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Art & Inspiration Creative dash knobs

Discussion in 'The Hokey Ass Message Board' started by Barn Hunter, Dec 11, 2016.

  1. Barn Hunter
    Joined: Feb 15, 2012
    Posts: 1,367

    Barn Hunter

    I've got a few friends that are serious scroungers and one found these bakelite handles on some old art deco small kitchen appliances. They're mine now. They measure about 1 7/8 inches long. They need to be drilled and tapped but I think they'll look really cool in a custom or rod. Anyone else got any 20161211_155158 (2).jpg 20161211_155303 (2).jpg 20161211_155350 (2).jpg neat dash knobs?
  2. Katuna
    Joined: Feb 25, 2005
    Posts: 1,812

    from Clovis,Ca.

  3. Barn Hunter
    Joined: Feb 15, 2012
    Posts: 1,367

    Barn Hunter

    Not exactly sure. I'll find out tomorrow.
  4. I've always figured there was no limit to what could be used/made for dash knobs.
    I plan on making my own one day, but still gathering ideas, so I'll be watching this thread.
    I'm not going to steal anyone's ideas, just maybe get some inspiration, as I want one off, originals.
    Kan Kustom and Ron Funkhouser like this.

  5. Karl Schofield
    Joined: Mar 7, 2016
    Posts: 83

    Karl Schofield

  6. jcmarz
    Joined: Jan 10, 2010
    Posts: 4,636

    from Chino, Ca

    I've always like the barrel knobs but if you do find them now days, they're the wood ones but they used to sell them with plastic ends, solid and transparent colors.
  7. Tim_with_a_T
    Joined: Apr 30, 2011
    Posts: 1,012



    I have had some luck installing threaded inserts into certain antique radio knobs....these just so happen to be Stewart Warner.

    Sent from my iPhone using The H.A.M.B. mobile app
  8. Ned Ludd
    Joined: May 15, 2009
    Posts: 4,061

    Ned Ludd

    Two old house light switches and an old multi-position stove switch, because the project calls for that mismatched, Public Works Department look you found in hardcore '20s/'30s sports cars:
    They'll be used with relays, because these 240V AC switches were designed for relatively low amperages.

    Those green knobs are cool. I can almost design a complete car around them.
  9. Oh man, those are awesome.
  10. raprap
    Joined: Oct 8, 2009
    Posts: 768

    from Ohio

    Those are made out of Catalin Plastic. In the 30's and 40's, a decorative plastic was created by casting different color phenolic plastics and adding colors of swirls in them. This created these unique patterns. They were use in silverware handles, drawer pulls, jewelry, and old radios.
  11. metalman
    Joined: Dec 30, 2006
    Posts: 3,278


    raprap is correct. Bakelight is often used to describe any plastics from the first half of the 1900's. Bakelight is dark brown, those SW radio knobs and old house switches are no dought bakelight. I use to correct antique radios, they had a lot of experimenting with plastics back then, some like the OP's knobs were really cool looking but a lot of it was very fragile.
  12. Agree with last two posts. Still cool as hell though. Bakelite did come in other colors but brown was the most common.
  13. Does anyone know how you could make your own?
  14. jnaki
    Joined: Jan 1, 2015
    Posts: 4,773


    If you are talking about plastic, yes...the same applies to just about any metal or wood...
    Hello MK,

    In our junior high school class during 58-59, our teacher was a car nut. So, he allowed us to make our own copies of plastic dash knobs that we showed him from the old car mags. Because this class was called “Crafts,” he had a ton of wiggle room to be creative in his class or individual projects. Today, those classes would be tossed out in favor of college bound only types of classes…even the auto shop classes are a dying breed in So Cal. No more individuality classes, core classes to learn something for later in life use…no more metal shop, auto shop, wood shop, home economics, photo class, and one of my favorites, jewelry.

