Goodday to you all. I am about to start restoring the wooden veneer on the doors and dashboard of my 63 Eldo Biarritz. Now i have managed to get a big part of veneer oft of the door and i think it is not the one from the factory. So I am looking for any tips on how to glue the new veneer on the door. The part I took off has on the back of the veneer some sort of aluminum foil. Is that used to neutralise the glue from the varnish? And what kind of glue do you use? what sort of varnish do you use? Marine quality or an epoxy type? I have really no idea. Looking forward to your helpful tips. Thanks in advance.

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On my Eldorado I refinished the wood with polyurethane and glued them on using 3M 90 spray adhesive. They came out great and are still holding strong after 8 years. 

This is most if not all of an article I wrote in the late 1990s for the Self Starter on restoring veneer.

For most of us who own convertibles with wood veneer paneling, we know all too well the
problems that too much sun and water can cause. Fading, warping, and peeling veneer can turn
an otherwise perfect interior into an eyesore. Even in closed cars, these problems often
occur. My veneer on the door panels was deteriorated to the point that a simple sanding and
refinishing was not possible. Restoring just the door panels would not be practical as they
would not match the rest of the "old" veneer. It would be like painting the doors and fenders
and leaving the faded paint on the rest of the car.

When having my '64 Eldorado reupholstered, the different shops I talked to all said the same
thing, "We don't do wood." I'd always considered this an upholstery repair as opposed to
woodwork. However, this was just a simple woodworking project and I could do that. This
article will describe how to replace the thin veneer such as that in the 1964 Eldorado. It is
not specifically applicable to the thicker wood panels such as those in the 1966 Eldorado.

The first thing to do is to find the replacement veneer. I simply looked in the yellow pages
under wood or veneer and called around until I found someone who carried the mottled African
Baku that I needed. There are also mail order veneer operations I found on the Internet but I
prefer to see the wood before I buy it. The veneer you will need is unbacked which means that
it is just plain wood without anything attached to it. A backing would most likely make the
veneer too thick to lie flush in the panels. However, the orignal veneer had a very thin foil
glued to the back. Measure the panels you are replacing so you will know how much to buy. I
would reccomend buying at least fifty percent more than you need to allow for mistakes.

Next, buy a good Exacto (craft) knife at a hobby store. Also get some pointed blades. This
will be used to cut the veneer to the required shape. I can't stress enough how important
sharp blades are. I changed blades after each significant (long) cut just to be safe. ALWAYS
replace the cover over the blade after each cut before you put the knife down. This is tedious
but safe and should become a habit. If you've never worked with an Exacto knife, they are like
razor blades or surgical scalpels and can easily slice you to the bone!

While your still shopping, buy some stain and marine grade spar oil based polyurethane. I used
marine grade because I have a convertible. A marine grade may not be neccesary in a closed car
but it should work fine in any case. The stain I used was Minwax Wood Finish #2716 Dark Walnut
(one half pint). It is important to find an unfaded piece of veneer to match the right color
of stain. In my case, the AC vents covered a small section of the veneer whcih left it in
pristine condition. Look for other covered areas such as under door pulls to get a color

Some wide (3 ") masking tape will be required to put on the veneer as a temporary backing. This
stiffens it while you are handling it and prevents cracks and splinters when you cut it. Also,
some 220 grit sanding paper will be needed. I decided against using a power sander as the
veneer is very thin and there wasn't much surface area to sand. Other items needed are
finishing pads (or steel wool), contact cement, a wallpaper seam roller, rubbing compound, and
paste wax.

Now that you have the materials, it's time to remove the old wood. This was the most time
consuming part for me. The veneer is glued to pot metal panels on the doors, rear armrests,
ash tray, air vents, and glove box. Once these pieces are removed from the car, the old wood
needs to be stripped from the pot metal. I used a one inch scraper similar to a putty knife
but with a rigid blade. A small hammer came in handy to chisel off the more stubbornly
attached pieces (most all of it!). I've been told that there are pneumatic tools that can
accomplish this with ease. Bead blasting is another technique that may work. I cleaned the
excess glue remnants with mineral spirits. This left smooth shiny panels ready for new veneer.

Now you are ready to cut your veneer to fit the panels. All of the cuts I made were straight
except for the AC vents. Not only was this cut curved, it was a compound curve. As it curved,
it also bent. For these cuts, I made a pattern out of a piece of manilla folder because it was
thick enough to be sturdy and lasting, but still thin enough to bend. It took me several tries
until I got a pattern I was satisfied with. I started with a piece of paper and my Exacto
knife cutting a rough shape. I then traced this onto the manilla folder, cut it out, and
trimmed it to fit.

Most veneer comes in rolled sheets about eight to ten inches wide and about six or seven feet
long. Roll out the veneer on your work surface and lay the panels down next to the veneer.
Now you can plot which pieces of veneer will go on which panels allowing you to choose the
better looking grain patterns for the more visible panels. Remember that the grain should run
horizontal when the veneer is installed. Another consideration is the continuity of the grain
such that adjoining panels are cut from the same piece of veneer. When I look at the glove box
of my car and follow the grain to the right to the ash tray then passenger door and rear
armrest, it is all the same piece of wood that has been cut to fit the panels. This is one of
those little things done in a restoration that only the owner can see (or care about!).

