing effect. If the wheel is a medium to darker color I'd definitely use the oil base poly, the color will come out amazing looking. I've used both brands varathane and minwax, the varathane has always come out looking better for some reason. You'll also want to make sure to get the level of gloss finish you are wanting but remember the higher level of gloss the easier you will see any imperfections in the finish.
 

Mudeblue

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When I remodeled a kitchen and laundryroom some years ago, I clearcoated the cabinets/doors. Over time, the laundryroom cabinet (done with Minwax oilbase poly clear) showed a change in coloration between the exposed cabinet frame and where the doors overlapped. The kitchen cabinets (done with Minwax water-based polyurethane) did not show any 'fading'.

While this isn't necessarily comparable to a steering wheel for the amount of UV exposure, it does suggest the water-based might be better in such usage. The waterbased also painted and flowed out a helluva lot better (both done with spraycans).
One thing to consider with fading, Sunlight and fluorescent lights are the enemy of natural wood color. In the case of black walnut for example, a few years of either will change the wood entirely with respect to color. Therefore UV protection in the finish can be critical but that in itself is not a panacea. Take it from a guy who managed a black walnut sawmill for 30 years.
 

bnz84

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As hinted at search the marine boards for best wood finishes. Lots of weather and sun on boats. Different types of Spar Urethane usually wins. I just coated a wood shifter ball in Minwax Spar Urethane. Poly is easier to use and clean up but not as long lasting. I sealed cornhole boards with that stuff. Worked great but does not see the weather.

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