    Our teacher probably would not have allowed us to do these projects, but a bunch of eager car nuts in a class of a car nut worked out fine. He used thin sheets of colored plastic with clear glue and clamps for the rough molds. Then we used the band saw to cut out the shapes. Finally, the wheel sander/grinder to make the final shape, prior to fine finishing. We did not know how to attach them to the dash shafts, like the radio, etc. So, he drilled a small hole underneath and put in a very small screw to tighten them on the shafts. When we wanted to make shift knobs, it was the same process, but larger pieces of plastic.

    When we finally had the shift knobs in rough glued form, the teacher had to clamp the knob in its rough shape to the lathe to tap in the threads for the shifter lever. He had to do this in class, then when the projects piled up…(we were fast worker bees)… he had to stay late to finish tapping in the threads. What a guy…After this, we sat around fine finishing the knobs. I even gave a red and white shift knob to the owner of the custom, Tahitian red, chopped, Ford F100 truck. He was impressed. But he used his store bought, shiny, aluminum ball knob instead. Awwww…

    Can this be done today?… There are more custom plastic shops in every neighborhood and they will supply you with any type of plastic they can make. The stock blocks and sheet supplies are plentiful, so the custom charges will not apply. I recently made some steps for a boarding ladder on a boat out of ribbed white acrylic in the place of the teak wood. If I wanted to get creative, the same ribbed acrylic came in a myriad of colors…but white was preferable. Waterproof, no maintenance, and lasts forever.

  15. Thanks man. I've been wanting to make some for awhile. I went to all the craft stores here and nobody had any kind of colored sheet plastic, acrylic (etc). I will check out the custom plastic shops like you said too.
    Thanks alot:)
  16. Your local guitar shop has a great selection of plastic , chrome or metal knobs that look great on a vintage custom dash board-usually priced pretty good too.
  17. Barn Hunter
    Joined: Feb 15, 2012
    Posts: 1,367

    Barn Hunter

    OK, got the scoop. These were actually corn cob holders. Makes sense with the 2 small holes. BUT...they are bakelite (and that's how it is spelled). I have been an antiques dealer for more than 30 years. The guy that found these was a furniture design teacher who specialized in 30's to mid century design. He knows bakelite. If there is any doubt, google green bakelite and you'll see plenty of swirled examples, mostly jewelry. Bakelite does get brittle so it has to be drilled slowly. I too almost feel like they are cool enough to design an interior around.....
    Last edited: Mar 24, 2020
  18. jnaki
    Joined: Jan 1, 2015
    Posts: 4,773


    Hey MK,
    I can't let this pass... that same car guy, crafts teacher made an impression on me for safety, too. At the time, we thought those Flash Gordon goggles made us look a little cuckoo, but in the end, they saved our eyes from the flying buffing and grinding wheels. Also, it kept the rouge that went on the buffing wheels out of our eyes. But, because he was a safety guy, he made long rods that fit inside of the different knobs and we tightened the screws to keep them on the end of the metal rods. Now, we could move them in all directions on the wheel sander and buffer without fear of our hands being grounded down to bare skin.
    On the larger shift knobs, he actually made a threaded end that looked like a shifter lever and we screwed the rough shaped knobs onto the ends. This gave us a safe distance from the grinding, sanding, and buffing wheels. Maybe that is why it was burned into my little mind back then and lasted to today to be safe when working on projects, what ever they may be...
    But, he did not tell me about electricity running along inside of wall posts that could accidently be punctured if a measurement miscalculation was in play... I found out later laying on the garage floor after an encounter with a drill and electrical wires in the garage wall. Oh, the things we remember and learn...
  19. nrgwizard
    Joined: Aug 18, 2006
    Posts: 1,209

    from Minn. uSA

    Man, would I like a set of those green/yellow holders for sw knobs (which is a great idea!) I got a couple of Stude speedsters, awaiting attention, that are lemon/lime. The colors in those are better than stock. & since the cars won't be... :D .
    Thanks for the ID. Guess a lot of searching is in my near future.
    & since bakelite is brittle, I think I'd use a Dremel Moto-tool with very small dental-type bits to start & just increase the shaft hole size enough to epoxy in either threaded fasteners or a thick-wall brass tube that could hold a mini-set-screw.
    As an alternative, I could see casting these up in plastic (like, say, from Smooth-On), but getting the neat swirl-effect could be a challenge - not to mention maintaining separation of the colors. Hmmm ???
    Last edited: Dec 12, 2016
    Hotdoggin DaddyO and loudbang like this.
  20. Never would have guessed "corn holders".
    loudbang likes this.
  21. I've been making my own dash knobs for years. I don't do it regularly enough to get really good at it, but I manage.

