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Car Restoration - Stripping a Woodgrain Dashboard

12/14/2008 11:04 PM

Hi guys.

I have a 1960's English car with a Walnut veneer wood grain dash. It appears to be coated with an epoxy based finish.

I have sanded, sanded and created a pile of dust and still not got to the veneer. I have tried a popular brand of paint stripper - no effect at all.

So far the consensus amongst my like minded car friends is - more sanding.

Anyone got any ideas?

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#1

Re: Stripping woodgrain dashboard for restoration

12/15/2008 3:51 AM

Have you tried a hot air gun and scraper...VERY CAREFULLY?
Problem is you may lift the veneer of course.
Good old sanding with the mantras ...a lttle and often...
Slow and steady wins the day.

Can I recomend the handy KrisDelTM Book of Platitudes for Christmas?...ideal for irritating people doing laborious work

Del

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#2
In reply to #1

Re: Stripping woodgrain dashboard for restoration

12/15/2008 5:42 PM

Good idea Del. I have a hot air gun but hadn't even considered it even though I regularly use it for paint stripping in house renovations. If the veneer suffers that's OK as I have a feeling that the cracks in the finish have also taken the veneer with them - so I think I'm in for a learning experience there as well (re-veneering).

I give it a try.

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#7
In reply to #2

Re: Stripping woodgrain dashboard for restoration

12/16/2008 4:08 AM

Hot air gun on veneer is a very bad idea. The veneer will lift. Try it on a completely seperate piece of veneer that you have bought elsewhere.

I would opt for the resurfacing of the original coating.

On cars, the veneer was quite thin compared to say furniture veneer.

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#22
In reply to #1

Re: Stripping woodgrain dashboard for restoration

07/30/2009 10:55 PM

Just an update. I'm now in the process of restoring the rest of the interior which has lots of wood similar to the dash.

The hot air gun has worked out to be the best approach. With care, it is about 100 times faster than the only other thing that worked - sanding. The veneer appears to be undamaged other than darkened slightly where I blinked at the wrong time. I haven't sanded yet but the darkening appears to be removed in about 2 seconds with a slight sand.

All looking good...

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#3

Re: Car Restoration - Stripping a Woodgrain Dashboard

12/16/2008 1:30 AM

Why do you want to remove it?

General rule - never remove paint in good condition. I would assume that as a walnut veneer that the finish was clear in the first place. If so then do not remove more than you have to. Rub it down with progressively finer grades of wet and dry paper and then polish it with a good abrasive paste which should give you a good finish - if you try chemical or heat removal you will probably destroy the veneer or at least the glue line and really mess up the job!

Hope you haven't done too much damage as yet - when you get down to the finest paper (500+) keep the surface wet to see it as a gloss. Some glycerin in the water should help to give a wet look and an idea of the final effect.

If you took the coating off you would need to replace it anyway!

Good luck - sounds like a worthy project

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#4
In reply to #3

Re: Car Restoration - Stripping a Woodgrain Dashboard

12/16/2008 1:37 AM

Thanks hazman. No, not too late but the finish has sun-cracked pretty badly and it looks like the veneer has suffered along with it. I'm prepared for the re-veneer as I think that it is inevitable.

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#5
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Re: Car Restoration - Stripping a Woodgrain Dashboard

12/16/2008 2:41 AM

Unfortunately this finish either epoxy or urethane - sounds like epoxy is pretty chemical resistant but you remarks on cracking make me think that the original coating might still be there. depends on what that was - could have been a polyester or a cold cured urea formaldehyde ( both also very resistant).

In the lab I have found that epoxies, especially the amine cured ones which is probably the case here, are removed by acetic acid, a strong solvent as well as an acid but not pleasant to work with. Actually, believe it or not, epoxies can turn up their toes to distilled water (not deionised) but what the water might do to the wood I wouldn't know - it will probably destroy to the veneer but what is under that ? a lamimate or a solid?

The achilles heel could be the veneer glue and as you are kissing the veneer goodbye that is what you could look for. That line could be water sensitive or be attacked by methylene chloride removers - problem is getting there - mechanical methods probably indicated.

Trouble is you don't have much room for experimentation

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#6

Re: Car Restoration - Stripping a Woodgrain Dashboard

12/16/2008 3:51 AM

Firstly, you have received lots of good posts already to my mind which should help a lot.

Secondly, are you certain that its veneer and not solid wood?

Assuming that you are fully correct and its only veneer, why not stop with the sanding (to my mind you can only screw up with this method unless you are REAL lucky, but one place or another will be worn through I feel and look shabby), and re-veneer the dashboard. The biggest problem is then which glue to use. I personally (when gluing to wood or MDF), a water based hard set wood glue as this allows me to soak the veneer well in water to make it pliable first.

