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1986 560 SL
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Discussion Starter #1
Now that spring is here, I finally got around to one of my winter projects, refinishing the console wood.

The finish on the shifter console was cracked and chipped, and the wood faded.

DSC01878.jpg

The HVAC panel was better, but the finish was murky.

DSC02046.jpg

I removed the varnish using a heat gun and a putty knife. This works well, as long as you are careful with the sharp corners of the knife.
If you wondered how they make wood look like plastic laminate, look at the old varnish. It's thick.

DSC01881.jpg

I re-stained the wood with Minwax Special Walnut and gave it 4 coats of Pettit marine varnish. The marine stuff costs 3 times regular hardware store varnish but it's a lot more durable. Its disadvantage is that it darkens the finish. I happened to have some left over from a boat-building adventure.
You can see the inevitable nibs and nubs that come with brushing on varnish, despite sanding between coats and using a tack cloth,

DSC02037.jpg

Sanding up through wet 2000 grit restored a flat and smooth surface.

DSC02039.jpg

Instead of using rubbing and polishing compounds to give a shiny finish, I sprayed 3 topcoats of automotive clearcoat with an aerosol can.
I still had to rub that out a bit to remove slight orange peel.

The results are a big improvement to my eye:

DSC02047.jpg


It would certainly be less work to substitute spray-on lacquer for the brush-on marine varnish, but I don't know how that would hold up to sunshine.
I thought I'd take the extra effort to ensure it lasts.
 

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Premium Member
2010 Mercury Milan Hybrid, 1993 BMW 325i convertible
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It looks good.
 

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300sl 1987
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746 Posts
Intersting! I am in the middle of the process but I am taking a different approach.

I went for polyurethane with UV protection varnish and got, after many trials, the right brush. Now I am perfecting my brushing technique. I will probably go for 2 coats of varnish and leave it there.

Will post a tutorial.

Has anybody tried polyurethene? or any other experiences will be appreciated before I jump into it.
 

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1986 560 SL
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Discussion Starter #5
I have been building furniture and finishing wood a long time. I understand some people can lay down a flawless coat of varnish with a brush, but I am not one of them. I always have to rub out the final finish to remove imperfections.
 

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300sl 1987
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dugald,

that´s the problem I am trying to sort out. Some people tell me to tub it but I don´t know what with... 1000 sanding paper gives a matt finish, not shiny. Others tell me to forget the brush and get a polyutherene varnish spary can.

What should I rub with?

Thanks
 

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1986 560 SL
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Discussion Starter #8
Impressive!

Is there any way to do it without darkening the wood? I figure if I did that and it darkened it, I'd have to match the shift knob and the strips in the dash?
I darkened it with stain on purpose, for the wood was sun-faded.
The marine varnish itself would give an amber cast to the wood.
 

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1986 560 SL
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Discussion Starter #9
dugald,

that´s the problem I am trying to sort out. Some people tell me to tub it but I don´t know what with... 1000 sanding paper gives a matt finish, not shiny. Others tell me to forget the brush and get a polyutherene varnish spary can.

What should I rub with?

Thanks
Steel wool 000 & 0000.
Or 2000 grit wet sandpaper.
Follow with rubbing and polishing compounds if you want high gloss.
Spraying is tricky too. You'll get runs and sags if you have a heavy hand, and orange peel if you're too light.
 

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1980 450SL & 1988 560SL
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Looks good, and you get that good feeling knowing YOU did it.

I did the same thing except with steel-wool between coats. I used a med. color stain and then clear poly. Mine turned out lighter than most, but it was fine with me because I did all the wood the same. The little strips on the dash proved to be the hardest. I just replaced them with wood that comes in a roll from Lowes. It was almost the exact width.
 

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1980 450slc
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134 Posts
I finish most of my darker woodworking projects with 1/3 spar varnish (ie. Marine Varnish) 1/3 linseed oil and 1/3 turpentine. This works great on walnut and Ipe'. It is much too yellow/amber for a light wood like maple for my tastes but beautiful on dark wood.

The oil and turpentine thin the varnish and help the first coat penetrate. They also help the subsequent coats self level for a smoother finish. There is a popular finish called waterlox that is basically just oil based varnish thinned like this but much more expensive. My approach is many, many thin coats applied with a lint free rag or sometimes just my bare hand. I can generally reapply after an hour to two hours but I live in a very dry environment.

