Woodgraining Method 1

"Tacoma Bob" Bob Elms

Materials list:


Tack cloth
1500 grit wet or dry sandpaper
400 grit wet or dry sandpaper
600 grit wet or dry sandpaper
A small scrap of actual mahogany
Two cans of Krylon Ruddy Brown primer
One quart of PPG DX300 Acrylic-Clean wax and grease remover
1/2 pint can of Minwax walnut oilbase gel-stain
Two cans of Mini fast drying polyurethane (aerosol)
Several of the cheapest junk bristle brushes you can find in one and two inch widths.
Several acid brushes. One can (coupes) two cans (sedans) of 1969 ford thunderbird Indian fire metallic
          (DDL 2046 SC Brunt Orange Poly) Auto Paint Supply Store Item

Graining Tools

My favorite tool is a piece of foam rubber cut to a size a little smaller than a Snicker's candy bar. Almost anything goes here though. Feathers, combs, balled up tin foil, plastic or stainless steel
scouring pads. Coarse steel wool should work too as long as you soak it in the wax and grease remover to eliminate any oil. I think you get the picture, let your imagination run wild a little bit.


The following is with the understanding that all the preparation on your pieces is done. In other words any holes have been welded up and all the "bondo" work is finished.

Spray the printer on the all the pieces. Make sure to primer all the surfaces of each piece. Two medium coats should be fine. Let everything dry well. Don't try to rush this project. Your shop conditions will dictate the final outcome. Next spray on the base color coat. Again make sure all the surfaces are covered" When everything is bolted back in the car you don't want to see bare metal or primer anywhere. When you're sure everything is dry  lightly sand with 600 grit sandpaper and warm soapy water. GO EASY here. You just want to level the base color coat out a little. Rinse with plenty of warm water and wipe down each piece with the wax and grease remover and wipe dry.

Next, take the cheap brushes and chop the heck out of the bristles. Irregularity is what you want here. Take the acid brushes and cut them at a45' angle.

As I mentioned earlier my favorite graining tool is a piece of foam rubber the size of a Snicker's candy bar. Now that your tools are at the ready take a 2" cheap brush and dip in the walnut gel-stain. Don't be frugal here, load up the brush.

Start brushing in ONE direction only, NOT BACK AND FORTH. It's OK to overlap your work a bit.

Right away you should start to see nice things happening. Depending on just how
Model Anal you are consult the judging standards as to how the grain should look as you view the dash rail. Straight across or arched slightly.  It's up to you. I suppose you could stop here and let everything dry but I keep going. Take your graining tool and dip it in the gel-stain. NOW pretend you have a bad case of the shakes and with a light touch start laying down the grain. There are times when you will hold the tool so contact is being made on the edge and other strokes will be made with one entire surface making contact with the piece. Keep quivering and lightly shaking and use light pressure.

It should be very evident at this point that your graining is coming alive. If not wipe all or part of your work off and try again. ....... I won't tell, I promise. If your happy then stop and let everything dry thoroughly.  The next step if your feeling lucky is to LIGHTLY sand the pieces with warm soapy water and 1500 grit wet or dry sandpaper. (You may omit this step, I don't though). This step helps to level out the "grain" and makes the top coals easier to finish. Wipe thoroughly with wax and grease remover.

Now for the clear top coats. There are people that say not to use polyurethane clear coats. If your one of those than use an aerosol spar varnish. Which ever you choose, one medium wet coat at a time please. If it goes on too dry, subsequent coats will leave you with orange peel. Let each coat dry to the Max before applying the next coat. I like to sand with soapy water and 600 or 1500 grit between these clear top coats. Again shop conditions will dictate much about drying times and so forth but don't rush it. l would suggest letting everything dry for a week or so If all looks good and your happy install the pieces and call it good. I prefer to wet
sand one more time with plenty of warm soapy water and 1500 grit sandpaper. I then use polishing compound which in my opinion leaves more of a natural hand rubbed gloss.

Then a coat of paste wax. To not do this step leaves the work looking a bit too much like plastic.

Well there you have it. For around $75.00 and a little practice you have just saved yourself a very large chunk of change. It's also great if you can involve the family in this project not to mention the bragging rights that you did it yourself. Enjoy!

