Restoring 1950's veneer dresser
May 26, 2020 9:05 AM   Subscribe

My dresser is a mid-century walnut veneer tallboy the same as this one but with way more dings and scratches. The handles on the top drawer have been replaced with knobs, but the holes for the handles remain.

1. The surface blemishes include scratches, edge wear, and one area of missing veneer. What can I use to make them blend in more? Is a wax pencil the best thing?
2. I would like to replace the knobs with something much more similar to the original handles. Here is a better photo. The holes are spaced 1 inch apart. Recommendations for search terms or links would be most appreciated.
posted by sizeable beetle to Home & Garden (7 answers total) 4 users marked this as a favorite
Do you have any photos of your actual dresser? Restoration strategies will vary a lot depending on the specific nature of the damage. E.g., the size of the missing veneer section, the depth of the scratches, etc. 50s veneer typically had a decent thickness to it, so for some of the damage, you might be able to sand it down and refinish the area (or the whole thing if you're feeling super ambitious).
posted by aecorwin at 9:20 AM on May 26, 2020

Watch some videos from this channel. He does amazing work. Not a tutorial exactly but he shows and explains his repair work in detail.
posted by Crystalinne at 9:20 AM on May 26, 2020 [1 favorite]

Best answer: It's a pain to search by 1" centers, I only found a few, but I bailed. Diligence may be rewarding. Handles, more
You can get tinted 'markers' to fix the scratches. I use old English Scratch cover and a small paintbrush to darken scratches a bit.
Missing veneer is a difficult repair, but doing the other fixes will be a good start.

I worked with my antiques-dealer uncle for a while. We used a 1:1 mixture of Boiled Linseed Oil and Turpentine to clean furniture. Then the same stuff as a treatment to build a finish. Every application cleans a bit, but leaves a bit more finish. The saying is Once a Day for a Week, Once a Week for a Month, Once a Month for a Year, Once a Year for Life. I revived the beautiful old woodwork in my old house this way. It works on any non-polyurethane finish; in the 50s, most finishes were still varnish-based. 1 or 2 applications should be enough on a poly-ed finish. it will feel damp, and cure over a few days. It is combustible, store in a closed container, you'll want to use the same rags, store in a small closed container. A lidded tim is my preference.
posted by theora55 at 9:56 AM on May 26, 2020 [2 favorites]

Here are some videos about repairing veneer:
The index is here:
posted by bdc34 at 10:03 AM on May 26, 2020

Best answer: I don't know if this service will work for the vintage Celebration line:
How do I get replacement Bassett drawer pulls and other decorative hardware?
Please contact Hinges and Handles, which is a locator service that will try to locate something that will fit in the holes already drilled in your furniture. You may email a picture to or call 800-533-4782.
posted by Iris Gambol at 10:14 AM on May 26, 2020 [1 favorite]

Here's a place that sells reproduction hardware. Here's another. Both are on the pricey side. You might find something much cheaper at Lowe's, Home Depot, or another large hardware store.
posted by Kirth Gerson at 6:20 AM on May 27, 2020

The hardware companies > Kirth Gerson linked will send catalogs, which I find addictive reading.
posted by theora55 at 7:07 AM on May 28, 2020

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