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Technical Making a wooden dash. What wood to use?

Discussion in 'The Hokey Ass Message Board' started by evintho, Jan 30, 2017.

  1. evintho
    Joined: May 28, 2007
    Posts: 1,218


    As the title states. I'll be making a dash for the roadster. I'm more of a metal guy than a wood guy so...........which wood should I use? I don't want it too dark of a color, more on the lighter side. I'd like it to be 1" thick so I can recess the gauges a little. It'll be a simple design. Gauges are aftermarket, white faced, 5 of 'em are two inch and the tach is 3-1/2". A toggle switch or two plus a headlight and ignition switch. Steer me in the right direction, guys! Thanks!
  2. gimpyshotrods
    Joined: May 20, 2009
    Posts: 16,250


    Oh dear, stay out of a custom hardwood dealer.

    It will break your brain.:(
  3. midroad
    Joined: Mar 8, 2013
    Posts: 270


    I made a hardwood dash for the T in my avatar. It looked great but cost plenty. It was 1 inch thick so I could recess the gauges and switches. The holes had to be bored on a milling machine. By the time you pay the timber yard to shape and mill it the cost might frighten you. I stained it and painted it with automotive 2K clear.
  4. In my opinion the type of wood and the type of finish (stain type and color or clear poly, gloss or semi-gloss) would depend a lot on the color of the car and the color of the interior material be it cloth or leather or vinyl. Maybe some more info would help. There's many variables
    Hotdoggin DaddyO likes this.
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  5. Birch or Maple are lighter woods, or even a Walnut; you want a hard, close-grain wood. Personally, I'd avoid any lacquer, poly, or automotive clear in favor of a good quality varnish or oil. Much easier to care for and touch up, and sooner or later the others will start to peel and/or crack from the different expansion rates of the coating and wood. There's a lot of difference between wood in your house and wood in a car.....
    upfberg likes this.
  6. bubba55
    Joined: Feb 27, 2011
    Posts: 303


    Besides tinkering with old cars and trucks - I'm also a woodworker - I would suggest you go to your local woodworkers store and look at samples of wood - I personally would use hardwoods - white oak - red oak for lighter color if you want natural finish - if you can find these quartersawn - you can get some nice grain / texture - remember with wood - measure twice and cut once -
  7. Dirty Dug
    Joined: Jan 11, 2003
    Posts: 3,576

    Dirty Dug

    As a long time woodworker, career carpenter, boat builder then a car builder, I'd never put a wood dash in a car.
    Joined: Jun 25, 2012
    Posts: 641
    from Salina, KS

    Is fabricating a metal dash & faux wood grain paint an option...I personally like some of the obvious faux painted wood grain on metal more than a real wood. Show some pics of car your working with.
    FWIW we all got opinions, but it's not my car

    Sent from my iPad using The H.A.M.B. mobile app
    Jonnie King likes this.
  9. bct
    Joined: Apr 4, 2005
    Posts: 3,008


    Too much maintenance. Look into hydrographics if you want the wood look.

    kiwijeff, KoolKat-57 and mgtstumpy like this.
  10. Rusty O'Toole
    Joined: Sep 17, 2006
    Posts: 8,994

    Rusty O'Toole

    One old time hot rod guy robbed the spare leaf out of the dining room table to make a dash for his first roadster, back in the forties. Did he get hell when his mom found out lol. But, a nice piece of hardwood from a thrift store might be just the thing. Pre finished and all.
    Truck64 likes this.
  11. Rusty O'Toole
    Joined: Sep 17, 2006
    Posts: 8,994

    Rusty O'Toole

    If you want recessed gauges drill a hole with a hole saw paint around it with black paint and mount the gauge from the back. That is how Jaguar does it.
    wraymen likes this.
  12. It's pretty difficult to mill wood yourself ( recessed circles and such) and have it look clean. I am a woodworker by profession too, like some of the other guys, and I might take it to a shop that has a CNC router. But then again I'm obstinate, so I probably would make some jigs to use a router and some plunge bits. IMG_1485858741.048096.jpg
    trying to use a hole saw or paddle bit will not give you a clean hole, it will look like you hired a beaver to chew it with it's teeth. A forstner bit will work (probably what Jaguar uses), but you need a drill press and the exact sized bit, they cannot be used properly hand held ( dangerous, and will make a mess). IMG_1485858781.817256.jpg
    this is a forstner bit
    this is a hole saw
    this is an adjustable paddle bit

    If you like warm tones, unstained mahogany can't go wrong, like an old lake runabout. If you are going to attempt it yourself mahogany is a good choice, very workable. IMG_1485858867.478370.jpg
    If you want to go lighter then maple or quarter sawn oak ( like others said ), be aware that they are harder and much more difficult to work with. Prone towards splintering.
    Whether your car is a roadster or enclosed, you'll want to use a finish that has UV and weather protection, (specialty lacquer or marine varnish). The sun and temperature changes alone, even without the help of water, will quickly cause the varnish to fail and turn the wood grey.

    When I build things and customers insist on saving a few shekels and finish it themselves, 1/2 the time I get a call back from them a year later complaining " hey, the mahogany door you built turned grey and is peeling!"
    I ask "can you please read to me from the can of varnish you used.....", inevitably they just grabbed some interior grade poly without UV or weather protection and it of course failed when exposed to the elements.

    Even inside you can see it yourself; roll back the corner of that rug that's been sitting there for 20 years and you'll see how just the ambient light in your home has changed the color of the uncovered wood.