I only sand before the last coat. When I sand between prior coats I usually end up with thin spots and it really doesn't serve much purpose. I let the piece dry for a couple of days before sanding for the final coat. I use automotive sand paper (2000 grit) and wet sand with turpetine as a lubricant. I polish the final coat (maybe two final coats) with ground pumice stone or rotten stone.

Spar varnish (Marine varnish) has UV inhibitors and long molecular chains. The long molecular chains give it a good bit of flexibility. Spar varnish also takes a lot longer to dry than water based or other oil based varnishes.

Water based polyurethane leaves a very flat lifeless finish but one without any added color. Oil based finishes give a much deeper look to the wood and grain. Water based poly's are very abrasion resistant finishes though. Good for table tops and hard wood floors.

Spray on lacquer is a great finish for low traffic and low use projects. It is not very wear resistant. It does dry in minutes making it much easier to work with and much easier to keep the dust out of. It also gives a deeper finish on lighter woods like maple than water based poly. It is also pretty easy to touch up. I would not use it on a project that got a lot of direct sun light.

Remember many, many thin coats rather than a couple of thick coats.

Great job and thank you for the pictures!

So are the ashtray doors carved out of one solid chunk of wood? I can't imagine laminating those curves. I can't imagine being able to match the ashtray door if you replaced the rest of the veneer in the car?
 

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1986 560 SL
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Discussion Starter #12
Thanks for your thoughtful addition, 06.
I had completely forgotten about the ashtray door. I'll go look at it. Here's hoping it matches closely enough, for I am weary of this particular project.
I know you are supposed to become more patient as you age, but I seem to be going the opposite way.
 

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1980 450SL & 1988 560SL
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For some reason, the ash tray door was alot harder to get the old stuff off.
 

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1980 450slc
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I really overestimated the times in my post. I usually recoat in 15 to 20 minutes. As soon at the previous coat is dry to the touch. So it doesn't take as long as it seems like it will. When ever I post saying 15-20 minutes someone always comes back and says that they have torn the surface of their finish by recoating too soon. This is always due to putting too thick of a previous coat on. I know this very well from experience!

I think that your approach of refinishing rather than buying new wood will make for a much better match.

That is very interesting that the ash tray was much harder to remove the old finish from than the rest of the veneer? I will have to take a look at my ash tray when I get home just out of curiosity now that I have thought about it.

The pictures are great and very helpful for those of us who haven't taken apart our consoles yet!
 

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1986 560 SL
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Discussion Starter #16
Thanks for your thoughtful addition, 06.
I had completely forgotten about the ashtray door. I'll go look at it. Here's hoping it matches closely enough, for I am weary of this particular project.
I know you are supposed to become more patient as you age, but I seem to be going the opposite way.
The finish on the forgotten ashtray is in good shape and close enough in color to leave as-is. I just gave it a quick rub with wet 2000, then polished it.
 

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1986 560SL with M120 V12 Engine, 1988 560SL Stock
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Excellent thread Thank You for the info. Sooner or later I will face the problem of matching a faded 86 console to a 96 shifter insert. Can it be done. I've never done wood work before is this a job for a newbie or should I send it out for $500.00.
 

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Registered
1986 560 SL
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7,315 Posts
Discussion Starter #18
Excellent thread Thank You for the info. Sooner or later I will face the problem of matching a faded 86 console to a 96 shifter insert. Can it be done. I've never done wood work before is this a job for a newbie or should I send it out for $500.00.
Give it a go, John.
You can do it.
 

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1979 280CE
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6,118 Posts
Very nice job. After you rubbed it out with steel wool did it still fish-eye or look anything like the 4th pic from the top. I want to do this to mine but I afriad I will ruin the burl wood, and if I did I don't know what I would do since it is so rare in a W123.
 

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300sl 1987
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Give me 2 weeks, I am preparing a step-by-step tutorial.

I had never done wood work myself and so far and I've done ALL beginners mistakes (on a spare piece of wood luckily) but I am getting there and getting good results now. Then you can DIY if you fancy as well.

BTW dugald's post gave me some very good info & ideas.

Cheers
 
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