Mercedes Wood Refinishing

Mercedes Wood Refinishing

Mercedes-Benz, Model 108, 109, 111 come from the factory with a 5-part nitrocellulose lacquer finish. I have the instructions for that someplace with the part numbers from MB for the chemicals. Believe me, you want no part of it, even IF you could still get the chemicals.

The best wood re-finishing guy is:

Drew Tibcken
Heritage Woodworking,
Andrews, NC
(888) 255-3523, (828) 321-3523.

Drew has the reputation as "The Wood Guy" and does "factory-original" work. He sprays professional grade materials from Italy; beyond the scope of the hobbyist.

The rest of us mere mortals do this:

1) after removing all the wood trim from the vehicle, remove the felt from the back of the individual pieces.

On 108 series cars the dask bow is tricky. Gary Kouba sent these tips:

* Remove "A" side pillars and top pillar...(so far simple) remove top speaker grille....remove two bracket screws in speaker housing to free wood trim in the center....then gently take the wood about a foot inside from side pillars and pull wood toward you just a little, it will become totally free from the two clamp brackets holding to dash....(NOW THE WORK STARTS)

* Take a garbage bag and tape it across the right side pillar making sure you overlap the fabric trim protecting it from damage when take the wood out....

* Next take some felt or flannel material and put it up against the wood on dash to protect the dash from tearing when you pull the wood out....

* With your left hand keep the left side of trim down as hard as possible, (this is where you need nerves of steel) with your right hand start to bow the middle of the wood at the same time bending the right side down enough to clear the side pillar and thus free the wood.. the felt will protect dash when the clips under wood drag on dash...the garbage bags will serve as a slide to help free the wood without harming the fabric on window frame.

2) DO NOT use sandpaper! You wouldn't believe how thin the veneer is on this wood, even if you're used to working with veneer. It's 1/64" at best (normal veneer is 1/28 - 1/32")

3) Strip the old finish with a methylene chloride based stripper such as Poly-strippa or equivalent. DO NOT get a DROP of this crap on your skin. It hurts BAD. Use 000 wire wool to scrap it off.

4) DO NOT use sandpaper.

5) Use mineral spirits to clean the last of the gunk off and 0000 wire wool will to make it nice and smooth.

6) DO NOT use sandpaper.

7) Now you need to seal it. Get some Minwax wood sealer. Follow the directions.

8) DO NOT use sandpaper

9) Now you need to tone it. Use Minwax cherry to keep it roughly the same color, just a tad darker, or Provincial if you want it a bit darker or mahogany if you want it quite dark. Follow the directions, use two coats.

10) DO NOT use sandpaper.

11) Now you need to apply a top clear coat. You want to use Minwax Spar varnish because it's waterproof and UV resistant. The UV is what changed the color of the wood. You'll want to paint both sides of the wood to completely seal it in case any water sneaks in behind it.

12) With 240-grit aluminum oxide sandpaper, EVERY SO LIGHTLY sand it. If you get down to the wood, you're screwed. You just want to take the top of the clear coat down a LITTLE bit. You really don't want to do more than drag the sandpaper lightly across the surface.

13) Apply more spar varnish. Sand. Apply more spar varnish. Polish with 0000 or 00000 wire wool. Apply one more coat.

14) Replace or renew the felt that was removed in step #1.


a) This presumes you have the common French Walnut wood. That's what was on most cars. While these directions will work with any other wood found on these care (Ie, Zebrano, Maccassar Ebony, Walnut Burl) they're sufficiently rare that you might want to think twice about doing this yourself unless you're very comfortable doing this sort of thing.

b) This wood is getting to be hard to find. Consider it irreplaceable. DO NOT use sandpaper.

c) This is a lot easier to do that it sounds, BUT there is a certain "touch" you can only get from experience. It might make sense to get some pine moulding from a home improvement store and practice on that, it's time well spent. Once you've done that if you can fine some scrap or damaged wood to practice on, so much the better. THAT you can sandpaper just so you can see how very very easily you can remve the veneer thus exposing the light base wood underneath - that you can never color to match the rest.

This applies to earlier cars, not the ones with the plasticky looking wood like 126's. That's some sort of two part polyester resin and I haven't heard of anybody (besides Drew) stripping and re-finishing this. I have a 126 console piece that Drew did that I found at ASAP when they were still around. It's nicer that the original MB finish.

Richard Sexton