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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I’d been itching to use Fusion’s White Stain & Finishing Oil as a Liming finish, and when I came across this previously stripped antique yellow pine dresser, I knew I had found the perfect piece! The previous owners had it professionally “dipped” to strip off the existing paint with every intention of refinishing it. That’s a familiar prelude for many of us! After years of sitting and moving from residence to residence, they finally needed it out of the way. By then, it was quite musty, battered, and generally “rough”. A liming finish would seal and protect it, but also highlight it’s character rather than try to mask it.
The overall construction was fantastic, but definitely “rustic”.
Fusion’s Stain and Finishing Oil (SFO) is a penetrating oil stain that soaks into the grain, in addition to an oil-based topcoat to seal and protect. Stain and Sealing in One step!
To use SFO on raw wood, I simply brushed it on, let it penetrate the wood for a few minutes, and then wiped back the excess. Below you can see the process and half of the drawer wiped back with one coat. I decided this was still too yellow, so I simply waited a day for it to dry, and then applied a second coat – brush on/wipe off.
Below, you can see the difference one coat makes on the drawer front and the dresser top.
Now for that musty smell…every single interior surface got a generous shellacking! Shellac is the only surefire way to seal smells away from your belongings. The important part about sealing musty dressers is to brush or spray shellac on the underside, interior, exterior of each drawer (every side but the front) in order to completely trap odors away. The interior body of the dresser should also be sprayed or brushed because it can also trap smells.
Here is the finished piece after it’s second coat. It was That Simple! One step Stain & Finishing Oil and a bit of shellac! It was a great way to update and bring out some of the details while preserving the character of this piece.
This piece found its new home quite a while ago, but we have more unique refinished pieces available on our Facebook page Furniture Albums and our Online Store
Fusion’s Stain & Finishing Oil comes in a variety of stains to highlight and show off your wood grain. SFO Colors
I often hear folks who paint furniture to sell lament painting things white. “customers want everything painted white,” they say, “white furniture is what sells”, “we’re so sick and tired of painting things white!”. The redundancy is squelching creativity for some folks.
Oh, if only there was a pop of color…..
So, can you imagine how Excited I was at the request to combine FUSION’s Cranberry and CUREiously Pink to create a custom RASPBERRY color for a shapely but dull buffet?
The approximate mix was about 3 parts Cranberry to 1 part CUREiously Pink. The pink was actually surprisingly robust!
Prep = Cleaning and Repairs
I’ve had this piece sitting in the shop for several months and never noticed this awful repair attempt until I took it apart to wash it. Someone attempted to glue this piece of trim back on. However, it looks like they tried doing it without clamping it as it was glued BELOW it’s target. Luckily, they also used inappropriate glue for the job, so it was easy to dislodge with a razor blade, clean, and attach properly.
I have talked in previous posts about washing thoroughly with TSP Alternative before painting. FUSION’s TSP alternative degreases without requiring rinsing and is biodegradable. Many other cleaners are toxic (to you and the environment) and need to be rinsed, so this is the product I recommend. In addition to degreasing, older pieces may also need dewaxing with mineral spirits. A thick, scratchable layer of paste furniture wax isn’t the only sign that there is still waxy residue; years and layers of Pledge-type “furniture polish” products tend to build up over time and leave a thin, silicone-like layer on furniture that acts as a resist to paint. Think about how often your grandmother or great-grandmother polished her furniture.
This piece was washed until the wash water ran clean. And then, I put some paint on part of it just to see how resistant the remaining surface was. As I suspected, there was waxy residue on it. This “fisheye” look as the paint pulls back from the surface is an indication that your surface needs to be cleaned with mineral spirits.
Enter Mineral Spirits!
One look at my rag and you can see the additional grime that was trapped within layers of waxy residue. Odorless mineral spirits dissolves the wax and releases the rest of the grunge. NOW we’re ready to paint!!
I decided to paint a quick base coat of Cranberry as a transition color since I had only mixed up a single pint of the custom raspberry color to match the customer’s color swatch and didn’t want to run out if the coverage wasn’t solid. Turns out, the coverage was pretty great!
After drying for a couple of days, it was time for the black glaze. I love using FUSION’s Clear Glaze since it can be mixed with any color paint to get the exact glaze shade you want. I just mixed a little bit of Coal Black in and was ready to apply!
Glazing with black tinted glaze deepens the paint color just a little and leaves nice definition in the crevice details. Here are two drawers, one with and one without glaze for comparison. You simply apply, and then wipe back the glaze until you have the desired effect. It stays wet for a long time so you can work with it more easily.
This is how the whole piece looks, freshly glazed. We also cleaned and oiled the hardware with hemp oil to maintain and enhance the original aged patina.
A little more tweaking, a few internal repairs (door latches) and…..
Warm vs. cool lighting makes quite a difference for this color.
Either way, it POPS!!!
All of the products to complete a project like this are available at our Online Shop
If you are looking for CUREiously Pink, it’s coming back for a limited release!!! Our order will be in next week so feel free to order through our online store and it will be sent as soon as it come in!
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/
It sounded simple enough; paint a farmhouse cupboard to be used as home office storage. After searching far and wide for the perfectly sized and shaped piece, the customer picked up this awesome antique pantry cupboard at another local shop and brought it to us for refinishing to coordinate with her beautifully appointed modern farmhouse. It turned out to be much more than simple painting and is one of the more interesting and satisfying pieces we’ve done!
