Warning! There will be many “wood” jokes in this post. I am, mentally, about 11 years old after all.
Last year, I bought a small lot of four (4) wood shift knobs from a guy named Rich. He’s got an NC and has been a Miata addict for quite a few years now. Rich is a moderator on the Miata.net forum and is pretty deep into the hobby.
And he does great things in his workshop.
Anyways, I bought a small batch of shift knobs. Each was a different shape and different wood. They sold a bit slowly, but they all eventually sold. They weren’t quite my ideal shift knob, but the quality was very much there. I really was blown away by how nice the shifters looked. So I started researching shift knobs shapes and types of wood with the idea of having Rich make much larger batch of knobs.
This blog is about those knobs.
The first batch consists of mostly Argentine lignum vitae. There’s also some Osage orange, purpleheart, and just a bit of genuine lignum vitae (guayacan). I received about 20 different knobs of various shape and wood. But back to the lignum vitae (roughly pronounced lig-ahmm vee-tay).
Lignum Vitae (known as LV through most of the rest of this post) is often called ironwood. It’s extremely dense and heavy. It’s so heavy that it doesn’t float! It’s also naturally oily and self-lubricating.
Yes, self-lubricating WOOD. *snigger*
(This is the best post I’ve ever written.)
Because of the heaviness, LV was used quite extensively in early machinery and manufacturing. Anything that needed a large bearing usually got a slab of lignum vitae. Ship propellers used the stuff by the ton. So, it got over-cut and became pretty hard to find.
LV is currently listed on the CITES appendix II for controlled trade. Basically, if you’ve got the wood, you can sell it and work it, but you can’t cut more of it.
And I just love the stuff. It’s got this beautiful glow to it. The color variations. The grain. The smell! It has a natural perfume to it. Fantastic wood that really has to be held to be appreciated.
And then there’s the knob shapes.
I love my tiny Joyfast shift knob. I’ve used one for the last eight years pretty much constantly and have often thought it’s the perfect shape. It’s just… kinda small. It’s a three-finger shift knob. The pinkie has to grab the shift boot.
If only the Joyfast could be a bit larger… (yes, I know Joyfast sells 3 sizes of knob, but have you SEEN the larger ones? They’re stretched out and rather goofy looking)
I tasked Rich with enlarging the Joyfast shift knob shape and gave him some loose design parameters. He did not let me down. The Teardrop shape he came up with is fantastic. One is in my own Mazda3 family car at this very moment.
And then there’s the Singer gear knob. Everything about the Singer Porsches are sublime. One of their mottos is “everything is important.” And it shows. They design everything. Perfectly. And the shift knob is no different.
It’s a ball shifter with a bit of a collar. It tapers. It’s very similar to what you see above. I got the exact specs off the internet and sent them to Rich. He re-created the Singer magic. I call it the 911.
But really, I’m not trying to sell anyone on shift knobs with this post. I’m trying to tell you what I did and why.
I took care of this at the last minute. I was taking out the old knobs to install the new guayacan wood in the Stormtrooper when I realized how ugly that window switch was. Yuck.
I only found out after removing it that it WAS actually the factory color-matching window switch. The back was the correct orange color. The front was this horrible faded tan.
The whole interior is a lovely combination of black and orange. I thought the center console would benefit from the same colors, so out came the airbrush.
BOOM! No more faded tan. And it’s sealed with some nice semi-gloss clear, so it shouldn’t rub off any time soon. I hope.
But back to Stormy’s wood.
These pieces are just gorgeous. Rich really outdid himself. I can’t even.
This is guayacan, otherwise known as genuine Lignum Vitae. This stuff is a bit harder to find than the Argentine LV. It’s a bit finer grained and ever so slightly heavier. It doesn’t have the same perfume of the Argentine, but it’s easy to overlook that. The colors and wonderful smooth finish…
Stormy’s wood is fun to hold. And did you notice the little Imperial symbol to match the wheel caps?
Nope, Sharka didn’t get left out. Sharka got some mad wood.
(Actually, the only one in my fleet left with a metal shifter at the moment is Bucky. He’s holding down the Joyfast mantle.)
This is a 911 shifter in Argentine LV with a matching brake grip. It’s fantastic to hold. And the smell of the LV in Sharka’s interior? OMG. It mixes with the leather, old plastic, and gasoline to make the most memorable odor combination possible. It’s…
I’m just saying that if there was a smell-o-plugin for a web browser, I’d be giving you a link to the download site and forcing Sharka’s interior stench upon you.
I did a custom Elanore insert for the knob. The LV has so many colors that adding more to it with a colorful insert seemed wrong. Black and chrome seemed to be just the thing. And the chrome works with Sharka’s chrome brake button.
I even swapped out the Watanabe Falcon in favor of my old Nardi Classico. The wood combo seemed to be begging for a chrome spoke steering wheel.
Wood is a bit of a different look for Sharka, but I think it works. It feels harmonious to me. Nostalgic even.
The Falcon and metal shifters will return in the future, but for right now, I’m enjoying a little change. And did I mention the smell? OMG. So good!
The shift knobs are in my store. As of this writing most of the batch is sold out. It sold out in about two days. More stock will be added as Rich finishes more shifters and mails them off.
They’re artwork and art can’t be rushed.