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DIY -- Replace the Wood Veneer on a Table Top

By Edited May 15, 2015 1 2

Many furniture manufacturers make furniture from a combination of wood and timber veneer. Using timber veneers allows the manufacturer to give the furniture the look of an expensive or exotic hardwood to table tops. Typically, a furniture maker will create a table from low grade timber, plywood, softer woods or some type of manmade, composite materials including pressboard. After constructing the table-top, the furniture manufacturer or woodworker applies a thin wood veneer over the top to conceal the less expensive wood and give the owner a visually pleasing, beautiful table.

Benefits of timber Veneer

Many woodworkers know the benefits of timber veneers. Wood veneers cut down on the cost of furniture making and still give gorgeous results. Some woodworkers and craftsmen will add wood veneer to a table that has an unappealing wood grain, especially if the table-top has great lines and is otherwise sturdy and stable. Adding wood veneer to a deeply gouged, stained or otherwise damaged surface will restore the look to the table-top.

Types of Veneer

Veneers can be found in a wide variety of wood colors including cherry, ebony oak and mahogany. Typically specialty retailers, online stores and large lumberyards carry wood veneer. Wood veneer should not be confused with manmade veneers. Manmade veneer is basically a picture of a wood grain printed on a thin plastic or vinyl sheet, they are more commonly known as skins, but some may try to pass them off as a wood veneer.

Furniture Buying

Popular shopping destinations for decorators and homeowners are yard sales, flea markets, secondhand stores, antique stores or on occasion other people’s trash. These shopping trips typically yield pieces of furniture that can’t be had with today’s manufacturers. Many pieces of “yesterday’s furniture” is assembled with better joinery, higher quality wood, dramatic lines or a vintage appearance. Many times people decide to get rid of their furniture because the wood veneer is lifting, peeling cracking or has gotten wet and rippled and disconnected from the underlying wood. Water, dampness and moisture are an enemy of wood veneer. Whether the tale was saturated in a flood or the table-top was stored in a damp basement, the veneer will likely require replacement. Don’t pass up a good table find if the only problem with it is the damaged veneer because it can be easily replaced.

Preparing to Replace Old Wood Veneer

Measure the top of the table-top, both the length and the width and add 6 inches to each measurement.

Buy a sheet of wood veneer at a wood specialty supply store, lumberyard or online store to match the dimension of the table-top top plus 6 inches. If the table-top is very wide, you may need two sheets of veneer.

Wood Veneer, Birch, White Rotary, 2 x 8, 10 mil Paper Backer
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(price as of May 15, 2015)

Lay the veneer on a flat and level surface to keep it from rolling or curling.

Put on a pair of work gloves and safety glasses.

Removing Old Veneer

Peel off as much of the wood veneer by hand as possible.

Hold a metal putty knife or a thin, flat blade chisel at a low angle to the table top. Push the putty knife or chisel under the veneer and lift it away from the substrate. If the veneer remains stubbornly stuck to the underlying wood, lightly tap the handle of the knife or chisel with a mallet and lift the veneer off the substrate.

Continue to lift the wood veneer off the table top until on bare wood and dried glue remains.

Wrap a piece of 180-grit sandpaper around a sanding block.

3M Sanding Block Kit, 2.75-Inch by 5.25-Inch
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Sand the surface of the table to remove old, dried glue.

Vacuum the dust off the table top and then wipe the surface with a tack rag to remove all sanding dust.

Vacmaster VBV1210 Detachable Blower Wet/Dry Vacuum, 12 Gallon, 5 Peak HP
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Applying New Wood Veneer

Examine the table top for damage. Look for wide cracks, deep gouges or deep chips. Fill in the damaged areas with wood putty. Smooth the wood putty so it is even with the surrounding wood. Let the putty dry completely.

Lay a soft cloth, large enough to accommodate the entire size of the table top on the floor. Place a sheet of plywood onto the cloth. Pull the edges of the cloth tightly around the plywood. Staple the material to the plywood with a heavy duty stapler so there are no hanging edges of the cloth.

Dip a wide paintbrush into yellow wood glue and spread a thin, even coat over the table top.

Elmer's E7010 Carpenter's Wood Glue, 8 Ounces
Amazon Price: $2.73 Buy Now
(price as of May 15, 2015)

Position the sheet of new wood veneer on top of the table with an equal amount hanging off in each direction. If the table requires two sheets of veneer, match the wood grains on the floor to see where you want to line them up. Align the first sheet with the middle of the table and place the second sheet, tightly abutted to the first with the grain matching up the way you chose.

Lift the cloth covered sheet of plywood and very carefully set it on top of the new veneer.

Put heavy books, blocks or other weight on top of the cloth covered plywood. Make sure you distribute the weight evenly over the plywood to make sure the bond between the table top and the wood veneer is even and strong.

Let the wood glue dry for 24 to 48 hours.

Take all of the weights off the plywood. Carefully remove the cloth covered plywood from the table top.

Carefully flip the table over onto a cutting surface. Use a cutting surface that is not rough because you will mar the new veneer. A rubberized mat is a good choice for a cutting surface.

Place a sharp utility knife next to the table top to trim away the excess overhang of wood veneer from around the entire table to. You may have to replace the blade part way through cutting in order to keep using a sharp blade. A dull blade will make the edges of the veer look raggedy and jagged.

Wrap a piece of 320 grit sandpaper around a soft sanding block.

Very, very lightly sand the edges of the veneer to even off the edges.

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Comments

May 19, 2012 11:56am
askformore
You make it sound so easy, but I am afraid that I have too many thumbs to do this veneer repair myself.
However, your article is still very helpful! Now that I know how easy it is, then I can better negotiate the price, when I hire someone else to do the job.
Thank you, I will give you a 'Thumb up', leaving me with one less.
May 19, 2012 1:38pm
Jack_Luca
Give it a try! The key to success is to take your time.
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