Have you ever looked at a piece with great bones, only to find rippled or missing veneer and decided it’s not salvageable? This is a common problem that often lands otherwise beautiful furniture in the landfill, but it doesn’t have to! Repairing veneer damage on a solid piece is entirely possible with a little bit of prep work, a few tools, and some elbow grease.
These great dressers provide good examples of repairable veneer damage that almost left them both homeless.
Wood veneer is quite common on vintage furniture; but what is it? Wood veneer is a thin slice of real wood – often from a rare or otherwise expensive cut of wood with striking grain or coloration. This is applied over a strong base of a solid, often less attractive species of wood that creates the structure of the furniture. The wood veneer basically dresses up the structural bones of your furniture.
Below, you can see wood veneer that has been damaged over the years from moisture which has loosened it from it’s base and caused warping or rippling in the delicate wood covering. But all is not lost! There are some beautiful, salvageable veneers on these dressers and the bones are healthy and solid!
Sometimes, a slightly lifted veneer layer can be re-adhered to the base with wood glue and a syringe; however this damage was beyond repair, so it needed to be removed: remember, there is a solid wood base under that thin damaged layer, so removing veneer will not harm the structural integrity of the furniture.
Since it is thin, wood veneer can be carefully scored with a razor to remove only the damaged portion (above). Next, a putty knife can be used to gently separate and lift the damaged wood from the base (below).
You definitely want to use gloves and safety glasses for this step to prevent splinters!
The area is then leveled up with wood filler and sanded smooth.
Once it’s smooth, the surface is ready for a finish coat. I have not found a filler that takes stain well, so I plan on painting the patched areas.
We decided Fusion’s Midnight Blue was a good choice for these dressers as it would show off the wood and vintage handles well. The exposed wood was cleaned with TSP Alternative and Mineral Spirits before being rejuvenated with Hemp Oil.
And there you have it – salvaging gorgeous pieces by simply investing some time to remove and repair damaged veneer!
Once in a while, a piece of furniture comes into our workshop that is truly an honor to work on. This particularly large hutch was definitely one of those as it defines the importance of family and preserving memories.
This gigantic hutch was handmade by our customer’s great-grandfather, grandfather, and father. It is a piece of this family’s history as it has a consistent presence in childhood memories and even in the background of countless family photographs through generations. We found it stored neatly in a locker where it was waiting for both a new family home it could fit into (did I mention it’s HUGE), and a little bit of updating to fit into a modern home.
This was such a fun, quirky piece to work on with lots of decisions along the way to make sure it’s character was preserved while the finish was updated to fit into it’s new home. For instance, we found a ruler built into the top of the upper doors (it must have been just the right size to fill a gap). Of course, we made sure to preserve this bit of historical character and not paint over it.
We also understand that the scallops along the front were traced using a handy dandy coffee can so they were also kept intact. The mirror along the back had warped over time and provided for a curved, fun-house appearance, so the decision was made to replace that with an updated shiplap. And, while my first inclination was to sand off all of the drippy shellac layers and fill and sand smooth all of the dents and divots…I needed to stand down and go with the character of the piece to preserve those bits of history. Ultimately, I hope we balanced preservation with modern utility.
This turned out to be like working on two large pieces of furniture at once. For the hutch top, the large, curvy “fun-house” mirror needed to be removed first and the space updated with shiplap.
after mirror removal
Then, doors were removed, crown molding was installed, and a few areas tightened up. Unfortunately, the hinges had been shellacked over at some point in the past, so they were incredibly difficult to remove intact. We went hinge shopping! A bit of Midnight Blue paint started to pull the top together nicely.
Adding crown molding
We worked on the doors, drawers and hardware separately. The owners decided to keep the original hardware for historical integrity and simply update the look with paint, so the hardware was cleaned and painted with Fusion’s Vintage Gold Metallic.
Next, we see the process for prepping and finishing this piece.