Helpful Hints

Use the tack cloth to pick up any dust on the pieces before the beginning of each step. Don't put too much grain paint in the countersunk holes. Wax the underneath sides of the machine screws. This will help keep from chipping.


Woodgraining Method 2

Mike Dermond

As I attempt to explain how this process works please remember that  this is something I am copying and these are not original ideas of mine.

To begin with, the very first step should he research. You need to  know what the original pattern and colors were. Few of us will be  starting with a dash that has enough ORIGINAL graining left for matching  purposes. Places that were covered may give you a clue (like where the  mirror attaches on some models). Try to find an ORIGINAL unit that has  not been changed. Take pictures, measure the pattern, notice where the  grain ends around the edges etc. Remember that pictures don't always  accurately reproduce colors so compare the print with the item. Note if  the garnish moldings have a different pattern or direction of grain. A  good source of information is of course the V8 Times. Use the master  index in the National Roster to find which issues have into pertaining  to your project. Factor, pictures that appear in Sorensen's books are a  good resource too. Often the black & white pictures give you a very  good view of the grain pattern. Be wary of conflicting information  written in the books, an unrestored original car is ALWAYS your best  reference.

Clean all parts to bare metal via your favorite method. Metal etch  and prime all surfaces. Surface pitting is always a problem and the  temptation is to use heavy coats of primer-surfacer to smooth it out.  Just like any other place on your car. The thicker the primer is the  easier the color oat will chip off. Be extra careful to clean out the  typical counter-sunk holes where screws attach the parts to the car. If  you don't the pressure from the screw will pop a big ugly piece of your  pride and joy off just when you thought you were finished.

Spray the base color coat on all parts to be grained. Use lacquer for this.

Finding the correct color for this or having it mixed, is a time consuming step.

I have had good luck finding a color that will work without resorting to special mix, avoid custom mixes if you can.

Now comes the fun part. The grain is not paint but a rubber based  printing ink. This ink has been used for silk screening and for  lithographs.

You can mix these colors like oil paints so I only have black, white,  red, and brown. From these I can mix just about any color of graining.  The bad news is that the smallest container of this stuff is a 1lb. Can.  It takes very little to do a complete dash and set of garnish moldings I  probably have enough to do 10.000 cars. You also need the solvent that  goes with the ink and it comes in gallon cans. The really slick thing  about this, is that the solvent and ink won 't affect the Lacquer base  color. You can grain all day long without fear of lifting the base coat.  I use cheesecloth and paint brushes to apply the grain, but rules apply  here and you are limited only by your imagination. Don't forget to have  all removable parts sitting in place for this step, glove box door ashtray etc. 

After you are satisfied with how it looks, put all parts in a DUST  FREE area.  If you put the grain on too thick or don't dilute the ink it  will take longer to dry. When it is dry it still might be a tiny bit  tacky. Now you can spray on the clear and admire your work. I use a  clear urethane (Ditzler DAU 75 with DRX 80 iso-cyanate catalyst). This  is compatible with the ink, don't use cleat lacquer the thinner is too  hot_ Put a moderate amount of clear on so that you can wet sand an  polish the pieces when the inevitable speck of dust gets in your finish.  PLEASE FOLLOW ALL SAFETY INSTRUCTIONS WHEN USING CATALYZED PRODUCTS I  spray this stuff ONLY WITH A SUPPLIED AIR SYSTEM because respirators are  not adequate. This is not a joke. Thousands of people were killed in  Bhopal India veers ago from an accident at a plant making iso-cyanate,  there is NO SAFE amount that you can breathe and its effects are  cumulative.

When mounting the dash and moldings, for insurance  put a Little soap or wax on the backside of the screw head. This will  allow the surfaces to slip a little as you draw the screw tight. Of  course don't over-tighten the screws.

Material costs are significant. Irk is $12 to $30 per  pound depending on the color and the solvent is about $20 a gallon.  Lacquer thinner, primer, clear etc. you usually have left over from some  other project as I stated before I have lots of ink so if you are  considering this method ask me before you buy some because I will share  what I can with fellow V8ers.

There is a great deal of satisfaction in doing this yourself. give it a Try! No artistic talent is necessary.


Woodgraining Method 3

Neal A Rogers


A beautifully grained dashboard  adds a real touch of elegance to any car interior; restored street rod,  or classic. Engine turned panels, custom and vintage instruments are  truly at home nestled in deep rich burl and spiral grains. Trim and  fabrics accented by moldings bathed in swirling glossy grains complete a  luxurious setting.