    Last week I had a few days off because of the cold weather, so I decided to try and make a larger shift knob to give my friend as a Christmas present for his new project car.

    I went to a local plastics shop and picked out a few pieces from their scrap materials section. They sell everything by weight. I had the measurements I needed, so I paid them a few extra bucks to cut out the squares for me. I've tried to cut them out myself, but I just don't have the right equipment to do a clean job, plus it makes a big mess. I also had to buy some of the cement to glue all the pieces together. I had a tube, but it was just about gone--the stuff lasts a long time. I bought that tube about 12 years ago and I've made a lot of knobs over that time. All together with the large tube of glue, the plastic I bought and the charge for cutting, I spent about $15.00. There was left over material for a later project, as well as extra squares they cut for me. I plan on making myself a new shift knob the next time I have a few days off for cold weather.

    I got home that afternoon and glued the squares together. I let the block sit overnight to get good and dry, and the next day I got to work. Lots of shaping, grinding, sanding and polishing later I got it done (did I mention that this is a messy job?). Lots of plastic dust and little plastic chips everywhere. All told I spent about 4 hours doing it, but the knobs like this I found for sale were over $30.00, so making your own is a great deal if a person has the time.

    I did the red one. The brown one I bought at a swap meet years ago from a vendor. Mine isn't as shapely and nice as the "store bought" one, but I think it's still presentable. I think my friend will like it. I put the penny down so you can get an idea of their size. They are about 4 1/2 inches long.




    This is pretty much how I make mine. I like Jnaki's suggestion about using a band saw to cut out the shape. It would save a lot of shaping on the bench grinder. I'll definitely try that next time.
    Hey @jnaki, sounds like you had a really cool teacher to let you guys make stuff like this. I had a few teachers like that in my high school years in auto shop and metals class. Great times. Too bad that a lot of kids today aren't going to have those great experiences like we did..........E
  22. Those are way cool, dig that shade of green too
  23. Oh wow, those look amazing OG. Nice job
    OG lil E likes this.
  24. Sorry barnhunter if I hijacked your thread.
  25. I even went to the trouble of making a sheet metal mold, hoping I could through in a bunch of my daughters plastic beads and melt them all together and get nice swirls of different colors. When I heated them everything just burned and made a stinky mess. Lol
    Live and learn.
    Going to try OG lil E s method
    loudbang and OG lil E like this.
  26. Hey I believe you. They just look like Lucite in the pics. A good test is to put 409 on a swab and rub the back end where the holes are. If the swab turns a yellowish color its Bakelite. Simichrome polish is also used to test it. You can also run one under hot water and it will give off a kind of sweet resin like smell. Regular plastic will not do this.
    I know a lady that deals in Bakelite jewelry. I had to go through my Mom's stuff and she schooled me on it. Certain colors bring big bucks. They have what they call end of day colors which are a mixture of what was left over and are sought after.
    Kan Kustom and loudbang like this.
  27. It took a little searching, but I found an ancient post about making your own dash knobs right here on the HAMB.

    There are some examples of knobs that guys made as well as a lot of tips to help you out. I had a little input in the thread as well, but don't hold that against me (lol)! E
    Kan Kustom and michael knight like this.
  28. Dave Mc
    Joined: Mar 8, 2011
    Posts: 2,014

    Dave Mc

    My 48 Ford has these High School Art Class Knobs IMG_0203.JPG
  29. Thanks! E
    loudbang likes this.

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