A chip off the old dresser
January 16, 2006 6:05 AM   Subscribe

How to repair or replace veneer?

I bought this dresser a few years ago at the Salvation Army. I was going to sell it and buy something newer, but I decided I like the shape too much to get rid of it. It has an elegance that a lot of new pieces of furniture don't have.

As you can see from this picture, it's got some water damage to the veneer, and several places where the veneer has chipped off. What's my best bet here? Is there a good way to strip off veneer and put new on? Is there any way to just repair the chips in the lower drawers, so that I can keep the thin strips of inlay between the sections?
posted by MsMolly to Home & Garden (8 answers total)
I would guess that it's going to be very difficult to find a close match to that veneer. In other words, you would probably end up refinishing the entire piece to get a good end result which would mean some skills for getting the inlays to look right.
Last time I was doing this kind of stuff, you could get veneers that would iron on. It's much easier than trying to get the right amount of adhesive. I would think it would be expensive to purchase enough for the entire piece.
IMO, if you like the piece a lot and don't mind putting some money into it, then you'd incur a lot less stress by paying someone to refinish it for you.
A good restorer would be able to look at it and tell you if it was actually worth the investment. (9 times out of 10 it isn't)
posted by medium format at 6:21 AM on January 16, 2006

This sounds like one of those heartbreaking "Antiques Roadshow" stories about to happen.

"Well, if you hadn't attempted to restore the veneer, its original wear would have made it worth $25,000, but the best you'll be able to do now is close to $400."

Just sayin'. :-)
posted by disillusioned at 6:50 AM on January 16, 2006

Yes, veneer work is tough. And even if you replace the veneer, the patch won't match. Commercial furniture is finished with stains and finishes that you cannot duplicate at home. Make sure the piece isn't valuable, then sand it down and paint it?
posted by LarryC at 7:35 AM on January 16, 2006

I used to watch The Furniture Guys religiously when I was small. Oddly their website makes no mention of their long running show on TLC.

I think the right thing to do is remove the whole piece of veneer and replace it with a new one, which means finding some of that particular type of wood. Then create a stain to match using powdered pigments.
posted by joegester at 9:05 AM on January 16, 2006

Response by poster: Hah, disillusioned! Yes, I suppose I should make sure this won't have the Antiques Roadshow folks shaking their heads at me someday. The piece is made by The West Michigan Furniture Company, which from what I can tell via Google existed in Holland, Michigan, from 1880 or so up to fairly recent times.

So yes, I'll research if there's any value to it before trying anything. Otherwise I might just put new veneer on the two little drawers at the top and leave the bottom drawers alone. That way I could pick a veneer that would contrast well with the rest of the piece even if it was obvious that it wasn't original. What do y'all think?
posted by MsMolly at 12:02 PM on January 16, 2006

You might want to hop on the Discussion Boards at Fine Woodworking and ask the folks there for advice. They are terrific at answering questions like this, including where to find places to purchase great veneer stock.
posted by jeanmari at 1:38 PM on January 16, 2006

MsMolly, that is a good plan. Two smallish pieces of iron-on veneer shouldn't set you back too much, and the contrasting idea sneaks around trying to match the finish.
posted by LarryC at 1:42 PM on January 16, 2006

FYI It's impossible to get both the new veneer to match the old and the new veneer to match the old 5 years from now. IE: you can get everything to match now and then when the new wood ages it won't match or you can hope the new wood matches in five years and maybe adjust it a bit then. Your idea of going to a contrast is a good one.
posted by Mitheral at 2:45 PM on January 17, 2006

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