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Thread: How To Re-Do Your e36 3 Spoke Steering Wheel Leather

  1. #26
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    Quote Originally Posted by Vinci View Post

    Jeff, what thickness of neoprene are you using?
    1/8"

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  2. #27
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    Jeff, I really appreciate you starting this. I will certainly be following closely as this may become my winter project (actually, my wife's, but I've got headlights to retrofit).

    This community never ceases to amaze me.



    Quote Originally Posted by spacecowboy View Post
    Why don't we all try this & then post the pictures? We could then have a vote later to determine the top 3 fails. :-) Gold, silver, bronze. LOL
    This idea is phenomenal.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Z3Couper View Post
    Jeff is sympathetic to whining, large sums of cash, and whining. Nah, Jeff was gonna do a bunch of stuff for my old car and it didn't work out before he got his new gig. I'm stoked that he's using the DIY as a chance to make mine.
    money talks, bullshit walks.

  4. #29
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    Awesome project!


    FYI, anyone interested in doing this, I have a spare 3-spoke wheel shell & inserts (no airbag) kicking around for sale if anyone wanted a project wheel to work with.

    BMW M3 - Ferrari 348 - Chevrolet Chevelle

  5. #30
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    Quote Originally Posted by Itsablurr View Post
    Awesome project!


    FYI, anyone interested in doing this, I have a spare 3-spoke wheel shell & inserts (no airbag) kicking around for sale if anyone wanted a project wheel to work with.

    How much?

  6. #31
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    I was on vaca last weekend so no progress but back at it this weekend.

    I added the final neoprene to the wrap. To work with neoprene you will need a specific contact cement for neoprene and rubber. This works well since the neoprene on this wheel will contact the rubber of the wheel core. Lowes or Home Depot.


    Paint the back of the leather wrap and neoprene and let it set up according to the instructions of the contact cement. In this case 30 minutes. I have no idea why that one pic is so big.



    Having worked neoprene into a wrap on my own wheel, I know that this stuff likes to wrinkle a tad when curled too far so to alleviate that, I left space in the middle of the wrap to accommodate for the wrinkle.




    Then when it wraps around the wheel, the gap closes up with no wrinkle. And for the record that's the thumb I cut off one year and one month and 20 days ago.



    So it's onto the wheel to test fit and make final trims before stitching.
    I realize you will not have a spare wheel column chilling in your garage. This entire process of stitching can be done with the wheel sitting in your lap or on a table but it's easier in this position as you will see later when I stitch this together. My car in the background is not planned. It's been there dead for over a month. One of my sons decided to detail the wheels though, which is nice but left the rotors rusty.



    Since you don't have a spare wheel column, secure a broom stick or something of the sort to a table so that the wheel can spin freely and you can sit comfortably in front of it - and beside it - and on top of it - and under it - because stitching a wheel can take upwards of 3 hours, even for me and I fly at it.

    More later..enjoy.

    .

  7. #32
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    Jeremy is offline ǝoɥsuʍolƆ ǝnƃɐǝ˥ ɹoɾɐW BMW CCA Member
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    3 hours of stitching?! Wow. I had now idea.
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  8. #33
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    Very cool. Would it be easier to glue the neoprene to the wheel itself and then sew on the cover over top of the whole thing? It seems like it might be a little easier to take care of any wrinkles or misalignment with the padding by itself.

  9. #34
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    Quote Originally Posted by Vinci View Post
    Very cool. Would it be easier to glue the neoprene to the wheel itself and then sew on the cover over top of the whole thing? It seems like it might be a little easier to take care of any wrinkles or misalignment with the padding by itself.
    Ditto.

    I have taken the old leather off my wheel and am going to go get some cheap material for practice this weekend.

    Additional question: I was thinking of wrapping my tabs as well and originally thought that I would just be able to use cement to get it to attach all the way around to the back side of the tab. it looks like you have to use really thin leather for where the tab meets up with the leather of the wheel (outside edge of the tab). Is there a trick to this or do you just wrap it with leather and press it in?

  10. #35
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    Quote Originally Posted by Z3Couper View Post
    3 hours of stitching?! Wow. I had now idea.
    Me either. Until I started selling them.


    I'll time myself on your wheel and we'll see where I land. the neoprene offers a lot of forgiveness so we'll see.

    Quote Originally Posted by Vinci View Post
    Very cool. Would it be easier to glue the neoprene to the wheel itself and then sew on the cover over top of the whole thing? It seems like it might be a little easier to take care of any wrinkles or misalignment with the padding by itself.
    I tried this when I did my wheel. It might seem easier to apply the neo to the wheel first but once you start dealing with the complexity of a steering wheel application, well, it's just easier, imo, to get it on the wrap first.

    Leather and neo do not like each other so until they are bonded you get all sorts of weird creases and buckles. Bastards. Leather won't slide easily across neo to pull a tight seam. Bastards.

    I wish I took pics of my steering wheel when I applied the neo to the wheel first but I got so pissed I ripped it off.

    It can be done, I just didn't like the result.

    Quote Originally Posted by M Pete View Post
    Ditto.

