The Thick & Thin of Veneer Repair

Top closed. With the hinged top folded closed, the piece serves as a chest of drawers. Notice my veneer repair in the lower left-hand corner of the top.

Top closed. With the hinged top folded closed, the piece serves as a chest of drawers. Notice my veneer repair in the lower left-hand corner of the top.

Top open. With the top opened to rest on pull-out lid supports, the chest becomes a writing desk. Notice that the veneer on the back half may have been at some point replaced. The two halves should be bookmatched – but they’re not.

Top open. With the top opened to rest on pull-out lid supports, the chest becomes a writing desk. Notice that the veneer on the back half may have been at some point replaced. The two halves should be bookmatched – but they’re not.

Veneer is just thin wood – so don’t be afraid of it.

by Bob Flexner
from the November 2009 issue, #179

I love repairing old furniture – the older the better. I find repairing more challenging and satisfying than making new because someone else, or time and age, has set the parameters within which I have to work.

I’ve written several articles in Popular Woodworking on furniture repair, including “Regluing Doweled Chairs” in April 2007 (#161) and “Animal Hide Glue” in August 2007 (#163). Both articles are available free at popularwoodworking.com/finishing.

But I haven’t written on veneer, and lots of things can go wrong with veneer. For some reason many woodworkers, and even professional furniture restorers, have a fear of working with veneer (some shops even refuse to do it). I find this fear difficult to understand because veneer is just thin wood, subject to the same rules as thick wood.

Recently, I had the opportunity (joy, really) of replacing some missing veneer on one of the oldest pieces of furniture I’ve ever worked on– an early 18th-century George II bachelor’s chest with a hinged top that opens to a desk. The challenges were a little greater than usual, so I thought I’d show you how I dealt with them.

One aside before starting. After you’ve worked on a lot of old furniture, you become adept at spotting anomalies that indicate fakery or a “marriage” of two or more pieces of furniture. On this card table I saw nothing to make me question its authenticity.

For the step-by-step images and captions of the repair process, download the free PDF below.

ThickandThinVeneerRepair

Bob Flexner is the author of “Understanding Wood Finishing” and a contributing editor to Popular Woodworking.

Screen Shot 2014-07-28 at 10.52.50 AMAlso in this issue: Megan Fitzpatrick’s LVL workbench (the “Gluebo”), a Shaker swing-handles carrier from John Wilson, “Turning for Furniture Makers” by Kevin Drake, a knockdown computer desk, a simplified Stickley bookcase and more. Click here to check out all the contents.