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Wood + Leather Steering Wheel Refinishing *pics* :)

Hey guys. This wheel was pretty dinged up. I thought it could be fixed with a simple wetsand and re-clear, but little "ring marks" in the wood were too deep. The clear needed to be stripped and the wood sanded, re-stained and stripped. I also needed to touch-up and re-dye the leather as it was pretty scratched up as well.

Here are some details to the re-finishing in case any of you guys wanted to do the same smile.gif

So here we are:

At this point I had already wetsanded with 600grit and applied 3 coats of clearcoat before we both decided it was best to strip and re-stain. The first step at this point was to strip the coats of clear I added, and the factory clear as well. These pictures show the stripper lifting the clear I added. The factory clear takes a lot more work to remove.


After my clear was removed, I applied a few more layers of stripper to let it soak into the factory clear. After soaking for an hour or two, I scraped the clear off using small pieces of oak (which is a very dense wood, hard enough to hold up and scrape, but not hard enough to dig into the steering wheel wood)


After a few hours of scraping and sanding.



I then stained the wood (which is walnut btw) with a mixture of stains to get the best match. I let the stain dry over-night in the oven at 200 degrees. The following day I let it air dry. If all of the stain and moisture in the wood is not evaporated, the clear will not bond and bubbles will form. Here’s after the stain and first coat of clear was applied.




As you can see, the first coat of clear does not fill in the ‘grain’. This is why several layers of clear are required to get a smooth shiny finish. I’m using Dupont’s two part clear (same stuff used on car finishes). It’s extremely hard and durable. It resists cracking and fading, the best stuff I’ve used.

I let each coat of clear bake in the oven for 30mins-3 hours at 140 degrees to ensure each layer is cured before the next is applied. And after each coat, I wet sand with 600grit sandpaper to remove any imperfections. After a few more coats:



It took quite a few coats of clear to get a thick smooth finish. After the last coat:


Although I wear a lint-less overall and keep good dust control, you can’t make the finish perfect. Some little pieces of dust (I’ve had flies get on the finish before GRRR) get on the last coat before it’s fully cured, which need to be wet sanded with 1500 grit sandpaper and buffed/polished out with 3M scratch remover followed by Meguiar’s ScratchX to get a nice shine.





The next step is to un-ravel the tape over the leather and give that a nice re-finish. The tape leaves behind some excess glue (especially after being in the heating booth (aka an old oven). I used a 6:1 ratio of water to woolite and a cotton towel to remove and glue and dirt from the leather.




But even after being cleaned by the woolite solution, the leather still has that ugly shine resulting in years of use. Over time, leather gets shiny and scratched from peoples filthy hands and rings.





These little scratches and nicks can easily be fixed by touching up with some leather dye. I’m using Magic Mender’s crack filler and taupe#13 dye to fill in the nicks. The first step is wipe down the entire leather surface with rubbing alcohol to evaporate any water that might be seeped in the leather.



I used a toothpick to dab the dye over the little nicks etc.




Although the surface does look better with the little nicks filled in and dyed, the entire leather surface still needs re-finishing.

The next step is to mask off the wood so I can work on the entire leather surfaces.


I am using an airbrush (same airbrush I used to apply the car clear for the wood) with Magic Mender’s “matte” clear for leather over the entire leather surfaces, front and back.




I used a blow-dryer in between coats of matte clear to allow the dye to soak into the leather and bond well.


After the first coat of clear, I realized I needed a tint to better hide the little nicks. I mixed a 10:1 ratio of clear to taupe and sprayed a coat over the entire surface.


After this I applied a few more thin coats of matte clear to give the leather a textured matte finish to make it look new again.

After the leather dye was completely dry, I removed the tape from the wood and gave the wood a final buffing using the ScratchX.


The finished result!!!!!!!!!

I threw in some old airbag part I had to show how the color matches. It appears the leather is lighter than the airbag, but that’s only because the leather is matte (dry).

















The whole process took about a week. I was able to bake each coat of clear between coats, which really sped up the process. It took 8-10 coats of clear to get this finish so smooth. The leather looks totally brand new, the matte finish really makes it look nice. The leather dyes also give the leather that “new car smell” too J. This is a good alternitive to spending $2k at the dealer for a new one, that’s for sure J

So tell me what you guys think! Hope you enjoyed the pics!!

Recommended Comments

Yikes! That's incredible work! I doubt any joe can pull this off. You have talent! It's the part where you say "I then stained the wood (which is walnut btw) with a mixture of stains to get the best match." that part right there is where I would screw it all up!


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