    I have taken the old leather off my wheel and am going to go get some cheap material for practice this weekend.

    Additional question: I was thinking of wrapping my tabs as well and originally thought that I would just be able to use cement to get it to attach all the way around to the back side of the tab. it looks like you have to use really thin leather for where the tab meets up with the leather of the wheel (outside edge of the tab). Is there a trick to this or do you just wrap it with leather and press it in?
    The wheel tabs take a certain leather to pull off correctly. I use calf skin and lamb skin leather. It's thin and elastic to get around the tight contours of a wheel tab. I have used thicker leather to get a certain color but that takes some serious craftsmanship to trim the leather so that it doesn't affect fitment of the airbag and, of course, to look perfect.

    .

  11. #36
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    Just stumbled upon this and on pins and needles for the thrilling conclusion! Any updates???
    -Mike

  12. #37
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    Yeah, I would certainly like to see how this ends. I've always wondered how they sew these things so tightly.
    Hope we can get a update on your outstanding job!

  13. #38
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    I'm actually finishing it up now. I'll update with pics later tonight.

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    sweet

  15. #40
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    I'm hoping the three spoke wheel I saw at a junkyard is still there when I go back this next week. I might use it to try this project out. How much should a wheel go for price-wise?

  16. #41
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    Quote Originally Posted by janikphoto View Post
    I'm hoping the three spoke wheel I saw at a junkyard is still there when I go back this next week. I might use it to try this project out. How much should a wheel go for price-wise?
    Depends on the condish. I've bought one for $200 and another one the same week for $50.

    Well, we left off almost a month ago with the leather being test fit. For the most part it's ready to go so very little trimming is needed to get started.

    When wrapping this wheel or any wheel, it's important to get the leather fitting perfect with all seams matching up and there is no more important area for this than the spokes. Whether it's a 3 spoke, or 4 spoke, get the leather to fit these areas first. Then worry about the rest of the wheel.

    Once you get the spokes fitted right, the rest will follow

    So here's the trick to get the leather to where it's nice and tight even before you begin to stitch which will only make it tighter. I originally used a neoprene/rubber contact cement but things have changed for this wheel so I had to go to this cement. Unless you're using neoprene, this cement will work fine.


    The trick to getting that tight factory look to your steering wheel is using contact cement in areas that would otherwise result in puckering. If you simply start stitching before you've cemented the leather to the contours of the wheel, you'll never be happy with the result.

    Use contact cement at all the spoke areas first. If the leather is fitting properly then it's just a matter of pulling the leather into place and pressing it secure.

    As stated, once the spokes are complete the rest will be simple to align.







    To get a tight factory look it's important to get the leather fitting without wrinkles or gaping before you ever stitch.

    Because I'm using neoprene on this wheel, I only have one shot to get this fitment right because there is no removing and reapplying with neoprene. If you're doing this with just leather applied to the factory rubber wheel core, you'll be fine to remove and reapply as many times as necessary.


    The PDF pattern I'm providing at the end of this thread is factory fitment.


    It's now time to get stitching. Start with the main spoke at the bottom of the wheel. I'm going to try to describe how to stitch in a method that results in a true M style stitch pattern that gives the factory look.

    First, pull a length of adjoining thread the length of 3 arm lengths or about 9 feet. Use a needle with a very blunt tip, you do not want anything sharp here or it will dig into either the leather or spilt the thread. You can get blunt tip needles at http://www.tandyleatherfactory.com/ or you can file down any heavy gage needle.

    tie a knot in one end of the thread and thread the needle with about 12 inches slack.




    I found that bending the needle about 15 degrees helps work some of the tight angles of this wheel

    Choose a hole on the leather and pull through the back to the front to hide the knot.


    If everything has gone right, this is the point where you can relax and enjoy the next several hours (I did this wheel in 2 hours, Jeremy) because it's the same thing over and over and over. Which is therapeutic on some level.

    You're going to put the needle through the bottom of the stitch and up over the top to the next stitch about 1200 times.

    You want to get off to a good start so take your time.



    For the back of the spokes and somewhat on the main run of stitches, you want to hit every stitch.



    As you run the stitching, it's important to keep the tension of the running stitch consistent as to create a neat finished stitch. So pull tight, but not so tight that you breach the stitch. You want a nice "V" to the threads as you run through them.



    You want to keep single stitches until you pass the first seam. Pull tight, get the leather to meet up.

    If you have a little too much leather, you can roll the seam to get it to meet up with the other side of the leather right before you pull the stitch tight. This will create a nice pucker which I've seen on every factory wheel from Ferrari to Ford.

    Ferrari btw uses more glued seams than Ford on their steering wheels.




    Once you get past the first seam, you will begin what is a true M stitch, and that's hitting every other stitch.

    Once you begin doing this, you will see the signature "M" developing within the stitch. This is when you know you're on your way.



    That's it for now. Enjoy.
    Last edited by rocknroad; 08-21-2010 at 04:24 PM. Reason: Automerged Doublepost

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  17. #42
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    Very cool. Nice workmanship. It appears that having the correct equipment, right leather, and most importantly-patience and experience make the work go well (as with most hand crafted stuff-think woodworking. Having a whole garage full of the right tools is the key).

