Repairing veneer isn’t as scary as it seems. There are plenty of things to spook you this Halloween season, but cracked and missing veneer shouldn’t be one of them! I love to try new things and then pass that learning along to you but instead of my usual abundance of information at once, I’m splitting this project into manageable chunks and will get to the final reveal another time! I promise, it will be worth the wait!
When I stumbled on this Singer sewing table at Value Village, I thought twice about buying it, then couldn’t help but bring it home with us. Although the sewing machine was long gone, I could only imagine the wondrous things that were stitched together at this very table!
We’ve always easily found the metal stands but bases with the original wooden top are harder to come by. I’ll bet that’s because most people only think the metal is salvageable; a table top in this condition usually ends up in the garbage. Despite the water damage and missing/cracked veneer, I can’t wait to show you that there’s still plenty of life left in this ol’ gal – and the table too! 🙂
You really can’t go wrong for only $14.99, however we had a lot of veneer repair ahead of us and I’ve never personally tackled a project like this! Luckily I have a great teacher in Hubs!
With all the condition issues and variety of veneer repair scenarios, it’s a great practice piece but not a good candidate for stain so we moved forward with the intention of painting it.
The lid had this big bubble conveniently cracked down the centre. Were it not for the split, I would have to cut into the bubble to get glue underneath anyway, so in a roundabout way, this was a timesaver!
There were missing chunks of veneer as you can see in the top right corner of the picture below. The finish itself was alligatored. A piece of tape easily lifted off the finish!
Although the alligatoring looks bad, sanding will take care of it.
We tackled one problem at a time. Hubs removed the base and blew each piece with the help of an air compressor.
You could vacuum instead but the blown air gets into all the nooks and crannies to release years of accumulated dust that a vacuum could never reach.
We disassembled the rest of the table into manageable pieces so we could work on repairing each one individually.
Make sure to put any hardware into a sealable bag and label it. Take tons of pictures of the disassembly process so you’ll know exactly how to put it back together again!
Look over each piece and apply a piece of green tape as a marker so you don’t forget to repair a spot. Nothing’s more frustrating than thinking you’re ready to move onto the next step, but there’s still veneer to glue or fill!
Don’t waste your money on a glue syringe for veneer work unless it has a good selection of thin blunt needles to get into tight spots (we’ll show you what a good set looks like a bit later). I had this particular syringe in my craft stash and quickly discover that it was useless for this purpose!
In lieu of the proper syringe, the next best thing is to pour some glue into a plastic lid.
Use a thin piece of stiff material, such as this laminate edging, to scoop some glue.
Push it under the veneer as far as you can and move it around. Apply glue as many times as needed to get a good thin coat under the wood.
Wipe away any glue that oozes out with a damp cloth.
The best thing to put right on top of the repair is waxed paper before it’s clamped. We didn’t have waxed paper so improvised with paper and a piece of plastic wrap to prevent sticking to the weight (the glue will seep through). We didn’t have a long enough clamp to reach the middle, so used an antique iron instead.
On the edges, we used blocks of wood under clamps to prevent marks.
Once dry, the veneer is nice and flat again. The paper that is stuck to the surface will be sanded right off.
For large pieces of missing veneer, you still must go through the process of gluing down the edges and clamping first as I did above.
After letting it dry and removing the paper/plastic on top, it’s time to fill!
First tape along the edge with green painters tape.
Apply more green tape around the entire patch so it’s surrounded. Now it’s time for the wood filler. Famowood is Hubs’ favourite brand because it won’t crack or shrink; it also cleans up easily!
For large pieces of missing veneer like this, Hubs scores the field of the repair to provide some tooth for the wood filler to stick to. Use a utility knife to cross hatch as shown.
With a putty knife that’s as wide as the repair, scoop some filler out of the container and close the lid (which we forgot to do!).
Start at one end and make a first pass with the putty knife.
Make as many passes as necessary to smooth it out to the same thickness.
Hubs likes to feather the edges of the filler into the tape. Don’t worry if it’s a little high on the actual edge.
Remove the tape.
Famowood dries in 15 only minutes! Once dry, it acts just like real wood and is ready to sand. Apparently, Famowood is available in many different wood colours and you can stain it too. I’d be curious to see how it takes stain – another time 🙂
For small chips on the edge, apply one piece of tape and use wood filler to fill in the missing veneer.
Put a piece of plastic over the container of the wood filler before closing the lid – or store it upside down – to help prevent the filler from drying out.
Use the Proper Glue Syringe
The proper tools just makes things so much easier. I regret not purchasing glue syringes before getting started because they would have been the ideal tool to fill the bubble I showed you earlier. Sometimes I’m so excited to start a project that I jump ahead before I should!
This set is great because it comes with several barrels and blunt-end needles in a variety of gauges.
Nothing is better than a needle-tipped syringe for applying glue in awkward spots or deep into cracks.
Just fill the barrel with glue.
Squeeze the glue under the veneer, wipe the excess off with a damp cloth and clamp as explained earlier.
Remove the glue from the syringe. Clean and rinse thoroughly; this glue syringe should last a lifetime. Unless you’re like us and completely forgot to wash it out in time! Don’t be like us 🙂
With the repairs done, it’s finally time to sand!
Sanding is best done outside where you don’t have to be concerned about kicking up dust. We arranged all our pieces like an assembly line and set up our workbench in the driveway.
For larger pieces like the lid (this is the one that had the ‘bubbled’ veneer), we used an electric sander to smooth it. Don’t go to town and sand too deep or you’ll go right through the veneer and have to patch again! Use a light touch to get things relatively smooth.
We use old socks to get off the initial sanding dust. Then we lightly mist a clean cotton cloth with water to remove the rest.
The drawers were in good shape. Because the knob was in the way (it’s glued in so can’t be removed), we hand sanded with a fine sanding sponge.
The goal is just to give enough tooth for the primer to stick to the surface. You don’t have to sand the finish back to bare wood.
Glue or Fill?
As we were sanding the drawer surround, a piece of veneer chipped right off the edge. If you happen to have the chipped piece, it’s really up to you whether you want to glue it back or replace it with wood filler. If you’re already at the sanding stage by this point, opt for wood filler. Gluing is a longer, more involved process so if you fill, after 15 minutes of dry time you’ll be caught up again.
Since we already had other things drying that we used the syringe on, we glued and clamped. In this case, hubs just smeared the glue on with his finger; you don’t always need fancy tools 🙂
The final prep before paint is to prime. We’ll discuss that in more detail when we reveal the sewing table! Until then, pin away!