Not all veneers like this, (MDF does not like too much water either!!) so play around with some smaller pieces till you get your process working for you. I use a table ( with plastic sheeting to make sure that I do not bond the part forever to it!!) that I have checked for flatness and stability. Add a thicker piece of OSB or MDF or similar if you feel that it is not solid enough.

I then make up a simple frame with thick heavy duty plastic foam, roughly formed to shape, to put pressure over the whole area of the veneer while the glue is bonding...again, a thin plastic sheet will stop the two bonding to each other.....plus big weights to add pressure or large plastic containers of water, or house bricks or whatever......luckily the glue needs a few hours to set properly......you have time.

If a corner gets nicked, there are some wonderful wood fillers around of various colors that can be used to make the "error" difficult to spot......

If you have not done this sort of work before, do expect to have to do it twice before its right, but with a bit of luck, once will do it!!

Best wishes.

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#8

Re: Car Restoration - Stripping a Woodgrain Dashboard

12/16/2008 4:32 AM

Thanks everyone for your ideas and suggestions. The dash is based on 5 ply with a Walnut veneer over. The finish is the original and I strongly believe it is epoxy based.

I actually have THREE of these to play with so I have room for experimentation. The one I have chosen to try first is probably in the best condition but is certainly not in good enough state to just sand back and refinish. I have removed all gauges, metel fasteners etc and just have the wood to work with.

I will post here when/if I make any progress - forward or reverse!

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#10
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Re: Car Restoration - Stripping a Woodgrain Dashboard

12/16/2008 7:50 AM

Sounds to me that the board is flat not profiled. If it then easy to reapply the veneer just flat off what you have or sand back to base wood.

Re glues - white PVA could work OK but you could get a better result with a urea formaldehyde (U/F) comes in a powder form - mix with water and it cures - this is the type of glue that was probably used in the first place if it was a classic rather than vintage. This glue sets to a hard mass due to chemical reaction whereas the white glue has to lose its water.

I suppose you are aware that a good veneer press can be made using a vacuum and a plastic bag. It seems you may have gone down similar roads before.

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#9

Re: Car Restoration - Stripping a Woodgrain Dashboard

12/16/2008 7:10 AM

Just logged in for the day.

If you are sure the veneer is intact, then why not try "sand blasting" the coating away? You have already removed all the fittings and it seems you have the portion isolated from the instruments, switches and such.

A good abrasive will enable you to get into any crevices and formed shapes with minimal disruption to the veneer.

There is also another option. If you contact the auto industry suppliers, they can apply a "woodgrain" finish directly over the surface that you already have and then apply topcoat onto that. (The woodgrain is like a transfer around 0.1mm thick and is protected by the hardcoating.)

Try "CUBIC Pacific" in Sydney as they specialise in that sort of treatment. You could probably even choose the portion of the grain that was applied to your dash. They do all sorts of things from toothbrushes through to mobile phone covers to bowling balls.

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#14
In reply to #9

Re: Car Restoration - Stripping a Woodgrain Dashboard

12/16/2008 10:59 PM

Do not sand blast! It will only create crack shaped crevasses in the veneer itself where the clear finish has cracked.

The original finish on the panel would have been lacquer. The multiple hand rubbed coats eventually "crazes" in to many, many road map like cracks. If this is what yours looks like, that's good. It sounds like a previous re-finisher may have applied an epoxy or urethane on top of it without removing the lacquer. This is also good. All you have to do is remove the top coat without going through the lacquer and then removing the lacquer by rubbing, WITH A WOOD BLOCK to keep things FLAAAT, with a refinishing solvent used in refinishing fine furniture. The name Homer Formby comes to mind. The dash was manufactured as a piece of fine furniture, treat it as such, especially if the pattern of the wood grain is unique and particularly beautiful. If after getting through the lacquer the veneer is indeed cracked, veneering is at your option. I have seen many dashes that looked horribly cracked that were reasonably perfect under the lacquer. Don't give up and take the easy route. Using multiple coats of hand rubbed lacquer will give you a beautiful finish that won't yellow and bubble like urethane sometimes does after moisture gets at it from behind in a few years.

If you want to speed up the whole process a bit, CAREFULLY use a cabinet scraper to get through both the top coat and most of the lacquer. If you can't find a cabinet scraper, you can make one by going to a metal shop and having them sheer some 1/8" or 3/16" steel into a 3" X 5" piece. Sheering puts a straight wire edge on the piece. File one edge so it is perfectly straight and flat and then use a piece of hardened steel, a hammer will do, to re-establish the wire edge, by drawing across the flat edge at a slight angle. If done properly, when drawing the scraper across the dash panel you will produce a curly shaving of the top coat, even from the hardest epoxy. You can scrape the veneer with it but I would suggest sandpaper progressively down to at least 400 grit.

