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!
This dresser is a great example of how Fusion stains can be used to rejuvenate a finish without stripping. This is the Prep stage of this dresser; it was washed and lightly scuff-sanded. The top, however, had some pretty deep scratches.
This is basically a pigmented polyurethane, so it can go directly over an existing finish without sanding or stripping. The pigmentation provides some opacity to obscure flaws and scratches like the ones we started with. The more coats of this product applied, the more opaque the finish becomes. I like to try and find the balance that allows for correction of the old finish while still showing through some of the original wood grain.
I prefer to apply this product with a wide foam brush, but it can be applied with a roller or bristle brush. It’s very important to practice with it and find your preference!
Looking better after the the second coat! Long, even strokes are key to an even finish.
Did you notice that along the way the body of the dresser got a nice coat of Sacred Sage?
And here it is after the second coat is dry. Gel Stain & Topcoat has a matte finish once dried – this also helps to de-emphasize flaws in the surface so it’s a more forgiving finish.
If you look close, you can still see a few of the deeper scratches under the finish, but it is such an improvement over the original condition – and all without sanding.
Additionally, since this is an all-in-one stain and topcoat, it does not require an additional step to seal.
So, we spruced up the top, updated the color ….. And now, to do something about those blah knobs! Woah! These new knobs are anything but blah!
Kristin’s Kreations handpainted these one-of-a-kind knobs to jazz up our dresser with some personality! There is So much detail in each one!!
These beautiful knobs are just what this plain dresser needed! Thanks Kristin!!
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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 is one of my favorite styles of furniture to work with; well made, lots of storage, easy to repair and open to any style of finish from traditional to rustic. These pieces of furniture can be used in just about every room in the house too. A server in the dining room, entryway storage, bathroom vanity, and of course, for clothing or winter blanket storage in a bedroom.
This particular dresser is Enormous (50 inches wide!). It had definitely seen better days. Although the wood veneer was beautifully grained, there were lots of scratches, a few gouges, several spillage or burn marks, and a few other hard-use scars that would require complete stripping and thorough sanding to bring back to beautiful wood – with no guarantees that all that work would save the deepest of the stained areas. Not to mention, sanding something this size is an outdoor job; but not during the winter in Upstate NY.
With the level of discoloration on the top, I opted to use FUSION’s Double Espresso Gel Stain, which is a nearly opaque, tinted polyurethane. It leaves a nice, durable wood finish while blending in some of the color variations. While it isn’t necessary to sand before applying, I hand-sanded as many of the stains out of the top as I could for a more uniform final finish.
Homestead House Milkpaint carries a line of historic colors that look fantastic on antique pieces. The finish can also be very rustic and chippy, which gives an authentic modern farmhouse look without having to deal with furniture originally painted with dangerous, lead-based paint. I love blues, and have been wanting to try Rideau Blue on a large piece! Keep in mind, authentic milk-paint must be in powdered form. If it comes pre-mixed as a liquid then it is not actual milkpaint and contains all sorts of other fillers that are not part of historic, authentic milkpaint; this is often referred to as “simulated” milkpaint – and it won’t perform nearly as well as the real deal from Homestead House or Miss Mustard Seed.
Rideau Blue is a beautiful blue with grey tones.
Authentic milkpaint comes in a powder form that you mix with water. Anything pre-mixed is not actual milk-paint, and usually cotains latex and other chemical fillers..
One of the fun things about using milkpaint without adding a binder, is that it will perform uniquely and chip where it wants to in a natural, authentic way. It can also be used as a more solid finish by adding an acrylic bonding agent, however I like to see how it’s going to go on it’s own first.
After it dries, a light sanding reveals where the paint would like to stay and where it would like to randomly chip off. Application of a little FUSION hemp oil brings out the true depth of milkpaint color and enhances the chipped areas beautifully!If you haven’t yet tried painting with milkpaint, it’s a must-try! It is capable of such a variety of finishes; a solid stain on raw wood, a solid rustic finish using binder, and a chippy farmhouse look – it’s so much fun! Lakeside Restoration and Vintage Matters will be offering milkpaint workshops in February, so keep an eye out on the events page on Facebook for your chance to play www.lakesiderestoration.net
After a thorough cleaning, the drawer interiors were in pretty nice shape for the age of this piece. I opted to re-hydrate them and polish the interior finish using FUSION’s new Lavender scented furniture wax. Not only does this wax brighten up and seal the wood, but it also smells incredible!!!
All of the products used to refinish this dresser are available at our shops, Vintage Matters at 7060 Ridge Road Sodus, NY and Lakeside Restoration 1476 Monroe Ave Rochester, NY – or at our online store at https://lakeside-restoration.myshopify.com/
Revive. Refresh. Restore. Lakeside Restoration.
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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;