Join Date: Apr 2003
Location: Westerville, Ohio
So first off I use a knit picker to pull all the old threads out. I also use that opportunity to clean all the junk out of that part of the shifter that builds up over the years. I just throw away the old thread, I have no use for it.
I use upholstery repair needles to do the threading. They're curved almost 180 and have large eyes to be able to handle lots of/large thread.
The thread I use is 100% bonded nylon. I've tried several others and looked at what other people have used and nothing else is as good. The bonded nylon doesn't have frayed fibers sticking out, it has a good shine to it, and it resists stains really well. The one down side is that because the factory stitching machines actually are using three strands of thread woven together as it sews no single thread is going to be as large. Most people are just fine with a single strand doing the job, but on this one that I did I went for 3 as well. I didn't twist them because it would be impossible to get the needed consistency by hand, so instead they all run parallel across the stitches for a nice wide look that is very neat.
I copy the exact thread pattern of the stock shifter. There are two pairs of thread that start in the middle and one goes down each side from there. Pay close attention to which way to cross the threads each time to make sure it pulls together and looks right. I do it so that the thread is never pulling up on the other one. They both should pull tight on their own without relying on tension against each other IMO.
At the end you just tie it off and shove it up under the leather.
Now all of that is just to do the stitching, to set in the SS overlays requires a whole separate set of work to do right. I've experimented and trained my methods on that one over quite a few shifters to get to how I do it now. Basically I pull the leather all the way off and carve out the rubber underneath down to the hard plastic core for where the overlay sits to give it a lower area to sit into. I then cut the leather about a 1/8-1/4" inside that area before restitching. After it's all stitched I wrap up the overlay on the leather to bend it into shape a bit first. I glue down the edges of the leather and then the edges of the overlay to the top of the leather. Make sure no glue shows and wrap it up tight for 24 hours.
When it's all done it should look damn near identicle to the stock chrome shifters, except better. You can't get flaking chrome because it's solid metal, and any scratches can be polished right out.
I freely share all my methods with you for a couple of reasons. The first is that I always like to help out the community, but the second is that I know the amount of work I put in is worth far more than what I would charge to sell these. When I do sell them off finally I'll be basically breaking even on supplies plus a few bucks, so feel free to try yourself if you want. I'm not in it for money.
My car won't ever be done because I'm insane. That is all.