How to Build a Pirate Ship Wheel

Create a pirate ship wheel, me matey!
ship's wheel image by Scott McCarty from

A pirate ship brings to mind images of plunder and mayhem. Pirates hold a place in the hearts of many adventure seekers. While an entire pirate ship may be too large of a project to undertake, the wheel that steers the ship is a much simpler task. Since it can be made out of one sheet of plywood and a few wooden dowels, it is a fun and inexpensive decoration for any room.

Cut six 24-inch squares out of the sheet of plywood.

Create a 3-inch wide block of wood by brushing wood glue onto all of the wood surfaces (except for the two outer sides) and sandwiching them together.

Put weights, books or other heavy objects onto the block to hold the pieces tightly together until the glue dries.

Draw a small "X" at the exact center of the board.

Draw a 24-inch diameter circle onto the board with a pencil. The "X" should be in the center.

Draw a 22-inch circle, centered within the 24-inch one. This forms the wheel's ring.

Draw a 6-inch circle around the X at the center of the wood. This will be the wheel's hub.

Draw four lines across the wood, all passing through the "X" in the center. Draw a horizontal line dividing the wood in half. Then draw a vertical line down the middle of the square, thus dividing the wood into four quarters. Next, draw two diagonal lines, one from the upper left corner to the lower right corner, and the other from the upper right corner to the lower left corner. This will evenly divide the wood into eight sections.

Use a jigsaw to cut out all three circles. For the inner circles, drill a hole through the wood first so that you can insert the saw blade. Keep the ring and the hub, and discard the rest of the wood.

Sand any rough spots on the cut wood, first with 100-grit sandpaper, then with150-grit, and finally, 200-grit.

Drill a 1 1/2 inch hole though the ring, from the 24-inch side to the 22-inch side, at each of the eight lines you drew earlier. You will eventually pass dowels through these holes.

Drill eight holes around the hub at the positions marked by the lines. Use the same 1 1/2 inch bit that you used before. The holes should each be 1 inch deep.

Cut eight 2-foot pieces of wooden dowel. If desired, shape a 4-inch handle into the end of each with a lathe.

Eight dowels will be passed through the ring and into the hub.
la barre d'un bateau image by MONIQUE POUZET from

Insert the dowels into the eight holes in the ring, then in the eight holes in the hub to form the wheel. Use wood glue to secure them to the hub and ring. Allow the glue to dry.

Paint or stain your ship wheel as you see fit. Since it's a pirate ship wheel, decorate the surface of the hub with a skull and crossbones.

Things You'll Need

  • 4-by-8 sheet of plywood, 1/2 inch thick
  • Measuring tape
  • Saw
  • Jigsaw
  • Wood glue
  • Paint brush
  • Heavy objects
  • Pencil
  • Straight edge
  • Sandpaper
  • Drill
  • 1 1/2-inch bit
  • Lathe (optional)
  • Paint or stain


  • You can decorate your ship wheel with cobwebs, gold coins and any other pirate-themed objects.