When refinishing, block sand each intermediate coat of lacquer down to 320 grit and the final coat down to 1000 grit. Power buff with 3M Finessit II or similar, available at auto paint suppliers, to a mirror finish. You'll have something to be proud of. Remember, you will be looking directly at it every mile you drive.

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#11

Re: Car Restoration - Stripping a Woodgrain Dashboard

12/16/2008 9:29 AM

Please forgive me if this is heresy, but given that this is a flat piece of plywood, (possibly like the dash in the Cortina GT I had) would it not be simpler just to make a new one

Cheers

Rick

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#12

Re: Car Restoration - Stripping a Woodgrain Dashboard

12/16/2008 4:56 PM

STOP SANDING!

I think you will find it has actually been finished in Bees wax which soaks into the timber on hot days.

Best thing to do is get a tin of Bees Wax furniture polish and just polish it into the timber with a wool cloth. You will find all the old 'Veneer' bits suddenly blend in and everything looks lovely in about 1 hr of work...

otherwise, a caustic soda bath will get the paint off if someone did in fact varnish it at some time...

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#16
In reply to #12

Re: Car Restoration - Stripping a Woodgrain Dashboard

12/17/2008 1:48 AM

Don't

This is a daft idea - not suitable for this application.

Dangerous - harder to get rid of trhe wax than the original.

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#18
In reply to #12

Re: Car Restoration - Stripping a Woodgrain Dashboard

12/17/2008 2:39 AM

Dangerous - if you want to make paper you digest wood in caustic soda. Epoxies are also noted for their resistance to alkali - this could mean removing the wood from the lacquer - not exactly what the man is looking for.

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#20
In reply to #12

Re: Car Restoration - Stripping a Woodgrain Dashboard

01/07/2009 12:03 PM

Where can you get Beeswax furniture polish. I can't find it. Johanna

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#21
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Re: Car Restoration - Stripping a Woodgrain Dashboard

01/08/2009 2:04 AM

Don't worry - it can be got from bee keepers supply stores but any good brand of car polish will work. Commercial polishes can be mixes of paraffin, carnuba &/or bees. Beeswax on it's own can be a bit soft and smeary especially on a warm day.

These are blended to give a good finish. Important to watch out for any that have abrasives as these can remove the surface and should only be used to get rid of road film. A good polish should not leave any paint colour on the polishing pad.

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#13

Re: Car Restoration - Stripping a Woodgrain Dashboard

12/16/2008 5:31 PM

Hi all. The dash isn't totally flat. It is made from 2 flat pieces that forms about a 5-10 degree angle so that the gauges face slightly up towards the drive and the switches etc are pretty much on a vertical part of it.

This is it! The metal section is easily removed leaving just the wood. You can see the left to right line of the join forming the angle I mentioned above. The section just above the cutout for the steering column hasn't got a "shine" from lighting - that is where I have sanded down almost to the veneer. Sanding had no effect on the cracks you can see so I think they are also in the veneer.

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#15
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Re: Car Restoration - Stripping a Woodgrain Dashboard

12/16/2008 11:14 PM

As a last resort, there is someone in Orlando Fla. that refinishes high end wood dashes, as I'm sure there are many others. I have seen his work, before and after. Not cheap but seeing your piece, it might deserve it.

Contact Larry or Dave at 1-727-539-0218 for his contact information.

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#17
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Re: Car Restoration - Stripping a Woodgrain Dashboard

12/17/2008 1:55 AM

Doubt if the veneer itself is cracked, as a fibrous material if there are cracks they should be along not across the grain. Keep sanding at a selected point and see is you can get back to a sound veneer. Minor cracks should be filled by the first coats of lacquer and sanded down. Otherwise you are out of luck - get a belt sander and take it down to a wood base and re-veneer.

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#19
In reply to #17

Re: Car Restoration - Stripping a Woodgrain Dashboard

12/17/2008 7:31 AM

Sanding, sanding... Thanks again everyone. Amazing how many diverse opinions there are on removing a wood finish.

I should get another go at it this weekend - I'll post the results.

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#23
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Re: Car Restoration - Stripping a Woodgrain Dashboard

10/26/2010 8:07 PM

A long time later but I did say I'd post the results.

Sanding just didn't work. It took so long to get anywhere and it was very difficult to control evenly. I ended up hitting the veneer on the edges before getting through the finish in other places nearby.

I finally ended up doing as Del suggested and using a heat gun. I had some not-good spares which I tried first and once I "had it down" did the real ones.

Very successful. The biggest problem is not lifting the veneer it's burning it! The trick is to apply enough heat to bubble the finish then lift it off with a wood-filling metal blade before it sets again - about 5 seconds later.

I have since refinished all pieces with Marine clear spray (about 6 coats) rubbing back with 1200 wet and dry (dry) between. It looks great.

So, whatever that epoxy feeling wood finish on Hillman, Singer, Humber 1960's cars is - a heat gun gets it off.

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