The following procedure’s are used professionally to produce high  quality grain work and should enable the individual restorer to add the  same quality and value to his car. So, strip off the black lacquer and  join the dashboard revolution!


Prepare metal parts by removing old paint, saving any suitable  section of original grain work for possible matching. The reverse face  of dash or moldings may reveal the original base color and should be  saved until matched. Prime with red oxide acrylic lacquer, sanding  smooth with #400 wet-dry sandpaper and water.


Select the base colors in automotive acrylic lacquer, matching an  original sample or a desirable background color. Any medium brown or  bronze varying from reddish, to very light or yellowish tan  will provide a suitable base. Interior and exterior colors may influence  selection. While a dark base provides a richer tone, a selection too  dark will diminish the necessary contrast between base and grain.  Metallic paints are acceptable and add dimension when accented by  sunlight. Orange metallic "Indian Fire", a 1969 Ford Thunderbird color  matches the 1933-34 Ford base closely, is deep, rich, and suitable for  other makes and years. 1966 Chrysler "Turbine Bronze" is equally rich  and provides an increased bronze tone. "Old Masters" offers a selection  of base colors through hardware stores and provides a color chart. Make  your selection and dream of beautiful flowing patterns!

For an ideal base, use professional equipment and spray several coats  thinned in a ratio of 3 to l, spraying at 65-lbs. pressure (acrylic  lacquer). Substitute a small inexpensive "Preval" brand sprayer or spray  cans paints if necessary. A last resort or experimental base color may  be formed using spray cans if the proper spray can color or equipment is  unavailable. Select a white, very light tan or light yellow and spray  parts. Follow with a fine spray of dark bronze (whatever is available),  carefully spraying until desired tone develops. Do not apply rubbing  compound or polish to base, avoiding later problems with clear finish  application. Sand lightly with #400 paper and water before graining.


Be sure to select a graining paint darker than base. Premixed  graining paints are purchased through some hardware stores and hobby  shops. "Flecto" and "Old Masters" brands should be available. Flecto #12  or a mixture of Flecto #11 and Old Masters 7 blend beautifully with the  Ford Thunderbird base. Graining paint can also be home manufactured by  combining enamel and enamel retarder, clear Glaze and thinner.


Grain paint may be applied using expensive professional brushes  (flat tipped (itch and blender) or with common, equally effective  implements: graining combs, stiff feathers, wadded newspaper,  cheesecloth, sponges -------- the list is limited only by one's  imagination!


The sponge is one of the best all-purpose graining tools, is  inexpensive, easy to use, and produces a unique and beautiful graining  job. Use a #20 "3M" brand sponge pad (part #5526) sold by automotive  paint supply stores. Carefully cut the 3M sponge pad into 4 equal parts,  each 1 1/2" by 2 1/4", using one section for application. All edges  should be straight and even.

Slightly rough one or both sharp, short end edges (1  1/2") with coarse sandpaper. Additional particles can be picked off to  increase pattern definition. Save the remaining sections for later use.

Dip roughed end of sponge into graining enamel, proceeding at one end  of molding or dash, covering only a small portion. Apply paint  liberally but keep the working-area small. With fore finger over the  center, hold the sponge approximately 45 degrees to surface touching  roughed sponge edge (not face) to base under very slight pressure. Pull  or drag sponge from one edge of molding to the opposite side. Edge  remains in constant contact until beginning adjacent path. While  dragging, the sponge is slightly jiggled back and forth or slightly  circular. Motions are no more than a trembling of hand and wrist. The  proper effect has been achieved when a very faint intermittent  connecting cross pattern appears, crossing the primary grain path at the  various points of deviation. Occasionally "walk" the sponge along the  graining path, moving one end then the other, keeping the same constant  contact under slight pressure.

For a spiral grain effect, gradually rotate sponge during the path  traveled from edge to edge (very effective on moldings). At the same  time pattern is drawn diagonally across the molding face. Show some  occasional waving. A portion of excess paint may accumulate at pattern  edge and can be used intermittently for contrast. Begin new pattern or  path slightly into excess, leaving a dark flowing paint portion between.

