In most contemporary homes, you won’t find any furniture that isn’t veneered. Even though the vast majority of us would choose to have solid wood furniture rather than veneered wood furniture, veneered furniture is an excellent way to furnish your home for a variety of reasons, including having a limited budget and having young children.
Sadly, over time, veneered furniture can chip, fade, or just start looking dated all by itself. The majority of us, at this point, have started to consider whether or not we should replace our units. The fact that the core of the furniture, which lies beneath the veneer on the surface, is not in as good of condition as the veneer is a great disappointment.
Therefore, rather than getting rid of something and then replacing it, why not spend a couple of hours of your time on an upcycling project that will give the things you already have a brand new purpose and a fresh start?
To begin, you will need to take out all of the drawers from the piece of veneered furniture that you have. Even if there are no drawers, it is still a good idea to take the doors off because there is a possibility that they have an additional, very thin layer of wood. In addition to that, you are free to detach any hardware that has been attached up until this point.
Sand the surface of your furniture, beginning with sandpaper that has an 80-grit grit rating as the next step in the process. When using this kind of sandpaper, make sure to use long, even strokes so that you can get a smooth finish without creating waves or lines in the surface of the veneer you are working with. Sanding should be continued until there are no more high or low spots left behind in the area where the veneer was removed.
Sandpaper with a grit of 180 can be used to remove the scratches left behind by sandpaper with a grit of 80. When using this higher-grit paper, you need to be very careful not to round off any of the edges or corners of the piece you are working on. Make use of this grit instead to smooth out any unevenness that may have been caused by the first step.
It is time to start removing the veneer from your furniture now that all of the preliminary rough work has been completed. The very first thing that you are going to require is either a heat gun or a vacuum system that can be connected to an air compressor. Even though you will only be using these tools to loosen up the glue underneath, they are not necessary; however, we do recommend them because they cut down on dust and damage caused to your furniture during the subsequent step.
When you have the heat gun and vacuum system in your possession, begin by heating up a small section of the veneering so that it can be scraped off with a putty knife or a stiff card scraper. You will need to continue this process all the way along the edges and corners of your piece in order to smooth out any bumps that may have appeared. When the glue is heated, it should begin to soften, making it possible to cut through it with a utility knife or an X-acto knife, whichever one is the sharpest. Now, if you are working with a veneer that has a thicker layer, you might discover that this method does not work as well as you had hoped. This is due to the fact that it takes quite a bit of time to work through large panels or sheets of veneer using this method. To solve this issue, you could start removing the veneer by pulling it up with a heat gun, and then finish the job with a putty knife, scraper, or other tool. Heat guns are available at most hardware stores. You will want to make sure that you work slowly and carefully no matter which method you choose because if you damage the core of the furniture, it will be extremely difficult, if not impossible, to repair without beginning the process all over again.
After you have eliminated all of the top layers, you should now remove any staples or nails that were used to attach the drawer fronts. Again, exercise extreme caution when stretching these panels to their limit because they are prone to ripping or tearing beyond the point of repair.
You can use wood filler at this point to fill in any holes or gaps that were left behind after you removed your top paneling. After it has dried, sand it down until it is flat and smooth.
In addition, make an effort to complement the color of your furniture as best you can. (Important: If you intend to paint over the top of your finished piece, then you do not need to complete this step, and you can skip it if you so choose.)
After you have completed all of your creative work, it is time to apply a finish to what you have created. In order to attach any new pieces that were left behind when the bottom paneling was removed, you will need to make use of a veneer adhesive that comes in a spray can.
When everything is dry, you can start reattaching the drawer fronts by either nailing them in with small finishing nails or stapling them back into place, depending on how they were originally attached. Once everything is dry, you can go ahead and start reattaching the drawer fronts. Once more, if you do not feel confident enough to complete these steps on your own, we strongly advise you to seek the assistance of a professional.
Now you can finish putting together your piece of furniture and attach any new veneer that you may have cut out to replace a missing section by either stapling or nailing it on. If everything is done correctly, they should fit like a glove. As soon as the raw edges are dry, go ahead and use a nice clear topcoat or varnish all over them. This will remove any potential sharp corners that could snag on clothing. In addition, make sure to sand the entire piece one more time with fine-grit sandpaper to remove any roughness that may have been caused by the application of the glue or finish.
Teak oil, wipe-on poly, and Danish oil are three of our favorite types of finishes for furniture.
You can give an old piece of furniture that would have otherwise been thrown away a second chance at life by using a few simple supplies and a little bit of patience.
Don’t worry about getting started on this process on your own veneer furniture just yet if you aren’t quite ready to do so just yet. Because we at RetroRenovation know what it’s like to be completely overworked by a project, our first piece of advice is to consult with a professional whenever possible. We cannot recommend Vintage Design Co. enough to anyone who lives in the state of New Jersey. They will take care of everything involved in restoring your vintage finds, from locating the appropriate pieces and repairing them to sanding down and refinishing any items that are required.
We have relied on them to restore the vast majority of our furniture, and the quality of their work has far exceeded our expectations.
P.S. We would like to extend a heartfelt thank you to RetroRenovation reader “Archie McGillicuddy” for contributing this wonderful tutorial and helpful tips!