    I thought about this, but happened upon a ebay site of a guy in Germany who redoes the Euro 3 spoke wheels in slightly padded, M-stitching. I bought one about three weeks ago and it arrived last week-ready to install in my 98 Z (slip ring and airbag included). The 3 spoke wheel is night and day over the US standard 4 spoke.

    BTW, I have a very nice 4 spoke with airbag if anyone is interested (I will post in sales).
    Last edited by spfd72; 08-21-2010 at 04:24 PM.

  18. #43
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    Quote Originally Posted by spfd72 View Post
    Very cool. Nice workmanship. It appears that having the correct equipment, right leather, and most importantly-patience and experience make the work go well (as with most hand crafted stuff-think woodworking. Having a whole garage full of the right tools is the key).

    I thought about this, but happened upon a ebay site of a guy in Germany who redoes the Euro 3 spoke wheels in slightly padded, M-stitching. I bought one about three weeks ago and it arrived last week-ready to install in my 98 Z (slip ring and airbag included). The 3 spoke wheel is night and day over the US standard 4 spoke.

    BTW, I have a very nice 4 spoke with airbag if anyone is interested (I will post in sales).
    Thanks for those two comments. I don't pretend to make light of this.

    It's not easy.

    There are some of us who would rather pay someone to rebuild our transmission and there are those who choose to do it their self.

    This post is for the latter.
    Last edited by rocknroad; 08-21-2010 at 04:45 PM.

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  19. #44
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    Looks awesome Jeff! Two hours is pretty impressive, compared to what you mentioned before. Too bad you can't make a living doing these, because you are a true craftsman. Can't wait to see the wheel in person!
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  20. #45
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    Let's wrap this up. Continue the stitching up to each spoke. About 4 stitches to each spoke start stitching 1 to 1.

    In the corners, you will need to use the same stitch several times to make the turn. That means running the thread through the same red stitch several times as you only use the blue stitch once.

    See as I used the red stitch 4 times as it reaches out to only one blue stitch per run.


    Remember this because as you run your stitching you will encounter either the red or blue stitch running ahead of the other. This is common.

    When this happens you will need to double up one stitch, preferably the red, to keep the stitching equal. Of the dozens of OEM wheels I've come across, this is common practice and totally acceptable.

    I used to think I could correct this but it's impossible outside of die cutters with NASA level tolerances. Both of which BMW has. As do most mass producing factories. And even they have to double up on a stitch here and there.

    As you run the stitches, the best practice is to run one red, one blue and pull tight. It takes longer but yields the best results.

    However, you can run 4 or 5 stitch runs and pull tight - if you got the original wrap on good. Below is a run of 4 stitches.


    You might encounter some puckering as you stitch even if the wrap is glued tight. To remedy this, pull the stitch tight as you guide the leather edge into place. Just press the seam downward as you pull the stitch tight.

    This shows how the leather is puckered before the stitch is pulled and the leather is directed downward creating a finished seam - even for this wheel. It works the same for an OEM wheel.



    As you reach each spoke, take the 4 approaching stitches and run them 1 to 1 as this is how you will stitch around the back of the spoke and pulls the leather tight.



    Run stitching 1 to 1 around the back of the spoke until you reach the other side and begin the M stitch again.

    It should look something like this


    and this


    And this






    And of course the ugly back. Which isn't quite so ugly when you do it right.

    You will only ever see it once and no one will ever see it ever unless she is really talented and it only cost me $50 that one time and she never complained how it looked.





    So there you have it. A finished wheel.








    Okay so it's not so finished. Where's the M badge you ask?

    Well, that's the hardest part of this wheel and I'll do that later. It takes so much skill that I have to devote an entire day to just that one task.

    Because I have to step back and take a look at this piece.

    Is it worthy of an M badge.

    Does this piece, this delicious wheel, warrant an M badge.

    Do the M Gods allow this wheel to be emblazoned with their ligature?

    I really don't know or care, it's still a pain in the ass to affix the M badge to this wheel with this g-damn thick leather so I'll get back to you on this but say a prayer because I haven't gotten it right yet.
    Last edited by rocknroad; 08-21-2010 at 10:44 PM.

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  21. #46
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    as usual very very great job jeff

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    Meh, it's a freebie so I half-assed it.







    JK! Jeremy I put my full ass into it!

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  23. #48
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    Quote Originally Posted by rocknroad View Post
    no one will ever see it ever unless she is really talented and it only cost me $50 that one time and she never complained how it looked.


    Quote Originally Posted by rocknroad View Post
    JK! Jeremy I put my full ass into it!
    Yeah, I know you did. I don't think you could bring yourself to do anything less!
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  24. #49
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    Jeff, that is fantastic, inspiring, and soo well done. Cheers to you. It looks like having the right jig makes it at least a little easier. Again, AWESOME!
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    You will only ever see it once and no one will ever see it ever unless she is really talented and it only cost me $50 that one time and she never complained how it looked

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