One of the most common things associated with classic trucks is a wood bed floor. Whether it's used and abused or restored to perfection, unlike a modern steel floor, it requires some extra care. However, most classic truck projects begin with little, if any, wood to work with, so more often than not we're forced to start from scratch. Fortunately, there's a wide array of companies out there that offer everything from basic wood slats to complete beds-it's just a matter of picking the one that best suits your needs.

My first attempt at assembling and finishing a wood bed floor wasn't so stellar. Some of you may recall a few years back when I documented the wood going into my '55 Stepside. Despite working with an excellent kit, I got hasty and opted not to prefit the wood in the bed before varnishing. Big mistake. On top of that, unaware of the consequences, I used steel wool to prep the wood, as well as in-between coats of varnish. Another big mistake. First off, after finishing, the wood was more than a tight squeeze in the bed box, which forced me to trim down the edges on a few planks. In doing so, it broke the seal created by the varnish, and although I attempted to reseal it, there were still some open pores just ready for moisture to penetrate. And that's where the steel wool's negative effects came into play. You see, the tannic acid in some woods-especially oak-will adversely react with any steel fiber particles left in the grain, causing black stains. After only a few months, the beautiful wood in my '55 started to discolor, mainly around the trimmed areas. There is a cure for this (oxylic acid), but the best cure is to not use steel wool in the first place. After the story came out in the magazine, Bruce Horkey was kind enough to give me a call and "educate" me on my errors. Guess who I went to when the time came to install a new wood floor in my '53?!

While the lesson learned was an expensive one, to say the least, it's something that won't be repeated. And as you witnessed last month, I went so far as to completely rebuild the entire bed (a decision made "after" the wood was ordered), ensuring the hind-end of my truck would be top notch from every aspect-this ain't gonna be no hauler! With the box built, squared, painted, and raring to go, I was finally able to plan out the wood assembly and finishing project, which would end up requiring way more time than I had ever anticipated.

As fate would have it, the Horkey's wood kit fit in the bed like a glove, literally. There were no modifications necessary-no wood trimming, no sheetmetal panel alignment, nothing. I was pretty amazed, but considering I was working with a "brand-new" bed rather than one of any substantial age, why shouldn't it fit right? Step one was out of the way-it was all a matter of preparing and finishing the wood properly.

Along with the wood slats, stainless dividers/hardware, and a varnishing kit, Horkey also included a detailed instruction package. Instead of watching the news one evening, I spent some time going over all the information. After learning that a quality wood finish doesn't happen over the course of a weekend, I began to fully realize just why my first bed wood project was ill-fated long before it even made it into the truck. Preparation is one thing; taking your time and applying the right amount of varnish in the proper manner is just as important, if not more. It's like the difference between an Earl Schieb paint job and one that requires a second mortgage on your house (no offense, Earl). With the bed wood, though, you can get a concours-quality finish without having to break the bank-it just takes time.

Being a magazine editor, time isn't always on your side. This was not a project that was going to be compromised, though, as you will see. Even if you've never sanded a piece of wood in your life, finishing a bed wood kit is something anyone can accomplish if they put their mind to it. Prefit the wood. Prepare it properly. Finish it with finesse. It's that easy. And you're about to see how it's done, starting with the trial install. And since patience is a really big factor, you're going to have to wait till next month to finish the job up right with layers and layers of varnish.