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Wood Refinishing

Wood Refinishing


Dustin wrote: Also, the fake wood grain is cracking and chipping off so I was wondering if there was replacement stuff?

Charlie politely responds

The "fake" woodgrain, isnt fake! Yes there are replacements, but they are expensive. What you see cracking and chipping is the finish, applied to the real wood veneer. You can refinish this quite easily. It just takes patience.

First, starting with an 80 grit sandpaper, sand off all of the old finish. When to stop?... when the surface is smooth, and even. Use a wooden block with the sandpaper wrapped around it so that you don't gouge the veneer. Steve adds that this veneer is very thin and can be easily sanded through. Many use a remover to take off the old varnish. Apply, wrap in plastic wrap and let set for a few minutes usually works.

Now, do exactly the same thing with 100 grit. Then, do exactly the same thing with 150 grit, then 180, then 220, then 400, then 600.

Be sure to wipe everything clean with a lintless rag between each change of sandpaper, so that the dust from the previous sanding does not remain.

When you are satisfied with the surface smoothness, clean it again, and again. The key, to a perfect finish is cleanliness.

At this point, you are ready to apply the first coat of finish. I recommend using a 50/50 mixture of alcohol and orange shellac, to seal the grain. This will bring life to the wood! The grain, and color, will be just what you see now. Let this dry for an hour or so, and sand lightly with 600 grit.

For the finish, use a good quality varnish, such as "Spar Varnish" you can get it at Home Depot, or other hardware suppliers.

Apply the varnish straight from the can, no thinning. Use a tightly wadded up rag, and just dampen it with varnish. Wipe the varnish,lightly onto the wood in long even strokes, as if you were petting your favorite dog. Let this dry, and apply a second coat in the same way.

Now lightly sand, with 1000 grit, wet/dry silicon carbide sandpaper, clean again. Apply two more coats, and repeat sanding. The idea here, is to sand off any small dust specks, not to remove the finish.

Continue repeating this, until you have the depth of finish that you are satisfied with. Then, using Linseed oil as a lubricant, and lightly sand again with 1500 grit.

Wipe dry, let the varnish cure for 48 hours or more, and give it a good coat or three, of PASTE WAX, buffing each application, till it shines.

You will now have, the best looking dash that ever left the factory!


An ex- AntiqueFurniture Restoration shop owner

In response to suggestions regarding strippers, Charlie later added the following.

Jim Warren wrote:

I don't think there is any way you could do a satisfactory job with the wood in place. And while we're at it...I would never refinish wood veneer using sand paper to remove the old finish. Once you go through the top layer of veneer (the important one..the one with "figure") you simply have plywood. I generally use chemicals, but then...I haven't worked with the factory finish on a (modern) Jag. Maybe sanding IS the only way to remove it, but that wouldn't be my first choice.

Having been in the business for over ten years, (now retired) I have seen many attempts at removing the old finish. Yes the chemical method is an alternative, but with veneer, old glue, etc. it is possible that the chemicals will cause problems with the glue, Causing bubbles to apprear in the veneer itself, due to degradation of the glue. Sanding is by far the safer method.

One can see just how much more, to sand off. As the finish will turn a milky color, when sanded. when you reach the veneer itself, you will see a definite change in the color. At this point you change to a finer sand paper and carefully continue. As I said originally, it takes patience. Do not expect to do it one, two three! The veneer is only about 1/40 of an inch thick, and can be sanded thru, if you are in a rush.

Don Dales explains his recommendation for stripper

I've been refinishing antiques for a living for 35 years now and I have to say that I am in the furniture stripper camp. Wood refinishing is more of an art then a science and therefore more than one approach can be used successfully. However, I feel that there are some dangers to sanding a finish off.

First, it takes a control of the sandpaper that is only developed with a lot of experience. I have seem several examples of auto wood that have been sanded through by amateurs. I'm fixing a piece from a DS420 right now.

Second, it is liable to create an uneven patina( that color that is created by age, sunlight, dirt, oil etc.)

It is true that the stripper may dissolve the underlying glue but the strpper would have to be left on a long time to do that to good glue and if the glue is marginally good then it will fail soon anyway and you might as well repair it now.

Also, once the piece is stripped and cleaned with lacquer thinner or alcohol and medium steel wool or one of the brillo-like products , there is very little need to sand with more that 220 sandpaper(very lightly and only if needed). The sanding with fine grades only is done on the layers of finish, not the wood. Since the wood is porous it will never get real smooth.

When I bought my first Jag (MkIV) in 1964 , I sent to either the Classic Jag Assoc. or Jaguar of NY ( I can't remember which (too many stripper fumes?)) and got their recipe for finishing woodwork. It was exactly the same as for the finest English antigues. I'll e-mail it if any one wants it.

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