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Classic car dashboard varnish

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murray1967

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Good day.
This is part of a post that I discussed in someone else's post. So I will dedicate my own post now to get more input.
I have a triumph TR6 and am building my own dash. Its a very basic flat piece of 12mm ply.
I have stained the dash and now will embark on varnishing it. I want a piano type varnish finish.
I have a dry heated cabin to work in.
So what is the best varnish for this and how do I proceed.
Many thanks to everyone in advance.
 

Phil Pascoe

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I would consider Rustin's Plastic Coating - whether you can get it where you are is another matter. It can be polished to a very high gloss and is harder than hell.
 

Droogs

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Originally the dash was protected by 4 coats of Cellulose laquer that was sprayed on. Get yourself a couple of tins from Halfords and just follow the rules of prep and cleaning and you will be fine.
 

murray1967

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I live in Croatia. Sadly not been in a Halford shop for over 20 years. I remember the old Halford in Falkirk. So whats the difference between lacquer and varnish
 

Droogs

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Ah sorry, didn't notice. Car paint laquer will give proper protection if used all round and give a each coat a thorough rub down with 320 and water after you give it time to harden, then clean off with a tack cloth. Once you have a nice smooth finish give it a week and then polish with car polish and it will look fantastic.
Rather than me type out a load of guff have a look here for a brief overview

HTH
 

Richard_C

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Nice car.

Whatever method you use you should give the 'wrong' side some coats as well for stability, though you won't need to polish it.

Barely related fact: The original Lotus Elite type 14 of the late 50's (not the later square-ish one) had a flat dash/instrument panel shaped to look like the side view of the car in silhouette - extended to the left to accommodate switches.
 

murray1967

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Well I think I'm getting there. So far I have done the following.
1. Cleaned and sanded the surface
2. applied a wood stain
3. Used regular wood varnish
4. 24hr drying in warm dry cabin.
5. Sanded out with 320 imperfections in the first coat.
6. Heated up varnish and applied 2nd coat
7. 24hrs later, suffer surface with fine scotch pad. And again let sit for another 12hrs
8 heated up varnish and added some synthetic thinners to varnish. Applied and its now looking nice.
9. Will now leave for a week to fully cure and then polish with the recommended car polish.

Does all that sound OK.
 

profchris

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Well I think I'm getting there. So far I have done the following.
1. Cleaned and sanded the surface
2. applied a wood stain
3. Used regular wood varnish
4. 24hr drying in warm dry cabin.
5. Sanded out with 320 imperfections in the first coat.
6. Heated up varnish and applied 2nd coat
7. 24hrs later, suffer surface with fine scotch pad. And again let sit for another 12hrs
8 heated up varnish and added some synthetic thinners to varnish. Applied and its now looking nice.
9. Will now leave for a week to fully cure and then polish with the recommended car polish.

Does all that sound OK.
Close except for step 9, which will probably be a bit more drawn out than you planned.

To get something like a mirror finish:

a. Sand level (I'd wet sand) working up through the grits to P1000 or higher.

b. Polish up using car automotive polish like T-Cut. For the full effect, move up after that to finer grades of car polish like Swirl Remover.

But this only works if your varnish is fully cured, and that might take 4 weeks or more. The initial test is to dry sand gently - if the paper loads up immediately, you need to wait some more. If you don't level sand then you will end up with a nicely polished corrugated surface, which isn't the look you're after.

After sanding, clean off the surface and look across the surface towards a light source. If it's uniformly dull, you're good to go up to the next grit. If (initially) you see any shiny spots then they are lower than the rest and you need to sand some more. Once your first sanding has produced a truly level surface, the later sanding will be much quicker - again, use raking light to check you've removed the old sanding marks (hint, for each sanding sand at 90 degrees to the previous, that way you can see when you're done). I'd probably go P240, P320, P400, P800, P100 (maybe higher).

For varnished musical instruments, some varnish recipes need 2 or 3 months curing time, but I suspect your wood varnish will cure quicker than that. But if in doubt, leave it a bit longer!
 
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murray1967

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I have tried to upload an image. It won't let me, but I have to assume that it won't allow me due to using my phone, maybe..
 
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