1) After washing thoroughly with TSP Alternative,
2) the shiny shellacked surface was lightly scuff-sanded to provide some tooth for the paint to adhere and then cleaned again to remove sanding dust. After that,
3) two coats of Midnight Blue were applied using microfiber roller and Staalmeester brush. After 3 weeks cure time for the paint to evaporate all water residue,
4) two coats of polyurethane (FUSION Patina Gel Stain and Top Coat) were applied.
This is an example from the cabinet doors; the whole process was applied to the entire piece.
Original yellowing poly finish
Light scuff to knock down the shine
Painted with FUSION Midnight Blue
Coated with clear FUSION poly for added protection
Now onto the bottom half!
One side had originally been built-in to adjoining cabinetry or a wall, so it wasn’t finished on the end. This is a good view of the plywood sheets the piece was largely constructed from. Patching, painting, and building out the trim to match as well as possible came next.
Upon arival – this side used to be built into a bank of cabinets so it was unfinished
Painted with basecoat
Trim added to match the finished side opposite
SFO and Gel Stain were applied to the top to get the best possible color and finish. Keep in mind, this top is made from a sheet of rough plywood, so trying to update the look without losing the character and charm of the homemade piece was a challenge.
A piece this large shifts and adjusts under it’s own weight each time it is moved. While this may have been level at one time, by this time, the plywood bottom wasn’t even or finished off in a way that I would want dragging across my wood floors. We added adjustable metal feet to help level it and protect the floors in its new home.
Once we flipped it back up, finished up paint and started reassembling, it really came together nicely!
Just a few odds and ends like adding magnetic latches to the bouncy lower doors and this piece was ready to be delivered! And that’s where it gets scary! Anyone who lives in the Northeast understands the state of the roads by the end of winter after a season of plows and salt has opened gaping potholes all along the roadways. We double-triple wrapped, strapped and tied these pieces in our enclosed trailer and crossed our fingers for the entire 45 minute drive!
Here she is in her permanent home!
This wall looks like it was made for this piece of furniture; and the customer’s color choices are spot on for the interior of this home! Thank You so much, Stacy, for trusting us with updating your family heirloom for the next generation!
Revive. Refresh. Restore. Lakeside Restoration.
All of the FUSION products used to transform this piece are available (along with personal instruction!) at both our brick and mortar locations and our online store.
Lakeside Restoration 1476 Monroe Ave Rochester, NY 14618
“We’re not bringing that home…the leg is broken off!” … “it’s too heavy….too big…” … “it’s ugly”…
These are actual words that were spoken as we stopped to retrieve this sad desk. There were also others that will not be repeated here…
All were quite true, except for the part about not bringing it home. It desperately needed to come home with us!
The very first thing we did was use Bondo, epoxy adhesive and some creative carving to reattach the broken leg. Since it’s a weight-bearing part, glue or putty would not have been strong enough, and there were also a few chunks missing which required re-creating the profile by carving into the dried Bondo surface. After carving, sanding and painting, it is hard to tell unless you know which leg it is and look very closely!
Decor trends go through phases; faux-painted furniture was all the rage in the 1960’s, and you can find lots of pieces painted from that time frame in mustard or avocado with this faux wood grained antiquing finish.
Say what you will about them, I credit these sometimes heinous finishes for protecting lots of beautiful wood for decades! Paint doesn’t harm wood furniture; in fact, it can preserve it nicely as you will see on this particular desk.
This desk had one potentially fatal issue; Mildew or mold infestation can be a serious and sometimes unfixable problem with older furniture stored in damp places. No one wants strange odors lingering in their furniture and they certainly do not want spore contamination to spread from furniture to the items stored in it. Fortunately, the paint on this desk actually protected the wood from mold/mildew that had started growing on the painted surface; the mildew had not infiltrated the interior, and once the paint was chemically stripped, the wood beneath was beautiful and free of any mold infection. A light wash inside and out of the entire piece with an anti-mildew agent ensured any sneaky spores wouldn’t take hold elsewhere. Probably unnecessary in this case but better safe than sorry. (Using a mask and gloves is important anytime mildew issues are addressed).
