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MG TD Steering wheel

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izziny Avatar
izziny Mike I
Hauppauge, NY, USA   USA
1952 MG TD
I just bought an OEM banjo steering wheel with no cracks, splits or missing pieces. Does anyone know what the original rim material was? Was it bakelite? I would like to treat it with something to prevent future deterioration. I read you shouldn't use cleaners on it, but boiled linseed oil is ok. Some plastics off gas and shouldn't be sealed.
Mike
TD15250

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Steering wheel front copy.jpg    52.3 KB
Steering wheel front copy.jpg

Buckdendave David Hill
St Neots, Cambridgeshire, UK   GBR
1954 MG TF
It was celluloid (nitrocellulose plasticised with camphor), though a lot of the reproductions are polyester resin.
Keep it out of the Sun.
Dave H

shoalsgary Avatar
shoalsgary Gary Simpson
Killen, Alabama, USA   USA
1954 MG TF "Junior"
1954 MG TF
It WILL get brittle and crack. As with all things, us included, ot's only a matter of time...

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izziny Avatar
izziny Mike I
Hauppauge, NY, USA   USA
1952 MG TD
Thanks for the info. Taking the material celluloid further, there are two points I'd like to question. I have read that "The earliest form of Celluloid was highly flammable, so in 1927 the nitrocellulose and camphor were removed and replaced by vinegar (making it less flammable)". Since the MG T's were produced way after that date, wouldn't they be free of camphor and nitrates? Also, if the original wheels that have already begun to crack with age are restored by filling with epoxy, etc, wouldn't they continue to crack in a very short time making that restoration short lived?
Mike
TD15250

Buckdendave David Hill
St Neots, Cambridgeshire, UK   GBR
1954 MG TF
If you replaced the nitrocellulose and camphor it wouldn't be celluloid, but it's possible that they found an alternative to camphor as a plasticiser (though it's not what I was taught in polymer chemistry or saw at the BXL factory when I worked there). Nevertheless, all things are possible. It's a cellulose based polymer plasticised with "something", and over time the "something" migrates away, so the material shrinks and cracks. Contact with the skin and heat will assist migration. Repairing with epoxy only works for a limited time as it's too rigid and the shrinkage continues and micro- cracks reappear. Applying a coating to a wheel in good condition might help slow the process down, but what coating? If we had a batch of the material to experiment with and test, eventually we would find something. Nitrocellulose lacquer? Maybe. PU lacquer? I really don't know, but suspect that adhesion might be an issue. Acrylic lacquer? Maybe. I think the safest option is to put a leather cover over it, or just enjoy it, knowing it will crack eventually.
Dave H

izziny Avatar
izziny Mike I
Hauppauge, NY, USA   USA
1952 MG TD
Dave
You obviously are very knowledgable on the subject and I appreciate your information. According to my research, I think the change made to cellulose nitrate they are referring to is cellulose acetate which uses acetic acid as the plasticiser which migrates to the surface as a vinegary smell as opposed to camphor. So you're right it's not celluloid.
Which brings me to my original quest, what can I use to maintain it. Without extensive testing for a sealer that works as you pointed out, will the use of something simple like boiled linseed oil, wax or a product like Armor All have a good or bad effect on its life? Will there be any negative chemical reaction?
Thanks Dave,
Mike

Buckdendave David Hill
St Neots, Cambridgeshire, UK   GBR
1954 MG TF
Cellulose acetate is made by treating cellulose with acetic anhydride if I remember correctly, giving pendant acetate groups. No plasticiser usually. On degradation it gives up the acetate component, hence the acetic acid / vinegar odour. It's a tough plastic used for film mainly. I wouldn't use linseed oil, a wax polish would be better.
Dave H

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izziny Avatar
izziny Mike I
Hauppauge, NY, USA   USA
1952 MG TD
Dave,
You've been a great help. Thanks for your time and knowledge. I'll put some wax on it and enjoy it.
Mike

TD4834 Avatar
TD4834 Bill Chasser
Sacramento, CA, USA   USA
I wouldn’t suggest linseed oil as it is known to spontaneously combust given the right environmental factors

