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Woodworking Tips: Repairing Veneer

Once you’ve stripped your woodwork or furniture to the bare wood, you’ll want to be sure everything is in top condition before proceeding with the final step of applying a finish. Usually, minor repairs need to be made. A light sanding will give a satin-smooth surface.

If you’re an antique buff or bound on authenticity, you will probably treasure each small imperfection in the wood. Many signs of age and wear give character to old furniture. Repairing dents, cracks, gouges, and raised veneer you do not want, such as in woodwork around a door or archway, is a fairly easy matter.

Raised portions on a veneered surface are commonly caused by excessive dampness or accidental contact with very hot dishes. To get the veneer back in place, make a fine razor cut in the bump, in the same direction as the grain. Cover the area with lint-free cloth and apply a steam iron (or use a damp cloth with a regular iron). If this does not work or if the damaged area is extensive, it is preferable to cut out that portion and replace it.

Usually when veneer needs repairing, the best and simplest method is to replace the damaged area with a new piece of veneer, which you can buy from a lumber yard or mail order house for woodworking supplies. Always replace an area slightly larger than the damaged portion.

Tape the new veneer over the damaged area and, using a razor blade knife, cut the new veneer and the old veneer at the same time. The cut should be in the form of a long, slender diamond, with the long part parallel with the grain of the wood. After you have cut through the two pieces of veneer simultaneously, remove the old veneer with a small wood chisel. Because both pieces have been cut at the same time, the new piece of veneer will fit exactly.

Use contact cement to glue the new piece of veneer into place. You can coat the wood onto which the veneer is to be glued and the bottom of the veneer piece. Wait until the glue sets up quite firmly and is very tacky, then put the new veneer in place and shove it down with the palm of your hand.

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