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Discussion Starter #1
Several weeks ago I had a thread in the accessories sub-forum about experimenting with wood gear shift knobs. "ThatsASeamus" donated the specs of his manual gear shift lever and factory knob to help me design a wood knob. He's now using the fruits of those efforts in his car, you can find the finished product in that thread- http://www.124spider.org/forum/89-fiat-124-spider-parts-accessories/8841-replace-stock-manual-gear-shifter-knob.html#post135474

I've since made three more. Prototypes (slightly shorter in height than the first one), to get used to making the general shape, to get a feel of what would work nicely, etc. My car won't be here until sometime in June, when I can fine tune my design if needed. These aren't necessarily for sale (I'd want to make sure this tweaked design since Seamus' works out), but in time I may consider selling them. I'm just a guy in a home workshop making square lumps of wood round for a hobby, so I'm not interested in mass production. Factories make those other knobs in minutes, I use a *bit* more time!

Anyway, from left to right I used pecan (that had cool worm holes, which I cleaned out and filled with epoxy mixed with sawdust, looks like shaved almonds... on pecan?), with maple burl in the middle, and cocobolo on the right (a true member of the rosewood family, from Central/South America). Finish is a blend of oil-based polyurethane varnish mixed with pure tung oil (a curing oil from the tung tree nut, grown in China). I applied a couple coats while spinning on the lathe, letting it soak into the wood, then buffing while spinning. I do not apply enough to form a surface film finish, only enough for penetrating coats. I prefer the natural wood surface to a film of cured plastic, letting the wood develop a natural patina from exposure to your skin oils and oxidation from air contact.

Although folks tend to want a color that will match the interior of their car, I don't add stains to my woodworking. And, I think light color woods would look great in the black interior, making a sweet contrasting center piece for the cabin of the car. Dark colors would look good in any interior.

The other photos, the "doorknob" shape of the shift knobs fits naturally in the palm of my hand (generally a large glove size), allowing me to positively grasp the knob, a very secure grip for moving the shift lever in any direction. Yes, I'm holding it with my left hand while I run the camera with my right. I'm in the USA. (I made a knob like these for an old truck I used to own, its shape was great.) In the 2nd and 4th photos, you can see a bit of the 30mm coupling nut I use, epoxied in place, to thread the knob to the shift lever. About 3/4" of metal-on-metal thread secures the knob to the shaft, along with a bit of blue Loctite. The bottom of the knob will bear against the top of the shifter boot. Spin on until snug, let the Loctite dry, and go drive.

Yeah, there is no shift gate legend on top the knob, but you know how to shift the car by now! Your grandpappy's gear shifter didn't have numbers on top of it! Need to lend the car to someone? Hang one of these from the dashboard above the shifter. Comes in many different shift patterns.
https://thecurbshop.com/collections/tmgps/products/tmgps-key-fob

Steve.
 

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These look great and your description of the fitting is convincing. Also appreciate the finish comments and think that really makes sense.
 

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Discussion Starter #3 (Edited)
Thanks, Stelvio. These are fun projects that will undoubtedly add another touch of class and uniqueness to this little roadster. I can't wait to try it in my own car.

I spend a good deal of time being fussy with the shape to make sure it feels right and natural in the hand, making sure there is nothing angular to the profile to upset the flowing shape and highly smoothed surface. And the oil finish brings these beautiful pieces of wood alive with character. I find myself just wanting to hold it after it comes off the lathe; it really is a pleasing piece of work, if I may say so.

Steve.
 

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Steve, there is something about the feel and look of wood that cannot be replicated with man-made materials. Those knobs look beautiful! One thought, though. The reason that most gear knobs are elongated is that one typically positions the hand in different ways depending on the pressure being exercised. For a 2-3 shift, for instance, the stubby knob is ideal. For a 3-2 shift, on the other hand, I would be holding the knob with my thumb pointing upwards, in which case I would prefer an elongated knob. What do you think?
 

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Discussion Starter #6
Thanks for the kind thoughts, guys! Yeah, burl always makes a great looking turning, wheather it's a knob, a small bowl, or some other trinket. The cocobolo, man, that wood is dense and hard. Normally it would sink in water. And it will give a glass smooth surface if I work it properly.

Guido, interesting thoughts. I hadn't considered the way you described a pull-back shift movement. Picturing your words in my head, it's like a Fonzie thumbs-up but your fingers are open to grasp around the knob. Did I describe your enlongated grip/knob shape properly, mor vertical?

I think I came to a similar conclusion when I was playing with the shape in the shop. This is another reason why I created sort of a flattened ball shape, one that fills your palm but allows all 5 digits to wrap around and securely grasp the shape. Like the doorknob I'd mentioned. For that pull-back motion, like shifting from 3 to 2, while having your hand on top the knob, your fingers wrap downward and back toward you with your thumb wrapping more horizontally around toward the front to find your index finger. Then your wrist will work in conjunction to help push, pull, and even press down to gate into reverse. Like if you had a small ball in your hand, you'll have a full wrap grip around it and you can manuever your hand in any direction and have a firm grasp so you won't lose control of it. At its largest diameter, these three average right about 2-3/8". Total height varied between about 2-1/2" to 2-3/4" (the one I made for Seamus in that other thread was a hair under 3" tall, just a taller tapered neck section), so the ball portion you hold is around 1-1/4" or so tall to where it gets slender in the lower neck. I think this maintains graceful lines to look good and a sure grip for slamming through gears.

Yeah, I wish my car was here so I could play with it in person. Seamus is reporting back a good overall design and use, seems he's happy with that very first knob.

Steve.
 

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I don't know if I was very clear. Picture changing gears with an open hand. The 3-2 shift (and 4-5, and N-R...) requires a side force more easily applied with the thumb parallel to the lever.
Just a thought!
 

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Discussion Starter #8
Thanks Guido. I guess I'm not quite imagining what you are describing. It would probably make sense to see it. Is it possible to snap a photo? I'll admit, it's been 13 years since my last manual transmission (9 years with a bare naked 5-speed Izusu PU truck, and a wood knob, too, made from an old lilac trunk). When I test drove the Spider, I just jumped in and went, old muscle memory took over. I guess I imagine my hand being mainly on top, pivoting my hand and wrist as needed but not recalling how that went.

I just need my car to be here so I can get personal with it. 2+ months to go!

Steve.
 

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For me the R, 1-2 shifts are with my thumb up holding my hand as in offering a hand shake pulling the knob towards me with my palm. 2-3 & 3-4 is palm down on top of the knob having my hand rotated 90 degrees from the 1-2 position. 4-5 & 5-6 is thumb down having rotated 180 degrees from 1-2 position applying pressure to the left side of the knob with the palm.
 

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Discussion Starter #10
Okay, I get that. I'll just have to be patient until the mounting mechanism (HA!) for my knob arrives. The design in my head, and playing "air shifting" with the knob (like playing air guitar...), the encompassing grip should hopefully be secure and natural throughout the gates. If that doesn't pan out, then I can enlongate the shape a bit away from the doorknob shape.

I bet I could make 10 shapes and have 10 people try them and get 10 different preferences. Luckily, making them by hand without using shape templates creates one-of-a-kind profiles every time. I've made 4 so far, all the same but slightly different.

Steve.
 
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