As you can see here, we started sanding off the painted finish to get a peek at what was underneath before deciding to use a mild chemical stripper on the rest of it.
I don’t know about you, but I was THRILLED by what I found underneath this corner – look at that wood!!! Sanding can take a LONG time, and can be physically demanding both on the person sanding and the veneer (as was the case here). Chemically stripping off old paint can be an easy – but messy – first step with just minimal sanding required after to even out the finish.
We did find a few cigarette burns in the surface (another sign of past trends) that were gently sanded out; creative wood stain application camouflaged the remaining scars. A couple of coats of polyurethane on top, and this desk is well-protected for another few decades!
Did I mention in previous posts that I’m a sucker for Fusion’s Midnight Blue paint? Well, here’s more evidence!
While moving this desk into our spare bedroom/home office, we realized how the leg was initially broken off….this heavy desk is huge and required some creative angling to make it through the undersized doorways in our older home! But it was SO worth it, and she will not be moving again unless we do!
All of the products used to refinish this desk are available at our shops, Vintage Matters at 7060 Ridge Road Sodus, NY and Lakeside Restoration 1476 Monroe Ave Rochester, NY – or enjoy at our online store at https://lakeside-restoration.myshopify.com/
This duo was on it’s last stop before the trash heap, so despite having no room … they came home with me. After further inspection, most of the parts were contained in the drawers, and the interior was in great shape! Bonus!!
Whenever someone suggests that simply slapping paint on wood shouldn’t take too much skill or time…. I recall how every clamp in my shop was doing double duty for weeks splicing these dressers back together. And did you ever notice how a dresser seems to triple in size once you remove the drawers? Then comes the washing (inside and out) dewaxing (yes, that is an invented word), and lightly sanding wood filler and years of blemishes. Each drawer interior then gets cleaned and sealed, often with hemp oil for an invisible finish that freshens up the interior wood to look like new.
Midnight Blue to the Rescue
One of my all-time favorite FUSION Mineral Paint colors, Midnight Blue is the perfect Little Black Dress for just about any piece of furniture. To obtain a smooth finish, I used a microfiber roller and a handmade Staalmeester Ultimate One brush for the Perfect Finish! I highly recommend the Staalmeester Ultimate brushes; with the caveat that you may never be able to go back to using a ‘common’ brush.
I’m partial to the look of real wood on the top of my dresser, so after piecing veneer back into place (the ultimate puzzle!) and patching some spots on the tops, I used the subtle opacity of FUSION’s new Double Espresso Gel Stain to camouflage the repairs while providing a durable wood finish. This product is great – especially for a piece that may not take well to sanding off the old finish to raw wood due to the veneer’s fragility.
Capturing the true color is challenging in my space, I’ll keep trying to get a good glamour shot – but the After is definitely an improvement, even with substandard lighting. Along the way there was a brief trip to Rochester’s ReHouse Architectural Salvage to secure a single matching handle to replace a missing piece….that place is a life saver!!!
All of the products and tools used on this project are available for purchase (along with how-to instructions) at our shops on Monroe Ave in Brighton and Ridge Road in Sodus as well as at our online store;
I just started working on a commissioned desk and found I was ridiculously excited about it! Folks are heading back to school, back to college, furnishing new offices…It is desk-season, after all! So, I couldn’t help but take a little stroll down my memory lane of desk projects.
I have a soft spot for a good desk; always have.
After all, I have spent many, many years behind a desk studying, reading, writing, working… and now, refinishing and reinventing them! Did I mention – I really love a good desk!
What did I ask for when I turned 18? You guessed it; a good desk! One to get me through college, graduate school & beyond…of course I still have it – it’s a good desk! We have at least 7 desks currently active at home…
After I refinished the desk below, my daughter announced she wanted it for her room. A proud Momma moment if I’ve ever had one! It’s a Beaut! And, of course, she has it in her room.
Big desks, little desks, white desks, black desks, smooth desks, distressed desks, writing desks, executive desks, secretary desks, children’s desks, even coastal desks!!
