Adding Wood to a Vehicle?

Adding Wood to a Vehicle?

A woodworker wants to refinish his station wagon and wants to make it look like the old woodies of surfer fame. How would he go about adding wood grain to the side of his car and what should he use to protect the wood?

Michael Dresdner: The old woodies of surfer fame were actually made of wood ? usually ash. The doors and back sections were wood-on-wood frames, not wood veneer applied to a metal body. Later cars had wood trim, or more commonly, wood-patterned vinyl sheeting (something along the lines of wood grain contact paper) applied to the metal skin of the car.

Assuming you want to actually use wood, you have several authentic finishing choices. The original woodies were done in acrylic lacquer, which is still available in most states today. A modern alternative, which looks just as good and holds up even better, is automotive two part clear polyurethane, polyurea, or polyester. You’ll find these two-component clear coats, along with one component clear acrylic lacquer, at your local auto paint store.

Ellis Walentine: Most old ‘woodies’ were constructed of maple and finished with spar varnish. Since you’re not trying to recreate a faithful reproduction that would pass muster with collectors, who are very fussy about the joinery and exact proportions of repaired woodwork, you could use any wood that suits your design vision. Personally, I’d probably use woods that are durable enough to stand up to the weather ? teak, mahogany, iroko, afrormosia, locust, etc. That way, when water gets under the finish ? which it inevitably will unless you keep this vehicle garaged and only drive it on sunny days ? you won’t have to worry about the wood rotting.

Rick White: Some of the the pressure sensitive veneers are really quite good these days, so I think you could ‘wood’ a vehicle that way. You’d probably want to add wood trim to the outside of the car to contrast with the veneer, but there are plastic trim pieces out there that simulate wood very well. I think getting the wood on the car should be a snap with adhesive-backed veneer. The real trick will be preserving it. It’s going to see a lot of heat and water, and it will be difficult to protect it. And if it does get damaged, refinishing will be even more difficult.

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