When you know where your cuts are going to be, turn the veneer over and put the masking tape on
the back. With the veneer I used, the back was arbitrary, I could have used either side as the
face. The first cuts I made were the length cuts. This made the veneer easier to handle.
Next I made a rough cut to trim the excess width. Be careful of using the factory edge as one
of your edges. They are not always straight and are likely to have small splits or cracks. I
drew my edges on the veneer lightly with a fine mechanical pencil. The lines I drew were not
really to guide my cutting but to let me double check my measurements of what I would be
cutting. My actual cuts would be guided by a straight edge held firmly in place. For the
shorter pieces I used an eighteen inch bench rule as a straight edge. For the longer pieces, I
used a forty eight inch level.

As the old saying goes, measure twice and cut once. When making the cuts, press down hard on
the knife and keep it against the straight edge. A sharp blade makes a noticeable difference.
Dull blades will tear the wood instead of cutting it, resulting in a crooked, splintered edge.
Clamps could be useful to hold everything. I didn't use clamps but made sure to apply plenty
of pressure on my straight edge so it wouldn't move. The curved pieces must be cut freehand
and will require lots of patience. Note that any interior holes such as those for AC vents,
door pulls, or emblems can be cut out later.

Now you have perfectly cut veneer pieces ready to be sanded and finished. I lightly sanded the
veneer until it was smooth. Veneer is already relatively smooth and doesn't require much
sanding. Don't sand it so much that it becomes too smooth like glass. If you sand it this
much, you are likely to have worn down the thickness and possibly sealed the pores to the point
that the stain absorbtion will be inhibited. It is important to sand "lightly" without too
much pressure. Applying too much pressure can buckle the veneer and crack it. If you need to
change sand paper, do that instead of applying more pressure to worn paper.

Next I applied the stain per the manufacturer's directions letting each coat absorb for about
ten minutes before wiping it off. With a thin veneer, it is possible that the stain could soak
through and prevent the adhesive from adhering to the veneer. I did not find this to be the
case. Conversely, I was concerned that staining after I glued the veneer could loosen the
adhesive. I don't think it matters. I finished the veneer first so I wouldn't have to clean
up the pot metal panels. After the second coat of stain completely dried, I applied the first
coat of polyurethane using a new two inch brush. Again I followed the manufacturer's
directions which included sanding between coats. I used a marine grade spar oil based
ployurethane to coat the wood. This may yellow over time but as mine is a convertible and could
get wet, that's what I decided to use. Water based also tended to curl the veneer which made
it harder to attach. I applied three coats of polyurethane. After the first coat I lightly
sanded using 220 grit sandpaper. After the second and third coats, I used synthetic finishing
pads to rub the finish. Steel wool could also be used. It is important to do all of your
finishing in the same environment. Going outside to apply the polyurethane may help with the
fumes, but the temperature change could cause bubbles in the finish.

After removing the masking tape, you are ready to apply the glue and attach the veneer to the
panels. Again follow the manufacturer's directions on using the contact cement. You will
definately need to apply two coats of contact cement to the back of the veneer. The first coat
will absorb into the wood. Therefore, wait until applying the second coat to the veneer,
before applying any glue to the pot metal panels. As the directions state, once the cement is
tacky, put the two pieces together. I reccomend doing one piece at a time unless you are
familiar with contact cement. Use the wallpaper seam roller to apply pressure to the veneer
after attaching it. Make sure the roller and the veneer surfaces are clean or you may damage
the surface of the veneer. Put pressure on the veneer until you get cramps. Be careful not to
apply too much pressure where there are holes in the panels, else the veneer may crack.

Be very careful when using contact cement. Once it sticks, it is stuck. On longer pieces such
as door panels, if the alignment is off slightly at one end, it will be way off at the other
end. I placed wax paper under the veneer and slowly pulled it out on the longer pieces. This
allowed me to align the veneer with the panels with out it sticking. As the wax paper was
pulled out, I pressed the veneer in place. It helps at this point to have someone slowly pull
the wax paper out while you guide and apply the veneer.

For a finishing touch, I hand rubbed rubbing compound into the finish. After wiping it off, I
followed up with a two coats of regular carnauba paste wax. After reinstalling the panels on
fresh upholstery, the car interior truly looks new. Fresh, unfaded, unwarped, veneer in your
favorite car can really set off the interior. Doing it yourself provides that extra sense of
self satisfaction.

Great write-up Lance. Thanks for sharing. Just fyi, I have a roll of new veneer I recently picked up from an ex-Chapter member with a 63 Eldorado that has bought to install but never got around to it.  I will try to get some pictures posted to my parts page in the near future. If anyone is interested email me at 


Hi Jason. What kind of veneer is it?

Hi Lance. Thanks for your story and your venering manual. I wil use it during my restoration of the wood. Using the combination of glue and varnish was for me a big question mark. Some varnish softens the glue the veneer might come loose at that moment. But I will keep you posted about my work. I think i wil switch from the Narra wood to something else, because the Narra wood does not come in sheets, but only in small pieces of 30x40 centimers. But I will let you see the result.



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