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Paul J Avatar
Locust Grove, ok, USA   USA
I posted on the other site to use Bowling alley wax. It cures hard and has a non slick texture, reason it'd used on bowling allies. I always used Butchers brand, not sure if it's still available. PJ

izziny Avatar
izziny Mike I
Hauppauge, NY, USA   USA
1952 MG TD
Thanks for the followup comments guys. I'm going to use bowling alley wax and hope the plastic rim lasts awhile.
Mike

izziny Avatar
izziny Mike I
Hauppauge, NY, USA   USA
1952 MG TD
Just wanted to followup on the status of my steering wheel. In my research I discovered the following:
Cellulose Nitrate CN - discovered in 1845 - smells like camphor
Cellulose Acetate CA - discovered in 1865 - smells like vinegar
Cellulose Acetate Propionate CAP - discovered in 1937 - smells like burnt sugar
Cellulose Acetate Butyrate CAB - discovered in 1938 - smells like vomit
Both CAP and CAB were widely used for steering wheels in the 40's and 50's. Using the smell test I concluded my wheel is CAB. This formula produced a stronger and more water resistant plastic than the older CN or CA which was more susceptible to outgassing of the plasticizer and subsequent shrinking, cracking and deterioration with age. Although this deterioration is delayed as compared to CN and CA, it is inevitable and if treated properly may last beyond our lifetime.
So with your advice I used Scotch Brite to dry clean the surface of the rim of dirt and scratches and applied two coats of the closest thing I could find to bowling alley wax. I also used Simichrome to clean and polish the spoke rods. Really came out great. The next job is to spray the hub the same bronze color as the instrument panel.
Thanks again
Mike
TD15250

MGTF1500 Ardeche France Thierry SUCHIER
TOURNON SUR RHONE, Rhône-Alpes Auvergne, France   FRA
In reply to # 3660866 by izziny Just wanted to followup on the status of my steering wheel. In my research I discovered the following:
Cellulose Nitrate CN - discovered in 1845 - smells like camphor
Cellulose Acetate CA - discovered in 1865 - smells like vinegar
Cellulose Acetate Propionate CAP - discovered in 1937 - smells like burnt sugar
Cellulose Acetate Butyrate CAB - discovered in 1938 - smells like vomit
Both CAP and CAB were widely used for steering wheels in the 40's and 50's. Using the smell test I concluded my wheel is CAB. This formula produced a stronger and more water resistant plastic than the older CN or CA which was more susceptible to outgassing of the plasticizer and subsequent shrinking, cracking and deterioration with age. Although this deterioration is delayed as compared to CN and CA, it is inevitable and if treated properly may last beyond our lifetime.
So with your advice I used Scotch Brite to dry clean the surface of the rim of dirt and scratches and applied two coats of the closest thing I could find to bowling alley wax. I also used Simichrome to clean and polish the spoke rods. Really came out great. The next job is to spray the hub the same bronze color as the instrument panel.
Thanks again
Mike
TD15250

Mike,
Which bronze color are you going to use?
I need to repaint my dashboard.
Sincerely, Thierry de l'Ardèche

Buckdendave David Hill
St Neots, Cambridgeshire, UK   GBR
1954 MG TF
If the TD / TF steering wheels were covered with CAP or CAB, I don’t think the covering would shrink and crack to the same extent that they do - this only happens to that extent with cellulose nitrate, through the loss of camphor.
I used a spray can of metallic bronze from Brown & Gammons to paint the hub of the steering wheel and the centre panel on the dash.
Dave H

izziny Avatar
izziny Mike I
Hauppauge, NY, USA   USA
1952 MG TD
Dave....You may be right and we are all playing a guessing game. But here's my reasoning.
1. There definitely was no smell of camphor emanating from the rim.
2. After sitting awhile, the smell that came from it was very close to "vomit".
3. The fact that my wheel is still intact (with some very minor hairline cracks) is another reason why I think it's CAB.
But in the end, as you said, I'm going to enjoy it and hope for the best.

Thierry....I noticed Moss doesn't carry it at this time but Abingdon Spares has it for $25 plus shipping. They call it "TD dash Paint" and I don't know how close it matches the original factory paint. I have a friend in the auto body business and as soon as I get a chance I will have him do a computer color check on my center dash to get a match. If I have to, I will buy the closest match to my dash and spray both.
Mike
TD15250

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