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Old 05-25-2011, 09:59 PM   #1
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Question Old Walnut paneling different color than new walnut paneling

I am in the process of refurbishing my second Airstream, a 1966 tradewind and have removed the rear bath to replace the rear sheet of floor decking. I had to also remove the bath bulkhead wood panels and hanging closet and it looks like I will be removing all of the 1/4'' walnut paneling bulkheads as leaking plumbing vents took their toll on the paneling.
My problem is I can not find walnut that even comes close to the original color of the walnut paneling which is a rich golden brown ( yes I am color challanged as my wife puts it). I am lucky to have a wonderful exotic wood warehouse here in Franklin Nc but the new walnut panels are darker with more of a blue/gray color. This must be an american black walnut paneling. What type of walnut was used on the 66 international models?
Any help would be appreciated. I had thought I could just replace the bad panels but if I can not match finish then I have to replace all the walnut paneling.
Thanks
John Pittman
1966 24' tradewind
1969 31' soveriegn
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Old 05-25-2011, 10:05 PM   #2
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I doubt it's actually walnut. I have the same thing in my 70 Overlander and I suspect it's stained maple. You could try different stains on some maple or birch and see if you can get a match. Good luck
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Old 05-25-2011, 10:07 PM   #3
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I think that it's just part of the fact that the very best of wood finishes were used up years ago, and won't be seen again any time soon.

The only suggestion I have is that perhaps the best way to find something closer to your original wood is to try some of the RV Wreckers, like Colaws, for example.

They could have models of Airstream from the same year as yours. It seems likely to me that Airstream would use the same supplier for most of their walnut in a given year, across all the models they made in that year.

To be sure though, you would have to actually take a piece of the your wood to the wreckers and see how well it matched.

Good luck! Short of that, you would have to strip the old wood (and the new wood too, if it came with a finish) and then try to find a new finish that had enough colouring in it to make the old and new woods match, within reason.
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Old 05-25-2011, 10:33 PM   #4
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They used maple, mahogany and beech veneer - our 69 GT definitely had mahogany veneer with maple hardwood framing around all cabinets. The 63 GT was a beech veneer again with maple hardwood framing.
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Old 05-25-2011, 10:39 PM   #5
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There are wood refinishing people that restore kitchen cabinets for insurance companies for a living so if you can find one through a adjuster you might can get enough information to match your wood. You can bleach the new wood and lighten it but you still will need to adjust color.
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Old 05-25-2011, 11:42 PM   #6
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Not that it matters in this case but in matching the Walnut plastic veneer in my 72 Tradewind I used. Red Oak 1/8" paneling or veneers and stained with Minwax Provential 215. maybe they modeled the 70s fake woodgrain trailers after the 60s real wood.
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Old 05-26-2011, 01:30 AM   #7
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Walnut

Keep in mind that walnut is one of the very few wood species that will lighten over time. Most will darken once they are exposed to light; Jatoba becomes a rich dark red, maple and oak tend to yellow, etc. Really depends on the species, but walnut will lighten.
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Old 05-26-2011, 06:38 AM   #8
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Woodworking professionals, faced with a conservation/restoration project, will search for a species which has the closest grain and figure blend with the original material. It is certainly true that real walnut migrates to a lighter color over time and exposure to light. New walnut can be bleached, using a two-step process. This removes most of the traditional walnut color. Penetrating stains or wiping stains can then be used to replicate the existing color. Topcoat with conversion varnish or urethane depending on whether you can spray or brush apply.
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Old 05-27-2011, 09:04 PM   #9
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Wink

Quote:
Originally Posted by gheuer View Post
Woodworking professionals, faced with a conservation/restoration project, will search for a species which has the closest grain and figure blend with the original material. It is certainly true that real walnut migrates to a lighter color over time and exposure to light. New walnut can be bleached, using a two-step process. This removes most of the traditional walnut color. Penetrating stains or wiping stains can then be used to replicate the existing color. Topcoat with conversion varnish or urethane depending on whether you can spray or brush apply.
Thanks for the info. I took my old hanging closet assembly I had removed to the wood shop today along with the double sided walnut panels I was returning. We took the closet assembly from the Airstream in and compared it side by side with cherry, and mahogany. The closet had both an old bulkhead and the solid wood use to construct the frame. We could not match the interior solid wood from the closet frame to any of of the 20 woods he had in stock. Looked like old faded walnut and darker walnut were mixed together for the framing. We noticed the old paneling side by side veneer strips were not matched like they are today. Some of the old veneers were quartersawn and some were flat cut and then glued up side by side.
I did find out an interesting thing about American Black walnut though. It seems they now steam the wood to darken the color and make the color more uniform. The wood shop owner showed me some rough cut natural non steamed walnut and there was more color variation with some color variations looking like my old airstream wood.
I will go back next week to try more grain matching with some of the other woods.
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Old 05-29-2011, 10:53 PM   #10
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Can you post a picture

I've been a professional finisher and restorer for many years. If you can post a couple pictures I can probably tell what you have. Most finishes can be matched but sometimes you need professional grade materials and skills to do it.
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Old 06-06-2011, 08:52 PM   #11
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Walnut or not paneling in 66 tradewind

Thanks for looking at some of the photos of the paneling. The first photo is of one of the hanging closet doors. The next photo shows the door with some sample steamed solid walnut with clear watco oiled finish. The clear finish on the sample wood show up as a deep dark brown but with none of the reds as on the old door. I just went back to our wood warehouse and saw and old walnut desk with clear finish that looked like my old door. I also looked at unsteamed solid walnut planks that had the redish tinge instead of darker violets on steamed wood. No unsteamed walnut paneling avaliable?
Thanks,
John P.
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Old 06-06-2011, 08:53 PM   #12
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Sorry, the second photo shows a closet bulkhead with the sample woods with clear finish.
John P.
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