Updated: May 27
Okay! Let me catch my breath after all that work in this dresser phew!... this dresser was a project and a half! But 100% worth all of the effort. I had almost completed this dresser, until I decided to BURN and CHISEL away the veneer!
Have you been wanting to try removing old veneer from your vintage furniture? Are you worried with how it might turn out? This was my experience.
I never could understand why furniture companies would cover over beautiful wood with veneer. I did some research on the matter...I still don't think I will ever agree that covering up GOOD, SOLID wood is a good idea?! But I learned some interesting things, that I thought I would share with you all.
"Veneer is an ancient art, dating back to at least the ancient Egyptians who used expensive and rare wood veneers over cheaper timber to produce their furniture." - Wikipedia
My thoughts - I understand this, you want high quality furniture but don't want the expense of using 100% solid wood to complete the piece. I hear ya that would be $$$$.
" Furniture made with wood veneer uses less wood than the same piece of solid wood."
My thoughts - This totally makes sense! Real wood is expensive. What I don't understand is the VENEER COVERED already solid wood furniture! I guess maybe they were following a trend...
"Advantage of using veneers compared to wood, is stability, solid wood can be prone to warping and splitting but because veneer is made of this layers of wood glued together chances of splitting or cracking are reduced."
My thoughts - In my experience working with vintage pieces, the REAL wood that sometimes can be found under veneer pieces is better quality than the veneer, you tend to see a lot of chipping veneer on the edges. Lets remember tho, in the vintage pieces PRIME, I am sure this worked well! But for us who are trying to keep the vintage pieces alive for another few centuries, off with the old and make the old new again!
Another point brought out in an article is veneer is way easier to get your hands on. TRUE. you can go to whatever home renovation stores today and pick yourself up some! But if I ever was given an option, real wood all the way! Its a pain in the butt to work with I find.
This was my first time attempting to remove veneer from the face of the drawers, and top of a dresser. I have seen so many success stories, but also there are a few not so successful stories. I feel like with furniture flipping there is a right of passage with a few things, this being one of them! SO I decided to take a leap of faith and hope that the outcome was a good one!
The picture on the left was the dresser, almost completed, with the veneer still on the top and on the drawers.
It just wasn't sitting well with me, It was not the vision I was going for. Then this happened! The picture on the right is my husband and I attempting to remove the veneer, after I had thought I was almost done.
Normally something like this would give me anxiety, like I already had put in time and money into this dresser, to then possibly destroying it! My husband took one look once we started and said, "we might have to scrap this one babe." NOOOO way was I going to do that. Yes it was alot more work, but we were seeing some light at the end of the tunnel.
After I sanded my but off, I got through the layer of veneer, and down to the real wood. How beautiful is that grain?!
If you are wanting to try removing veneer from your vintage furniture, there is multiple different ways to go about it.
I have a Wagner inferno 500, that I tried to use first, I tried heating up the glue underneath the veneer to then try peeling off the veneer with a chisel. This sort of worked, but my veneer was really old, and there are so many different kinds of veneer. Alot of had great sucess with going about removing veneer this way, but unfortunately it was not the way that was going to work for me.
SANDING with 60 grit sand paper:
This process is more time consuming, and more elbow grease, but you have less of a chance of damaging the underlying wood. I used four, 60 grit sand paper discs, on my dewalt orbital sander PER DRAWER. So buy a very big pack! After you are done sanding down to the wood, before you start staining, your going to want to use a 220 grit sanding disc to smooth the surface out. Not only do you want the wood to look good, you want it to feel good too!
Staining the Wood:
I used a miniwax stain, Provincial is the name. (haha that rhymed)
Ideally I prefer to apply stain with a foam brush, but I ran out, so I used paper towel, I find this allows me to not waste as much stain as it would be using a paint brush.
SANDING the Top
The top was the most amount of work, bigger area to sand, but also TWO layers of veneer! The drawers only had one layer. This is very common with veneer pieces, so if you are attempting to remove the veneer, make sure you remove every layer.
I could not have been more happier tho with how beautiful the wood was underneath this dresser. I would say i scored the jackpot of veneer covered furniture.
Since I had already painted the trim around the top, I thought I was going to keep it that way, but in the final pictures you will notice that I sanded them to a rounded flush top, with the rest of the wood. I am so glad I did!
The final step was coating it in a protective top coat, by Varathane! Making it chip and scratch resistant. Also adding new handles as the final touch!
So, If you are wanting to try to remove veneer from your vintage furniture, my experience went great! Yes it was alot of work, yes I started over, but it was 100% worth it in the end. My client that ended up purchasing this dresser not long after it was for sale, said "I have never had such a nice dresser, it is perfect!" - That alone makes the effort worth it! Making it someone's forever piece!
Again I really hope that our furniture industry doesn't revert back to covering over beautiful wood like this again, but they had their reason in the past, and we just now have to bring those vintage pieces back to life!
Flop or Not Designs
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