Manual transmission vehicles, for better or worse, seem to be going the way of the dinosaur in the United States. A friend of mine even remarked that it can be a great theft-deterrent system since fewer and fewer people know how to drive them. That being said, a “standard” transmission is becoming something of a niche item, and as such you might want to show it off if you have one. Perhaps with a custom shifter knob.
If that’s the case, it would be hard to find one cooler than Simon Basil’s shifter knobs made out of cut up skateboard decks. According to Basil, he got the idea from a post on Reddit, and decided to see if he could make one for himself using his own methods. Basil, a resident of Lymington in the UK, has been in the manufacturing industry since he was 16. Now, at 26, he works in the machine tool industry as his full-time job. As you might suspect, his methods and build look excellent.
The build, as seen on Imgur, started out with Basil removing the grip tape on the skateboard decks with a heat gun, then cutting them into strips 10mm wide. This, however, wasn’t the best use of his time, and after some creative sourcing, things got much easier:
Originally I went out to the garage and took the trucks off my skateboard and cut it up and I then had a few given to me by my friends. After getting fed up with removing grip tape, I went and got off cuts from a skate board manufacturer.
He then glued several of these 10mm strips on top of one another in a jig that he made, which, when combined, would form one layer of the shift knob’s pattern. Plastic was used to separate the different deck layers into groups of six.
In order to get the interesting patterns you seen in the images here, the layers were angularly offset when stacked on top of each other. He cut each layer into 60mm squares, and like the gluing step, Basil make a clever jig to keep everything in line. You can see what he did in the gallery below, with two sections shaped like a square for 90 degree offsets, and star patterns for more varied patterns. He was quick to note that each layer was sanded, so there were no gaps when glued together.
Once that was done, he inserted an M6 threaded aluminum (or aluminium as it’s
incorrectly spelled in the UK) plug into the glued wooden assembly, and put it on an arbor to be turned in a CNC lathe. This relatively small thread meant that he could then bore it out later to fit any car’s shifter (that he knows of). Once turned, he sanded the knobs with 400 grit paper, then used lacquer to finish each of them.
Photo Credit: Ashley Basil
The results look excellent, but like any project, there were a few errors along the way. According to Basil, some of these included:
Failed glue ups where it didn’t bond properly due to inadequate clamping. Snapped multiple arbors on the manual lathe when being too aggressive and the tool biting into the work piece and shooting it across the workshop. Not drilling deep enough for the insert to glue to the wood.
Obviously making awesome stuff has a lot to do with perseverance as well as skill!
Though Basil has access to a CNC machine, there’s no reason that something similar couldn’t be done with simpler tools, perhaps with less repeatability. He noted some concern about making the one with the embedded aluminum ring on a wood lathe, so maybe less-capable shops or garages should stay away from that one. On the other hand, if you would simply like to buy one, he does have an Etsy shop, so perhaps you can buy one in the future when he’s not sold out!
Let’s hope he has continued success with his interesting ventures in the future. You can follow him on Instagram if you’d like to see what he’s up to, and perhaps he’ll let you know when he gets more done!