An M.G. Locost Build
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May 16, 2013
Color Issues

We painted all of our wood pieces with Golden Mahogany stain last week and they turned out terrible. They looked okay when the stain was going on, maybe a little redder than we wanted, but okay. So we put on a coat of varnish and then set them up next to the car and they looked terrible. They hardly looked like wood anymore, they were so red. Needless to say, although we're going to anyway, after all those long hours of cutting, trimming, and sanding veneer, this was extremely disappointing.

  Fake-looking Day-Glo orange-red wood
click to enlarge

We thought maybe we just needed a few days to get used to it. After we'd seen it a few times on the car, and worked with it a little bit, the color would start to grow on us. And as it turned out, no, it didn't. It got worse. We had nightmares about Day-Glo orange-red finishes on everything. It wouldn't have been so bad if the wood was hidden somewhere in the deep recesses of the car, like the engine compartment, but this would be staring us in the face every time we drove the car. The more we looked at it, the more depressed we got.

Then we remembered the options, and we cheered up a little. We always have options, and they're not just for things that don't fit, they're for anything that tries to make us look like complete amateurs. As opposed to regular amateurs, which as you know we're okay with. The first option is always the same—the do-over. Start from scratch, or in this case rip off the old veneer and stick on some fresh stock. We actually have enough veneer left over to do this, but we're not sure we have the patience. Actually, we are sure. We don't. Doing it even once was too much work.

The second option would be some kind of alternative covering, like for instance vinyl. We could apply it directly over the wood, which would probably be a good idea anyway since removing the veneer at this point would enlarge the glove box door gap to unsightly proportions. This is typical of second options in general, in that it solves the problem but highlights the fact that we made a huge mistake and we're now trying to cover it up. Usually we reject option two on those grounds alone.

Option number three came to us by way of the Internet. We asked Google how to darken an already-stained surface, and Google got back to us with something called Minwax Polyshades, a product apparently engineered specifically for amateurs like us who thought they knew something about color selection and wood staining until they actually tried to do it. Polyshades is a stain-slash-varnish-in-one that tints the previous finish without actually getting into the wood. It's like a wash, I suppose, although I have only the haziest notion of what a wash actually is.

Actual wood color  
click to enlarge

We experimented with Polyshades Royal Walnut on our sample piece, and it came out perfect, or not perfect, but, you know, perfect compared to how it looked before. It's brown, not red. This is a color we can live with, a color we can stare at for hours while cruising the main drag or carving up back roads. Even better, it dried to a flat finish. The satin varnishes we tried all dried to a gloss finish. Although in retrospect that may have had more to do with not stirring the varnish first, something we had to do with the Polyshades.

  Glove box door almost matches. Okay, maybe not.
click to enlarge

So we painted everything with Polyshades and now all of the wood looks good again, although the glove box door didn't end up the exact same shade of brown as the dash, which is kind of a disappointment after all the time we spent making sure the grain matched. But it doesn't look that bad, and all things considered it's an acceptable trade-off. In any case we went ahead and covered everything with a couple of coats of spar varnish, so it's done and we're not making any more changes.

With that near-disaster behind us we're now ready to move on to our next near-disaster, which will be the bodywork. We ordered a bunch of thin sheets of aluminum, and after they arrive we'll somehow have to bend them into the shape of a car, and then rivet them to the chassis in a way that makes them look as if they weren't riveted to the chassis. At least that's the goal. We've been known to settle for less. As always, we'll see how it goes.

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