Wood refinishing MK2

I’m planning to refinish the wood trim in my MK2. Anyone know what is the best finish to use? Thanks

I did this refurbishment in the past year or so. The MG dashboard required the veneer’s complete removal due to water and sun damage. I replicated the original ‘bookleaf’ or ‘butterfly’ veneer, ie each side of the centre it is a mirror image of the grain. This was also the standard used on the Jag dashboard.

The Jag dashboard was only suffering sun damage. The original varnish was removed with methylated spirits and steel wool. A laborious and messy job. This was followed by careful preparation using 0000 grade steel wool.

The refinishing product I used was a two-pack clear marine varnish from a chandler. I made the assumption that marine varnishes are formulated for extreme exposure. It was applied by high quality fine-bristled brush. I found that it was very good for self-levelling and had a slow setting time to bring up a smooth high gloss. You can see the before and after pictures.

I hope this helps.


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Looks great Peter! What is a chandler? There are numerous marine suppliers in my area. Thanks for the info. Cheers!

Just googled chandler. Got it

The brush is critical in varnishing,go to a art store and get a couple of the very fine bristle brushes and clean them throughly after use…1 in wide is plenty for most small projects

Thank you for your compliments. Ships chandler is the title, now much lost in time, for a marine paraphernalia supplier.

I forgot to mention that these two jobs took quite a long time. All surfaces needed a minimum of six coats, some 10 to 12. With 24 hours or more between coats, it is a long process. Each coat has to be quite thin of course, and gently rubbed back to improve the smoothness. A dust-free environment is essential and I used a spare room that could be closed off. Some of the extra coats were to deal with some specks of dust settling before drying.

The more you do this, the smoother and the more glass-like it becomes. I also added a retarder as I was working in the warmer season. You have to put on your furniture restorer’s hat and think as one would.

I agree Pete, don’t skimp on the quality and price for the best brush.

I take a slightly different approach. I like to use a hand rubbed oil varnish. I’ve seen the original technique that Jaguar used for applying finish (not that it’s actually important to use the same method) described as French Polish, which is done with shellac and a bit of oil, a very demanding technique if it’s done right. I’ve finished classical guitars this way and usually have about 25 hours in one. For the Jaguar wood, the oil varnish is easier, applied similar to French polish. The technique could most easily be compared to polishing a shoe. After building some thickness, I’ll do a fine wet sanding with 600 grit and finish with paste wax. This gives a durable, lustrous soft appearing finish that is very easily repaired if scratched by rubbing on a little more wax. One trick, though, is to get the right material. The formula for the finish I used on my Mk2 has been changed and I’m going to try a new one on my Mk10 wood in the next couple of weeks. I can follow up if it’s of interest.

Yes please Ron, a follow up with your method would be of interest. Always interesting to see how others resolve recovery and restoration matters.

Hi Ron, I would be very interested in what material you will use for the French polish method on your MK10. I am a finish carpenter and have some experience using tung oil and paste wax on furniture-French polish? I think something with a bit more body and a harder set would be needed, as tung oil doesn’t seem quite right. Please let me know. Thanks

Peter, Do you think the marine finish can be sprayed? I have an airbrush that I have used to spray automotive paint and urethane. It needs to be thinned in order to spray at low pressure, but this does result in an aerosol spray can type finish.

Yes, there were instructions for the spraying alternative. I think it was just a change in the thinning ratio. Spraying would give an excellent finish but each piece would need to be set up suitably to avoid runs which can come from the excess applied around the edges, bevels and circles, etc. Don’t forget that the visible end grain edges - glovebox lid, etc. - are painted brown to disguise the grain.

Are there any comments on the use of automotive clear coat for finishing? Would it result in a finish that is just to shiny and plastic looking? The built in solar blocking would be an advantage.

Hahaha! Yes, I used it on my 71 XJ6–both existing and added Walnut burl. Sprayed, colour sanded, repeat. Worked well by my standards but my work doesn’t stand up to what I’ve seen from others, including in this thread. I wasn’t going to mention it at all.

Hmm, looks like my reply went off into the ether somewhere - trying again.
This product was recommended to me by a friend who is a Krenov trained professional woodworker. I previously used Profin by Daleys, but they changed the formulation (without saying so) and it doesn’t work the way it used to. I hope to try the new stuff soon.
As to the sprayed finishes, they are certainly feasible. The guy that used to refinish Jaguar wood in my area (RIP) used industrial clear laquer, 20 coats, wet sanded then another 20. Yes, those sprayed finishes look like plastic! That’s the problem. The few references to the original finish use the term “satin” to describe the gloss. IMO, wood should look like wood. An automotive clear would also be thick and not easly repaired. One of the beautiful things about a French polish finish and also one of the reasons it’s sometimes used on fine musical instruments is that it’s very thin, only a few mils and doesn’t obscure the beauty of the wood. The oil varnish is thicker than that, but still nowhere what a sprayed urethane would be. Besides, it’s less toxic and you don’t have all the hassle of spraying. Obviously, I have an opinion here, and there are plenty of acceptable ways to get the job done.

Doesn’t stand up in what way? Too shiny? Not shiny enough? Did you power polish after the last application and color sanding?

Hard to say–just like the cars that I paint. Hard to say what’s amateur but, as the saying goes, you know it when you see it. I think its mostly the preparation, just like car painting. I’ve used clearcoat a lot on wood. If it’s delicate, I’m afraid to use my power buffer and I polish out the last coat by hand with compound. Bottom line (and why I’ve never mentioned using it) is that AFAIK the clear does a perfect job–but I don’t. Most of the varnish used for this purpose is polyurethane now–similar to clearcoat except usually not catalyzed. IMHO.

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Hi Ron, I know what you mean about the Profin formula change. That happened when I was in the middle a big finishing project. One day it was working great and then it was not. So are you suggesting the polymerized tung oil product in the photo you sent? Multiple hand rubbed coats and then wax?

As I said, I haven’t used this product yet, but that is the technique I used on my Mk2, and it still looks great 15 years later. I’ll let you know when I get to it, should be in the next couple weeks.
Another idea, there was a review of wiping finishes in Fine Woodworking magazine that I recently had trouble finding, but I do find the reference now.
Tool Test: Wiping Varnishes Issue #245 Jan/Feb 2015
I subscribe, but don’t have the online account to reread the article. I will look for my copy tomorrow. You can get it by subscribing and then cancelling, but I’m not into that.
Anyways, as I recall, the author reviewed numerous hand applied finishes and critiqued them, chose a favorite.

I used a two step process. First several layers of polyurethane varnish, diluted with lots of white spirit rubbed in with a cloth. Once the surface starts to level out and you get a sheen on it then follow up with spraying polyurethane. I then used rattle cans as I was doing several layers and light sanding between the first few layers. I made a small spray booth on my bench in which to do it to minimize the dust inclusions.

I decided not to use yacht varnish because of the long hardening times + the fact that it remains ‘soft’ ( a relative non scientific measure :slight_smile: ). It is designed that way since it needs the flexibility to be used on a boat’s hull / deck.