Refinish wood paneling

things you need *:
- paint/finish remover (I used Jasco's)
- furniture refinisher (Formby's works awesome)
- stain (pick your favorite color- I chose 'red mahogany')
- sealant (I chose polyurethane, but there are others you can use)
- razor blade
- gloves
- brushes (may use foam ones for the remover, but you MUST use bristle for the stain and sealant)
- sandpaper (I used 150)
- synthetic steel wool
- non-fluffy cloth (I used a wet t-shirt)
- paper towels
- phillips screwdriver
- standard screwdriver


* You can get every single bit of this at a good hardware store


Remove door paneling:
For a detailed tutorial on how to do this, click here.


Remove dash paneling:
To get at the dash paneling, you will unfortunately need to remove your dash. It should be easier, but there is one screw on the outside ends of each of the wood pieces that are inaccesable with the dash in place.
There will be a dash removal tutorial coming soon...

Note: I've been told that you can get at these screws. On my 79 528i, however, the edge of the door frame is just enough in the way from getting a screwdriver to them. If you can get to them, then you will probably be able to remove the wood without removing the dash (lucky you).

Removal of wood paneling from the dash is pretty much the same as with the doors. Bend back the retaining clips holding the wood in place, and gently pull from dash. For those of you who can remove the wood without removing the dash, I'm told you can access the retaining clips from underneath and through the glovebox.


Removing the old polyurethane and finish:

The FAQ from says to "chip away" at the old poly with a razor blade without the use of any remover. This may work okay if the poly is totally cracked all over, but a much simpler and easier way is to use the paint/finish remover.

Even though the directions on the can tell you to scrape away the old finish while the remover is still wet, I found this didn't do a darn thing. Better to let the remover almost DRY, then use the razor blade to start working away at the poly and finish. You will need good gloves. And even with good gloves, if the remover is still wet, it will happily try to get through the gloves (another reason to wait til it's dry).
Note: You will most likely need to reapply the remover a few times, depending on how thick the old poly is (usually pretty thick). Each time you apply more remover, the poly will become easier to get off.

Try to get the razor blade at a good angle when removing the old poly. Get it under the old poly, but don't cut away at the wood!

When you have removed all of the old polyurethane, your wood will not look good. Don't worry, after you sand and especially after you refish/condition the wood, it will look beautiful.


Refinishing / Staining / Sealing:

Simply follow all directions on products you get *.

* See tips below



1. DO NOT USE FOAM BRUSHES! Foam brushes are okay for the stain itself, but when you try to use them to put on Tung Oil or Polyurethane, the foam brushes will just deposit themselves all over your wood plus at the very least generate lots and lots of air bubbles that are impossible to control. Use any natural bristle brush for the sealing.

2. Tung Oil is supposed to be applied on bare wood, not necessarily over a stain. Especially if that stain has a sealant already in it. I found a couple small splotches when I tried to apply Tung Oil over the stain.

3. Directions on the sealant can (Tung Oil or Poly) tell you to use a non-fluffy cloth to remove the excess. Um, being that either of these sealants are very very sticky while drying, you're going to be very hard pressed to find a cloth that won't become fluffy as you use it. I finally grabbed an old black t-shirt and wet it down before wiping away the excess (let wood dry for a good time before wiping). Worked great! Then follow up with a paper towel to dry.

4. The wood refinisher/conditioner is a VERY important component to a successful job.


Order of operations:
1. Paint/finish remover (razor blade it off - do it a couple times and don't worry too much for the little bits missed here and there, the refinisher will take care of it quite well).
2. Sand lightly
3. Refinisher/conditioner (using synthetic steel wool)
4. Sand lightly
5. Refinisher/conditioner again
6. Buff - using dry synthetic steel wool
7. Sand lightly
8. Stain - dry 6-8 hours
9. Stain again (if you want) - dry overnight
10. Sealant (Tung Oil, Polyurethane) - dry 6-8 hours
11. Sand lightly
12. Sealant again - dry overnight