Enamel retarder causes the graining patterns to flow and blend during  graining paint application. It is the ingredient necessary to keep the  paint workable and to avoid harsh lines. However, it may be necessary to  regrain fresh paint portions, reforming the pattern to counteract  excessive flow out and diminished contrast. The uncontrolled factors of  humidity and temperature as well as differing paints and colors will  effect flow rates. If paint becomes too dry to work, wipe off and apply  fresh.

Realistic knotholes are created with the sponge edge or face. Place  the graining edge of the sponge to the surface with one tip at a center  point. Use the graining edge as a radius, and under slight pressure  complete a circle. To vary knot hole sizes and shapes, move edge away  from center point while rotating, adding hand motion for irregular  effect. To capture the true burl look, intermingle smaller knotholes and  swirls using a smaller width sponge if necessary. Probably a more  satisfying effect results from moderately waved grain flowing in one  general direction blended around a few knot circles or concentric  circles.

Notice how the sponge process is much like grade school finger  painting; a process of drawing rough edges through the paint leaving  portions of the base exposed. The distinguishing characteristic of  sponge graining is the way grain lines flow and deviate uniformly.

For additional ideas, study patterns of natural wood where possible  paneling, furniture, gunstocks, vintage car magazine dash photos exhibit  applicable patterns. Be observant during a possible trip to a furniture  store, sporting goods department, or lumber yard.

Graining may be discontinued at almost any point beginning a new  pattern or adjacent path later. Complete portions or patterns that do  not turn out satisfactorily can be erased while still wet with a paper  towel. It is unnecessary and impractical to wipe off all. When erasing,  be sure to avoid leaving a partial grain path or pattern. When  regraining some of the fresh paint will overlap onto dry patterns.  Simply wipe off excess avoiding erasure of fresh portion.

After finishing, squeeze the sponge dry with a paper towel (thinner  will dissolve the sponge). Squeeze thoroughly otherwise remaining  residue will destroy necessary roughness and flexibility. Some of the  best patterns are created with a well-used sponge, so, never discard.  Changing the sponge sections while graining also produces desired  pattern variety.


The best of grain applications will not reflect full beauty  unless mirrored under a smooth, flawless, clear finish. Crystal clear  "Flecto Varathane"#90, available in spray cans, is recommended for  covering the enamel grain and can be purchased in hardware stores. Clear  enamel can be used but lacks comparable durability, requires a much  longer drying period, and will not accept succeeding lacquer  applications. Do not mistake Varathane satin finish (frosted) for the  clear! Varathane can be used entirely as the finishing agent or as a  buffer between the enamel grain and succeeding lacquer coats. The  Varathane is more durable than lacquer but is much harder to rub to a  high luster. The additional effort to finish a dashboard entirely in  Varathane will be worthwhile, insuring non-chip surfaces around glove  box, ashtray, and instrument areas. Allow the enamel grain paint to dry  at least 24 hours before spraying clear. Use extra care when spraying  Varathane to avoid runs and rough overspray!

When applying initial clear coats, grain will stand out, producing an  uneven surface. The necessary smoothing process is one of spraying  additional clear coats between successive steps of drying, sanding, and  respraying. Allow 5 hours drying time before sanding. Use 600 wet dry  sandpaper and water. Using very fine sandpaper will minimize possible  grain wrinkling and reappearing sand scratches. A rubber sanding block  or squeegee is employed during the last sand-spray steps for ultimate  smoothness. Sand carefully to avoid exposing or erasing the pattern  using extra care around openings, edges, and curves. Avoid the  temptation too fully smooth out in one sanding operation. Gradually the  surface becomes smoother using the clear as filler to build up low  areas. Varathane may wrinkle the grain where previously exposed by  sanding and can be cured by repetition of additional thin clear coats,  lighter sanding, and longer drying periods.

Clear acrylic "Krylon" brand #1301 can be sprayed directly over the  sanded Varathane, providing the enamel grain remains completely  Varathane coated and resulting surface is moderately smooth. The acrylic  lacquer is also available in spray cans and can be purchased in auto  parts or paint supply stores. Note that any exposed enamel will wrinkle  radically when contacted by lacquer or acrylic lacquer spray.

The acrylic is much easier to sand and rub to a high luster than  Varathane but should not be used for any considerable filling or  buildup. Acrylic retains a much longer settling period causing highs and  lows to later reappear under heavy acrylic filling. Apply enough  acrylic body to, sustain light sanding and vigorous polishing. Ideal  spraying conditions are during warm or moderate dry days.