    But why not try it? Ribbon (African) Mahogany is only $8 a board foot, if it doesn't work out then you can fab or rework another metal dash.
    raven, wraymen and harpo1313 like this.
  13. mgtstumpy
    Joined: Jul 20, 2006
    Posts: 7,622


    Faux wood. ^^^ Hydrographics Dash1.jpg
    Jonnie King likes this.
  14. nunattax
    Joined: Jan 10, 2011
    Posts: 1,883


    [​IMG]morgan cars are the experts .here most of their cars have wood framed bodies.send them an e mail
    Ned Ludd likes this.
  15. FrankenRodz
    Joined: Dec 20, 2007
    Posts: 886


    All great advice. Ultimately it depends on what you want to achieve.
    For resale, I don't think real wood will be appreciated.
    I'd approach it in a couple different ways:
    1. 1/2" wood laminated to 1/2" plywood, for stability (Mahogany boat parts shown)
    2. Wood veneer over the substrate of your choice (Maple veneer over fiberglass shown)
    3. Faux painted (Black over caramel, on steel, shown)

    High Beam Switch.JPG Faux Paint Done 2.JPG IMG_0544.JPG
    clunker and CoolYourJets like this.
  16. BJR
    Joined: Mar 11, 2005
    Posts: 5,855


    If it was for a Plymouth I would use "Plywood".
  17. CoolYourJets
    Joined: Dec 16, 2016
    Posts: 172


    I too am working on a wood dash. My plan is to use a very hard and strong cabinet grade plywood for structure, then veneer a burl wood layer on top. Here are a couple I've found in SoCal:



    If you get down to Southern California, I recommend Austin hardwoods. They have some great wood and are generally helpful.
  18. CoolYourJets
    Joined: Dec 16, 2016
    Posts: 172


    Love the "Start In Neutral Gear" plaque, @FrankenRodz

    Sent from my iPhone using The H.A.M.B. mobile app
    Last edited: Jan 31, 2017
  19. Roupe
    Joined: Feb 11, 2006
    Posts: 719


    A 13' Boston Whaler with mahogany seats. I have one of those.........!
  20. FrankenRodz
    Joined: Dec 20, 2007
    Posts: 886


    The Client said he paid more for the Mahogany Restoration that I did, than for the boat!
  21. Leakie
    Joined: Nov 10, 2010
    Posts: 249


    "Coolyourjets" idea is the way to do it. Stable cabinet grade plywood that will not warp with a nice looking veneer applied to it.
  22. philo426
    Joined: Sep 20, 2007
    Posts: 1,896


    Is the wooden front fender for a '50 Stude?
  23. Ebbsspeed
    Joined: Nov 11, 2005
    Posts: 4,747


    Birdseye maple. I made a dash insert and glove box door for my old 40 Ford pickup years ago. Beautiful wood. Do you really want it to be 1" thick?
  24. Harland grunder
    Joined: Aug 11, 2016
    Posts: 77

    Harland grunder

  25. dreracecar
    Joined: Aug 27, 2009
    Posts: 2,846

    from so-cal

    Eisenbrand exotic hardwoods, lots of samples and different colors and grains
    Last edited: Jan 31, 2017
  26. Marty Strode
    Joined: Apr 28, 2011
    Posts: 4,084

    Marty Strode

    I built a "T" with a wooden dash 40 years ago, using walnut. After making the panel out of aluminum, with all the guages in place, a friend did the woodwork. He cut the holes oversize, routed them, and we mounted the aluminum to the backside, to recess the guages 1" and provide a good ground. img20170131_09445649.jpg
    catdad49 likes this.
  27. Blake 27
    Joined: Apr 10, 2016
    Posts: 525

    Blake 27

    1.jpg 2.JPG 3.JPG 4.JPG 5.JPG
    I used a similar method as Marty to build my dash. I used English Walnut. Pretty standard woodworking techniques. I built a template for my router, angled so the dash leaned back, and mounted the gauges on a piece of aluminum. Built in 2004 and finished with automotive clear coat. It's held up very well.
  28. The Shift Wizard
    Joined: Jan 10, 2017
    Posts: 1,481

    The Shift Wizard

    Here's my suggestion for the pig pile.....
    Check out the "usual places" (ie: fleaybay, craigslist, flea market) for a vintage furniture piece such as a headboard, or like has already been suggested, a table/table leaf. These will most likely be veneers but you might fine something with some very cool inlay patterns.

    This shouldn't cost a cubic ton of cash and it's in keeping with the spirit of hot rodding by using "parts" with a bit of history.

    Attached Files:

    CoolYourJets likes this.
  29. Roadster? Teak.
  30. patterg2003
    Joined: Sep 21, 2014
    Posts: 532


    I regularly use a Lee Valley circle cutting router base plate to make circular cuts and shapes with my router. The best is to use a 1/4 Onsrud spiral cut bit with a plunge cut router. I screw the work piece to a sacrificial piece of plywood or MDF to be able to make a clean through cut. The base spins on a 1/8" pin so set a pair of off counter sink screws between the pin hole and the inside of the cutter so that there is no running into the screws. This secures the center plug so that it stays in position to make perfect cuts. The base will allow cutting insets to drop the gauges in and the hole edge profiles are only limited by imagination and bits. The circular cut router base will allow a router to cut perfect round smooth shapes as good as a CNC. Attached are some pages from an article I wrote to show the router base at work for an off topic but it is relevant for cutting gauge openings in a dash.

    Attached Files:

    Cosmo49 and clunker like this.

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