As you can see, there’s quite a bit of history worn on this cupboard along with some water damage on the lower portion, to the point that the door became warped and kicked out at the bottom. Repair need noted. You can also see the gouges in the side that was previously built-in but would now be exposed on a free standing cabinet. Repair noted.
There were also nail points poking through the side and a slew of general cosmetic needs requiring replacing fasteners, patching and sanding. Most significant, however, was the fact that this massive cupboard would not sit flat. In fact, it rocked so much on it’s uneven base that we promptly laid it flat on it’s back for our own safety. Another charm of a formerly built-in piece; it was previously nailed to the floor and to surrounding walls/cabinets, so a flat bottom was not a priority for it’s original use. Safely sitting level in a freestanding position was now the new priority for it’s next life. Major repair noted. Otherwise, we were in awe of how well-built this cupboard really was!
We added large, square wood blocks to the bottom corners set back enough that they wouldn’t protrude and be obvious add-ons. To those, we secured adjustable feet for leveling once in place at it’s new home. The first and most important repair done and now we could set it up for other repairs and painting! Oh, but first choosing the paint color…
Milkpaint or Fusion Paint?
So, if you check out the Instagram page, SimpleDecorWithAmy, you will see how beautifully appointed this customer’s home is and how intentional her color choices are. So of course, we planned on a custom color mix! What I hadn’t planned for, is that the perfect color would be a mix of a Homestead House milkpaint color (Cartier) and a Fusion Mineral Paint color (Brook)! Can they even be mixed??!! Time to research and experiment! Turns out the answer is YES, these water-based paints can be mixed, and the finish turns out to be a glorious hybrid with the best qualities of both!
We started with a wash of Algonquin milkpaint since the piece was practically raw wood in spots, it soaked in beautifully, creating a color block that toned down the red to a more neutral brown and will never chip because it is incorporated into the wood.
Then, we mixed up a batch of Homestead’s Cartier milkpaint and introduced just the right amount of Fusion’s Brook. You can see how much more opaque the finish becomes with this step.True to it’s milkpaint roots, this color mix also distressed beautifully and chipped where we had strategically pre-applied a light wax before painting.
After making and adding a wood latch to pull the warped door in further, it was time to seal the exterior with hemp oil and paint the shelves with durable Fusion Raw Silk to create a clean and inviting space for storage.
The final photos from the customer’s Instagram are of this cupboard in it’s new home and beautifully styled to show off how well it fits into it’s new space. I especially adore the winter decor photo! Such a transformation from where we started! This customer could clearly see this aged piece for it’s potential in her beautiful home. Cheers to new life!
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!
Oh how I have been in search of a buffet to paint!!
I finally found this set in an online auction and was pretty excited about the possibilities. The tricky thing about an online auction is you rarely have the opportunity to see the pieces live and “kick the tires”…it’s all reliant on photos.
In this case the photos didn’t really show the whole picture, and it’s even difficult to see in the photos I have posted here. The wood veneer on the china cabinet is, in fact, more gorgeous than these photos reveal. And I mean in a “holy cow no one should ever put paint on that beautiful wood” kind of way.
The buffet had, however been quite battered, including chipped veneer, poorly applied ancient shellac, and structural cracks. Perfect for Paint!!!
Luckily I was able to find a home for the china cabinet with someone who was as in love with the wood as I was and planned on sprucing up only the interior with some color. Whew!
First step after washing and scuff sanding was to remove the doors, drawers and hardware. After that it was on with stripping the old finish off the scratched and stained top to see what condition the wood was underneath.
A few coats of Citristrip later and it looked pretty good with the exception of some character-building dings and a single light burn mark from a hot dish. That helped to make the decision for a dark stain on top to blend in the burn. Here’s how it looked after two applications of Minwax Jacobean stain and a several thin layers of Polycrylic Matte for a topcoat.
For the body, I started with a good cleaning with TSP, light sanding and scrub with some odorless mineral spirits to remove any residual wax. A few repairs here and there (and everywhere…) – including repairing the top finish after some precariously stacked boards in the overstuffed garage were accidentally knocked onto the curing finish…yes, a variety of words were said.
A base coat of FUSION Concealer helped to solidify coverage for the first coat of FUSION Raw Silk. It only took two coats of Raw Silk to get great coverage overall. I used a microfiber roller on the flat spots and my go-to angled 2 inch flat brush for the rest. I was EXHAUSTED after working the flat brush into all of those curves on the legs…and I still missed a bunch of spots. This strategy was Not going to work.
I had a set of Staalmeester brushes I have been wanting to try out, but frankly didn’t anticipate being wowed by any cutting edge paintbrush advances…I mean, it’s just a paintbrush, right?
Folks have been buzzing about how great the pointed sash brush is for getting into nooks and crannies, so I decided to give it a try since it couldn’t get worse than what I did with the flat brush!
H-O-L-Y C-O-W was I totally Wowed!!!!
The #18 pointed sash brush at the very bottom if the picture became my new favorite tool. It slid effortlessly into all of those nooks, held tons of paint, and laid down a smooth, even layer of paint in half the time it took me to attempt the base coat.
I will Never paint curves again without it!!!
After that valuable lesson, I have lightly distressed and partially antiqued this piece. I also reassembled the buffet and painted a few coats of concealer inside the cabinets and Chocolate inside the badly beaten drawers. Here’s a peek at the progress so far…
There is much more finishing work to be done – MORE TO COME!!!