Home Automobiles Auto Repair How to make a wood dashboard fascia - part 2 (Doing the wood)

How to make a wood dashboard fascia - part 2 (Doing the wood)

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Written by Scott Loehning   

‘When I first dragged the TR6 home, the wood dash fascia appeared to be worn but solid.  I figured a little re-gluing of the veneer, sanding and refinishing would bring the piece back to life.  But, to my dismay, when I removed the panel, it literally fell apart in my hands.  Years of moisture and neglect softened the plywood glue and separated the layers of wood.  What to do, what to do!?


New wood fascias are available through dealers and eBay, prices start at $300 plus.  Well, that’s a budget buster.  Besides, they all come in Dark Walnut or Mahogany, and I thought a different look was in order.  After close inspection, I figured I could make one myself and save about $250 plus.’


That’s what I wrote in part one of this series – ‘Making the Template’.  Now that the templates are made it is time to do the wood work.


Materials needed:


                            1 Sheet of 1/4” Veneered Plywood

                             Exterior grade wood glue (Titebond III)

                             Saber saw or cutter bit for the Dremel

                             Electric drill

                             Various drill bits – 1/8”, ¼”

                             Dremel tool with router attachment

                             Forstner bits

                             Small bench drill press

                             Adjustable circle/hole cutter

                             Hole saws

                             As many clamps as you can muster

                             5 wood screws

                             Router with 45 degree chamfer bit

                             Sharp tipped cutter bit for the Dremel

                             Sander and sand paper




Select your sheet of plywood.  Look for unusual and pleasing wood grain patterns.  Veneered plywood is available at local home improvement stores in a variety of types, grains and prices.  It’s available in oak, birch, maple and Philippine mahogany (Luan), with prices ranging from $26/sheet to $10/sheet.  For this project I chose to use the Luan, it has beautiful grain and color and is cheap. 


The general consensus on Luan is either you like it…or like it NOT so much.  Builders cite problems with warping when it is in contact with water. But I live in the coastal section of southeastern U.S. where humidity is king, and having used this material in leaky garages, covered porches and decks, have had no problems even when left unsealed.


The sheet selected has a neat pattern in the center that would look great on the dash.  Centering on the grain pattern, mark out a 12” x 40” rectangle and cut it out – this is the front of the fascia.  Cut out another 12” x 40” piece that will be glued to the front for proper width.


Spray the frontal wood piece and the back of the paper template with a light coat of spray adhesive.  Center the template over the desired grain and press down. Use scotch tape around the paper edges to further secure it.


Place the front piece over the back wood piece and secure with clamps.  DO NOT glue at this time.  With the 1/8” drill bit, drill pilot holes at the 5 points where the fascia is attached to the dash with screws.  Hold the two pieces together with wood screws at these five points.  These will act as alignment pegs later in the project.


Drill pilot holes at the radius points of all the circle cuts for the gauges.  With a ¼” drill bit, drill the corner radii in the rectangular switch cuts.  When all of this drilling is finished, separate the two wood pieces.


The gauges (fuel, oil, amp and temperature) are inset enough to bring the face of the gauge flush to the fascia.  To recreate this inset, use a drill with a 2 ¼” hole saw and cut the four small gauge holes on the front piece.  On the back piece, cut a hole in the same place with a 2” hole saw.   This will allow a lip 1/8” wide for the gauge face place to rest.


Cut the air vent holes all the way through with a 2 5/8”hole saw. No lip is necessary.  Cut the choke cable hole with a 1 1/8” hole saw, the signal light indicators with a 7/8” Forstner bit and the steering column radius with a 1 ½”hole saw.


Separate the two pieces and apply a thin and even coat of water resistant glue to the inner surfaces.  Center the dash indicator light lens retaining rings in position on the back piece.  Place the front piece in position using the alignment holes, then securely and evenly clamp the pieces together.  Before the glue sets, check the alignment of the lens retaining rings.  Set aside to dry.


To cut the glove compartment door, a jig must be made.  Make a copy of the glove box area of the dash template.  Measure and draw a line equal to the distance from the center of the router bit to the outside edge of the router base edge.  Glue this template to a thin piece of scrap plywood with a coat of spray adhesive.  Cut along the outside line with a saber saw, leaving just enough scrap along the edge to sand a good smooth cut.  Take care to smooth out any imperfections at the edges.  Any imperfection will be amplified in the router cut.



Prior to using this router jig on the dash wood, make a few test cuts on scrap to check for trueness.


When satisfied with the template, clamp securely in place on the REVERSE side of the fascia.  Using a ‘V’ cutter bit and the Dremel with a router attachment, slowly cut around the template with a depth no greater than 1/16”.  Repeat making the cuts, increasing the depth of each only slightly.  Continue to make cuts until the tip of the cutter barely pierces the outer skin of the front of the fascia leaving a very thin cut at the face.  (Tip:  Using a piece of sheet metal placed on the underside of the cut will stop the bit from cutting beyond the surface of the wood)


I decided to leave the speedometer and tachometer to sit out proud on the facia rather than recess them as the other gauges.  These are cut with an adjustable circle cutter and small drill press. Set the cutters to same diameter as the inside of the gauge housing.  This will leave the gauge bezel to mount flush with the fascia.


With the Dremel equipped with a cutter bit, cut out the rectangular holes for the switches.  On the reverse of the old dash, there is a metal back plate

That will make an excellent template.  The bezel edge of the switches is barely 1/16” wide, cut the holes slightly smaller than the switch base and file the opening until the switch fits snug.


Using a saber saw or Dremel and cutting bit, cut the dash outline out.  Leave a little slack at the edges and sand to shape to achieve a sharp and clean edge.  On the reverse side of the dash, cut a 45 degree chamfer around the edge with the router.  Leave a very small lip, about 1/16” at the frontal edge unchamfered.



Finally, sand and clean all edges and cuts.  It’s time to fit small hardware, stain and add a finish to your prize.  That stage will be covered my article entitled “Wood Dash part 3 – Finishing”.


















Comments (1)add comment

bossypants said:

Wow! This is an impressively comprehensive how to! The pictures are an asset and very appealing. Anyone who wants to take on this project will be in good hands with these instructions!
September 09, 2011
Votes: +0

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