Thin slices of wood, called veneer, have been used to decorate furniture since ancient times. The earliest evidence available for the use of veneer comes from ancient Egypt during the time of the Pharaohs, although it is likely that veneer was used in China very early as well. Some people mistakenly believe that veneer is only used on less expensive furniture. Historically, it was the reverse. Choice cuts of wood were thinly sliced and arranged to feature the beautiful pattern of the grain. Marquetry designs and inlays were also used on furniture to create accents and to delight the eye with ligneous art forms. In our modern world veneers are often used over particle board or MDF substrates. In such cases it is not the veneer that cheapens the furniture but the substrate. It is the veneer that actually creates the impression of a finely made piece of furniture.
The problems that arise with veneered items are usually due to glue failure. Liquids sitting atop a veneered piece can pass through the finish, penetrate the veneer, and attack the glue causing it to fail and the veneer to bubble. At the edge of a veneered panel glue failure will leave a little patch where the veneer can be lifted and broken off. Due to the thinness of the veneer, repeated wear in one spot, or injudicious sanding, can wear right through the veneer leaving an ugly spot where some other substrate material is exposed. Situations like these require repair of the loose, chipped or missing veneer or inlay and that is when you want to call upon the skill and experience of a craftsman!
Attaching veneer to curved surfaces is one of the numerous difficult issues encountered with veneer repairs. A second is creating a perfect seam between the original and the patch of new veneer. Both of these difficulties are illustrated here.
There were several places where inlay was missing on this table top. We replaced the missing inlay and refinished the piece. The color of the piece had faded a great deal before it got to us. You can see the repaired veneer and the refreshed color below.
We have replaced the veneer in this spot on a desk top. The new wood does stand out because it is unfaded. If a light colored or natural finish is desired, this patch can be carefully bleached to match the color of the surrounding wood. For a darker colored finish, the wood will blend in without bleaching.
You can see the problem.The veneer on this beautiful table is no longer glued in place. Much is simply loose, some is gone. This is on half of a long side of this table. This is what all sides looked like when it came in for service.
The first thing to do was to save all the veneer that was loose by gluing it securely back in place. Next we cut sections of veneer to lay into the remaining voids. You can see how all four pieces looked at that point.
All's well that ends well, they say. We think this ended well!To the left, you can see all four sides with veneer glued down or replaced as needed, and with a bright new shellac coating causing all four sides to glisten. It wasn't as easy as that however, as you can see from the picture above, and as is often the case, the new veneer hasn't aged to the same color as the old, so we had to color it to blend without obscuring the grain pattern of the wood. We have some incredible artists who are able to make this look easy. Assembled below, it is ready to grace its home once again.