This is just a small sampling and doesn’t include some really bizarre, historic, and unique desks yet to be chronicled!
Do you have a favorite type of furniture to hoard…ahem, Collect? Refinish?
Is it Desks?!
Even if it isn’t desks, I’d love to hear and see what your favorite flavor of furniture is for collecting or restoring!
Also, please let us know if you’d like to know more about any of these pieces and the process that went into finishing them for future blog posts!
This dresser project has been many many many months long. She has actually been completed for some time now, but I hadn’t gotten around to taking her “After” pictures until just recently.
Here is where she started; A room full of project furniture…of course. Try to ignore the rest and focus on the tall, yellowish French Provincial dresser to the right of center.
She was so very tired looking but was a quality, solid wood piece and very well constructed. The whole set of provincial bedroom furniture came from the original owners so there were no loose joints or missing pieces to contend with.
We decided to upgrade my daughter’s dresser (which had been a roadside find) at our summer cottage and replace it with this one. There are also two matching twin head/footboards that will eventually go into her room once they are revived. The only problem was trying to fit the furniture style into the relaxed family cottage. I’m not fan of distressed shabby furniture, so this would be an interesting cognitive exercise for me.
I like natural wood accents on my painted furniture projects, so the first step was easy – strip the top and see what was under there! The sweet cherry wood under that factory paint finish was then stained and sealed. I painted the body of the dresser creamy white (FUSION Mineral Paint Casement) and struggled a bit with what to do with the details. Paint a darker cream to highlight the features? A deeply contrasting color? Leave it all white (my significant other liked that idea). How to make it fit into the cottage…
After a few false starts I finally used FUSION’s Little Whale from their Tones for Tots line. Turns out to be a very cottagy (is that a word…it is now) accent color.
A little taste of Before and After.
I really like the way this turned out! I had originally planned to paint the hardware a brushed steel color, but frankly we needed the dresser installed STAT! I had already passed along my daughter’s old dresser and her room was turning into one big pile of homeless clothes. So I put the original handles back on with plans to update the finish later (we all know how that works…). But I think the contrast has grown on me – I like them just the way they are. And I’m not just saying that because I think I’ll never get to the task of refinishing them. Really.
If you look closely, one of the updated provincial headboards is to the right of the dresser (painted in the same Little Whale blue) – but that will be for another blog post – and once the other bed is finished!
What are your thoughts about the hardware color? Would you have chosen a softer or bolder accent color to go with the style of the lakeside cottage?
Rethink the piece. Revive the parts. Restore the function.
Maybe it’s because it’s been a LONG winter in Upstate NY; or perhaps it’s because our family just returned from visiting the beach in Florida; maybe it even has something to do with the obsession I have had with painting furniture either black or white or black or off-white…But I felt the need for some Cheesy Fun Furniture!I busted out of my rut by jumping into some FUSION Midnight Blue (OK, not so different from Coal Black, but it’s a start!) and a little reverse stencil staining on top of this great (heavy) oak side table.
I started by cutting the shape of an anchor out of contact paper and placing it on the previous finish. Then, I used a darker stain to cover the surface. Once dried, I peeled off the contact paper and gently sanded to bring the surface level.
That was fun!
I tried a similar technique on the whale and waves after painting the table legs….you guessed it – Little Whale Blue from the Tones for Tots FUSION line. However I preferred not to bring the tabletop much darker and it wasn’t a strong image, so I ended up covering that with a traditional stencil and washing it with Homestead House’s Driftwood stain & finishing oil. I think it’s just Cute!
But that’s not all…then I went totally off the wall and made this:
Yes, that is FUSION’s Coral stenciled with a picture of coral in metallic brushed steel. It’s just so bright and FUN – you can’t help but smile when you look at it!
Ahhh, so that has been my beachy, nautical adventure in painting this week. I hope it also brings smiles to many other faces! What fun color or technique do you want to try on a piece but haven’t because you convince yourself it’s too silly? I say Go For It – it’s just paint and wood – what real harm can it do? …and it might just turn out Beautiful!