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Detail Of Table Pedestal

Restoring Elements Decorated With Fancy Veneers

An unfortunate misconception among many is that the use of veneer on furniture indicates reduced quality. Veneer equals cheap. The reality is that thinly slicing beautiful sections of wood grain allows for highly decorative uses of matching patterns. No two trees have identical grain patterns even though the patterns within each species are similar enough to enable identification based on grain patterns. Two standard thickness cuts from the same tree will only have mirroring grain patterns if laid side by side when split. With veneers, the slices are so thin, the patterns will be very similar through many sheets of veneer. This allows repeating or mirroring patterns to be created on a far larger scale. Starbursts, flames, fans, diamonds, arcs, book and butt matched patterns and numerous others can be created only by the use of thinly sliced veneers.

Rather than cheap, veneer usually means expensive. Cutting the thin slices is more difficult than ripping boards with a saw. Thinly sliced wood is more subject to the effects of moisture, whether added or lost, and can easily become deformed or split. Exactly arranging, cutting, trimming and taping the veneer to create the desired pattern is exacting and time consuming. Gluing and clamping the veneers to remain in that pattern requires elaborate clamping set-ups or vacuum pressing systems. Applying veneered patterns onto recessed or curved surfaces greatly adds to the difficulties.

All that we have just written about the difficulties of veneering refer to veneering surfaces when they are first constructed. Imagine the additional complications of repairing or replacing veneered parts when they become damaged. Veneer work is expensive, repairing veneered items is also expensive. Be forewarned!

To the right we list some resources from Amazon that you might find of interest if you would like more information about veneering.

Veneered Tray Showing Veneer Pressed As Glue Hardens
Veneered Tray With Buckling Veneer From Water Damage
Veneered Tray With Replacement Quilted Maple Veneer

The tray upper left had taken too long a shower and the beautiful veneer skin ended up wrinkled and worse. The customer didn't want to spend a lot of money on this piece but didn't want to dispose of it either. We employed a less expensive though still quite appealing method of re-veneering this piece. What you see above is a quilted maple in a mirrored pattern. We aren't showing all the steps, but the most impressive looking step is pictured to the left, the new veneer being pressed to the surface while the glue is drying.

Hexagonal Table With Damaged Veneer
Hexagonal Table With New Walnut Burl Veneer Top
Hexagonal Table Completed

This is a very old stand which looks like it could have been used in an ecclesiastical setting in its youth. We also guess it may have been Spanish. It is fun to speculate, but one thing that was clear without any speculation, the veneer on the top was damaged beyond repair. We replaced it as you can see from the picture below left. What you cannot see is that all six of the veneer sections were different shapes. All very similar, but all with slightly varying angles.

We illustrated the clamping step in veneering above. Imagine clamping this veneer with the stand to work around. Sound impossible? We thought so too. We removed the top in order to press the veneer. Can't always do that, much more difficult when we can't.

Star Veneer Top Table Before Work Started
Star Veneer Top Table After Stripping
Star Veneer Top Table After Stripping, Detail One
Star Veneer Top Table After Stripping, Detail Two

This end table had been a project piece for a departed family member. The straight line geometric patterns on the top were painstakingly executed. The lower shelf had the pattern marked for a curved line geometric pattern which was never completed.

The three photos above reveal the condition of the veneer and why it was brought to us. The curving and lifting veneers so clearly seen above were not evident before. These pictures were taken after stripping. Stripping more clearly reveals where the problems are. The cracks were observed before stripping and the places where the veneer adhesive no longer was bonding were apparent when the veneer was tapped--the air bubble beneath could then be heard. However, when the finish is removed and the stripping liquids clean out the undersides of the loose veneer, the curling makes obvious the need for re-gluing.

Star Veneer Top Table Pressing Veneer Down
Star Veneer Top Table, Veneer Repairs Complete
Star Veneer Top Table, Color Blending New Veneer

First step in repairing was to securely glue back down the lifting veneer. Where veneer was missing or too badly broken to salvage, it was replaced.When all the veneer was in place the entire top was sealed with shellac. Areas where the new veneer did not match the color of the old were then hand blended.

Star Veneer Top Table, After Finishing, Top View
Star Veneer Top Table, After Finishing

When all the veneer work and color blending were finished, the entire piece was then coated with two coats of an orange shellac to give it the warm amber tone you see. The final step was to add a couple more coats of a super blonde shellac to add depth to the finish without adding additional color.

You can see by comparing the first photo in this set that the final color is very close to the original. Unfortunately, the pattern on the bottom shelf did not stand out as clearly by the end, but the owner was very happy with the overall result, and the table was ready to be used for the next half century at least.

French Armoire Side, Veneer Laid Out
French Armoire Side, Veneer Glued Down
French Armoire Side, Veneer Work Completed

Here we illustrate three of the steps involved in replacing the veneer on a side panel of a 1900 vintage French armoire. The surface must first be prepped for the veneer, totally flat and clean. Then the veneer cut to match across the center line. Those pieces were glued in place then the same thing was done with the center diamond. Finally, the border needed to be trimmed straight and the walnut border cut and glued in place. Very painstaking work.

Opium Bed Back Detail With Book And Butt Matched Redwood Burl Veneer
Table Top Detail With Book And Butt Matched Redwood Burl Veneer

Two customers asked for an unusual wood for their pieces. They both wanted Redwood burl. Both are book and butt matched. The table above also has a 1/2" border of straight grained walnut. The item to the right is the featured back of an opium bed!

Bird's Eye Maple Veneer On Small Chest Of Drawers

All the light colored sections are new birds eye maple veneer. The two top drawers were the only surfaces where the original veneer was still intact. This variety of veneer was popular around 1900 and is having a come back now. We are seeing numerous pieces of furniture with birds eye maple come in for restoration. Unfortunately that veneer is one of the most expensive veneers to purchase.

The main interest in this piece is the bowed front drawers. That is another difficult aspect to re-veneering. In order for the new veneer to adhere properly, pressure must be uniform across the entire curved surface. The side panels also pose a difficult problem. Imagine creating a way to get the necessary back pressure for clamping the new veneer in place.

Walnut Cabinet Top Showing Poplar Core Wood
Walnut Cabinet Top Showing New Walnut Face Veneer

We can also do simple re-veneering jobs! Thought that might be worth illustrating. The top veneer had already been removed when it came to us. The rest of the piece is walnut so we covered the poplar core with a nice walnut face.


Now that you have seen what we have done for others, what can we do for you? CONTACTING AND FINDING US


Now that you have seen what we have done for others, what can we do for you? CONTACTING AND FINDING US

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