Lightly sand the final clear application with #600 and water (color  sanding). A very fine grade of rubbing compound may be lightly applied  after sanding. Then, polish vigorously with a clean soft rag and "Turtle  Wax" or similar auto polishes until desired luster is achieved. Be  careful when selecting polish a few brands are very abrasive and can  leave a dull, scratched appearance.


Secondary patterns, shading, or crossflow streaks can be applied  over the primary grain for added effect. Often an additional process  transforms average graining into the realm of the ultimate. The  secondary process should not be applied unless the primary grain is  covered with unpolished Varathane. Streak the entire surface using  sponge and graining paint, streaking at an angle or directly across the  original grain flow (cross grain). Let dry 24 hours and erase excess by  sanding with #600 paper. To enhance retention of detail, a coating of  Varathane may be applied and dried over the secondary streaking before  sanding. Only portions of the heavier streaks should remain after  sanding. Excessive secondary paint will obscure the base color and  diminish desired contrast. 

Shading is produced by dabbing a paint moistened sponge end or edge  intermittently across the original grain flow. Remoisten the sponge as  necessary dabbing back over areas of differing shades until uniformly  blended. Improve and lighten areas as needed using a Q-tip. Recast with  Varathane and proceed to finish.

A graining comb can be used to create cross grain flow lines. Mark  and notch the thin edge of a. "Marson" brand bondo spreader (plastic  applicator for auto body filler) uniformly with a razor blade. Lighten  graining enamel almost to clear by adding clear enamel, thinner, and  retarder. Cross flow lines should be very light and subtle requiring  lightened paint. Brush the surface with lightened paint and comb through  with the graining comb, crossing the original grain flow. Show some  waving. Lines may radiate from an imaginary point below panel. A fine  toothed graining comb produces an unusual effect when sharply waved  through lightened paint over primary straight grains (short sharp  strokes). Graining combs are also used to create primary patterns by  combing at random or tapping full color graining enamel.


A flat fitch brush is recommended for graining and is available  in art supply stores. Selection of a quality brush is necessary to avoid  the "brushed on" look characteristic of many first time graining  attempts. Enamel grain paint is brushed over the base, turning the brush  and varying pressure during application. Differing pressure develops  contrasting dark and light areas, while position or rotation determines  spacing between grain lines; normally wider or closer, increasing or  decreasing as grain lines approach knotholes. Harsh wet lines are  softened with a blender (blending brush) or soft rag, stroking softly in  flow direction.

A modified brush increases pattern definition. Thin alternating,  uniform bristle tufts are cut leaving an irregular brush face.  Experiment with an inexpensive moderately stiff brush, severing small  successive bristle sections (half-length) and testing to achieve desired  modification.

Simulated pores, are formed by sprinkling fine specks of  dark brown or black graining enamel over Varathane covered primary  grain. To sprinkle the small particles, a wet brush is stroked across  hair comb teeth held above the grained surface. The surface is then  gently brushed with a blender parallel to grain flow forming the specs  into realistic pores. A graining comb tapped continuously at an angle  over a wet enamel surface also provides the porous appearance.


Lacquer grain paint is applied  over a lacquer base by dabbing the paint with a piece of soft cloth or  velvet tied around a cotton ball. Two differing shades of graining  lacquer are effective, each separately applied over the intermittently  appearing base color The  effect created is that of mottled burl and is followed by immediate  clear acrylic application, saving considerable finishing time and  effort. Wadded newspaper, tissue paper, and small sections of chamois or  cheese cloth are also employed for application of lacquer grain as well  as enamel.


Water base acrylic wood stains are inexpensive, odorless, quick  drying, water washable, and easily applied with a variety of graining  implements and procedures; appreciated by one bothered with paint, fumes  and stained fingers. Water or a damp rag or paper to well easily  removes the water-soluble acrylics. Cunningham Art Products offers a  variety of colors available in art supply and "hardware stores. Rapid  drying requires occasional addition of water by dipping sponge or brush  into a small container of water. Water is added to the paint as a  thinning and lightening agent for secondary pattern application. Primary  patterns and unfinished portions should be protected with Varathane to  avoid erasure.