Creating laminated Dash knobs in scale

AIMING FOR PERFECTION

A while ago I was looking at some photos of the Hirohata Mercury. One of the photos showed the interior and it really inspired me to recreate parts of it in one of the model custom cars I had in the planning stage. Everything about this Hirohata Mercury interior is so good looking. Especially the steering wheel, which is an Mercury Montaray accessory wheel and of course the famous laminated dash knobs.

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Bob Hirohata designed and created these two-tone laminated dash knobs while working part time at the Barris Kustom Shop. He ended up creating several sets of these laminated dash knobs and other plastic components for some of his friends who also owned Barris Custom cars. Later, Bob was even able to sell his idea so that the laminated knobs could be mass produced. They would appear in Hot Rods and Custom Cars all over the world and are still being produced today.

As a model car builder I was inspired to figure out a way to recreate these laminated dash knobs in 1/25 scale. I could possibly try to paint the stripes on some hand shaped dash knobs, but I knew the end result would not look very realistic. I wondered if I could produce them in a similar way as Bob Hirohata did: using thin layers of colored plastic glued together. I started looking for some very thin sheets of colored plastic material & found a pack of multi colored binder covers at an office supply store. I excitedly tried gluing the layers together only to have them come apart very easily because the chemical makeup of the sheets. Eventually, I found colored acetate sheet stock at a local hobby store & set out to make this vision in my head a reality. By combining the colored acetate sheet & white styrene sheet I created a base that looked similar to what Bob started with in the early 1950′s, only much smaller in size.

Below is a step by step on how I created the laminated dash knobs for an custom 1949 Mercury project that I’m working on.

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The clear sheets come in several different colors. I purchased several different sheets for possible future projects.
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Same size sheets are cut and ready to be laminated.
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To make sure the sheets would laminate together I sanded the sheets with a course sanding stick.
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Once all of the sheets were roughened up on both sides, I used super glue to laminate the sheets together.
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I held the pieces on a paper towel to soak up the excess glue.
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A small strip was cut from the sheet using a razor saw and pattern to make sure everything was straight.
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This created a nice strip of laminated sheet styrene, the base for the dash knob.
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Hand files were used to create the basic shape of the knob.
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A nail polishing stick was used to carefully sand and polish the knob into its final shape.
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A small file was used to shape the bottom of the knob while it was still attached to the Dremmel tool.
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Once the bottom section was shaped the knob was carefully cut off from the strip.
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I carefully drilled a small hole in the end. This allowed me to glue it to a small piece of metal wire.
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Once finished I brushed on some future floor polish for the perfect shine.
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This photo shows the completed interior with the laminated dash knobs installed on the 1950 Mercury dashboard. The Mercury Monterey steering wheel was mostly scratch built.

I also created a set of laminated dash knobs for an chopped 1951 Chevy Fleetline I was working on at the time (finished now).
This set was done in white and orange and had a clear piece os sheet styrene in the center.

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After quite a bit of experimenting, I was gradually able to make the knobs smaller & shaped like I wanted. I created this set that would go in a 1950 Fleetline using alternating sheets of orange & white with a strip of clear in the middle.
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Here is how they looked installed in the Fleetline dash.

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Steve Boutte

Steve is our model car contributor. He is a very talented man, plays wonderful guitar, paints the most fantastic paintings and creates amazing custom model cars. His model cars in scale 1/25 are so perfectly detailed and in scale that the photos he takes, he is a very talented photographer as well, are often thought to be taken of real cars.

11 thoughts on “Creating laminated Dash knobs in scale

  • July 6, 2013 at 01:48
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    Thanks for that great tutorial Steve! I will be trying it out soon! Love your builds!

  • July 9, 2013 at 00:40
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    Excellent work on such a small scale they look awesome. I still make these knobs in 1/1 scale for my cars. I first made tear drop dash knobs in Jr. High school in 1956, it’s a lot of work. Making yours in 1/25 scale takes skill and a lot of patiences.

  • July 10, 2013 at 19:32
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    Hey guys, thanks for the kind words!

    Oh, & Zed….. yes I am. I put my pants on one leg at a time just like everyone one else! 🙂

  • July 14, 2013 at 18:33
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    Steve
    You have always blown me away with your talent!! Your eye for detail is amazing!! The way you make your cars flow and you look at every angle to make sure it flow correctly. Keep up the great work. Those window and door handles look familiar. 😉

    Jason

  • July 27, 2013 at 01:44
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    Gorgeous pixs and tutorial .
    Hope to see your inside door
    handles how-to soon.

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