First of all, let me confess I'm a complete newbie to woodworking and
am getting into this hobby by means of my classic car..I own this car
('61 Mercedes Benz 220SE) which has a lot of walnut wood trim in it.
The wood was a bit scrubby looking and i wanted to polish this. I have
taken the wood off the dashboard and sanded it till the previous polish
came off and the original colour and grain can be seen. Question is,
how do I proceed from here ? Do I use an oil stain, or do I use shellac
or varnish? These are not large pieces, coming as they do from the
dashboard and I'm looking at achieving a satin dark walnut
finish....I'm sure you've heard these questions many times before on
the group, so my apologies for digging up something as mundane!
Appreciate any help you can give..
Being a former part time Mercedes mechanic who enjoyed driving many
220 SL's around Roswell, GA when it was horse farms and had 3 cops,
allow me to offer my opinion. Do with it what you please...
I would avoid stain unless there are bleached areas that demand "color
correction". Most likely, much of the natural color of the wood will
return once a finish is applied. Even stain will fade when exposed to
sunlight, pigmented oil stain far less so than alcohol or water based
IMHO, Shellac would not hold up well in the interior of a car, leaving
lacquer and polyurethane as the only real choices, unless you want to
go with an oiled walnut look. A tung or linseed oil finish is easy to
apply and repair, but will require frequent reapplication to keep the
wood looking good.
Personally, with no regard for "authenticity", I would use a thinned
satin wiping poly due to it's superior water and solvent resistance.
Lacquer would be my second choice due to it's slightly superior
appearance if properly applied.
thanks for the inputs! Quick question- is it possible to apply varnish
over Tung oil, so that the varnish forms a protective coat over the
oil? The wood is a bit bleached so i'm hoping the oil finish would give
a darker coat while the varnish would protect it?
Yes, you could do that, but boiled linseed oil will give a darker result on
walnut than tung; that is how I do walnut. If the wood is exposed directly
to sunlight, use an exterior varnish to gain the UV protection.
Note that it will be European walnut, maybe even Turkish, and not
American. You don't need to do anything to the colour of it. I would
however apply a light couple of coats of commercial tung-based oil
finish to accentuate the figure. Don't use linseed - even on a dark
timber like walnut, you'll still see yellowing with age.
The big question when refinishing car trim is how much sunlight
resistance you need. If you don't (I'm in the UK), then I'd french
polish it. It's nicely restorable in-situ after any minor damage. If
it's a convertible in Florida, then you ought to go for something
modern with higher UV resistance. Commercial wiping finishes are
probably the best place to start.
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