A co-worker of mine asked me to look at an old table given to her by her
mother years ago. She described an inlaid table top with pieces of veneer
missing, and asked if I could do anything about it ... and in the process,
see if I could clean up the top.
I've done limited work with veneer, but I told her I'd give it a shot.
After looking at it, taking some fine sandpaper and cleaning off the top
doesn't seem to be a big deal - as long as I don't sand through the veneer.
But the more I look at it, the more I'm not sure if I should tackle trying
to replace any missing veneer. You can see a few pictures of the table at:
My fear is that by trying to replace the missing pieces, I would actually
draw more attention to them than if I just left well enough alone, and stuck
to the table top.
If anyone has any suggestions, either for how to make the repairs, or
whether it's worth making repairs at all, I'm all ears. I think that with
some TLC, the table could be an awesome piece of furniture again.
Thanks in advance for your suggestions ...
I would first try and determine what type of finish it has.
If it is shellac, you may be able to strip it without sanding. Otherwise, I
personally would opt to gently go over it with a finely sharpened scraper,
being careful of frayed edges. If you do too much sanding, you will loose
all the patina it has achieved over the years. The veneer may be applied
with hide glue, which is repairable. I'm no expert, I'm sure many here could
give you better advice. A lot of things to consider, especially if the piece
I'd be very wary of touching this. If it was my own table, I'd jump
at the chance - but doing it for someone else is a different matter.
It's a huge amount of work, you don't get to keep the piece
afterwards, and there's no real reward for having done it. The only
sensible reason to have a go at it is that you want to have the
Try wiping the top with white spirit. This hides surface imperfections
and gives you a good idea of what it might look like if refinished. If
scratches disappear, then you'll hide them when you re-finish. If dirt
is still visible, then it needs removing before the finish goes on.
Personally, I like to strip pieces like this with the aid of a broken
glass scraper. You can use a steel scraper, but use a square edge, not
I'd replace the larger bits, then use shellac to hide the minor bits.
"Larger" is very subjective ! If it's big enough to feel by brushing
your finger lightly over the top, then it might be large. If a piece
isn't too small for you to repair, then it might be "large".
For patching veneers I use an ancient pre-war marquetry set,
containing many colours and timbers - many of which are dyed. The
black veneer won't be ebony, as ebony is near-impossible to cut
veneers from. Veneer has been dyed for centuries and simulating ebony
was one of the prime targets.
Old recipe books like "The First American Furniture Finisher's
Manual", now available as a cheap reprint
<(Amazon.com product link shortened)>
contain many veneer dying recipes and are an interesting read.
Hide glue, ideally used hot, is the adhesive of choice. You'll need
one or more veneer hammers (make them yourself) in different sizes.
and also some good paper veneer tape that's easily removed afterwards.
Cold hide glue in a tube is an alternative, but I like the instant
tack of using it hot.
For fixing the tiny holes, use shellac sticks, hot-melted and then
scraped flush afterwards. These are available in mixed-colour sets
from makers like Liberon.
Finish afterwards has to be french polish really, nothing else would
HomeOwnersHub.com is a website for homeowners and building and maintenance pros. It is not affiliated with any of the manufacturers or service providers discussed here.
All logos and trade names are the property of their respective owners.