How to repair wood veneers

July 29, 2015

For centuries, furniture makers have applied thin veneers of beautifully figured wood to cover more pedestrian woods used to construct their pieces. With proper care, good wood veneer is as durable as solid wood.

How to repair wood veneers

Lifted edges are easy to fix.

  • Use a sharp, thin knife blade — a utility knife works well — to scrape old glue from under the lifted area.
  • Use a toothpick to slide yellow carpenter's glue between the veneer and the wood surface. Cut a piece of plywood a little larger than the repair area.
  • Place waxed paper over the area, and then place the plywood over the waxed paper.
  • Clamp the veneer with C-clamps or bar clamps, and leave overnight.
  • If your clamps don't have rubber pads, be sure to protect the bottom of the surface by putting wood scraps between the clamp and the surface.
  • Use a wet sponge to remove glue squeeze-out as soon as you are done clamping.

Bubbles are usually easy to fix, too.

  • If the furniture piece is old, the veneer was probably applied with animal-hide glue, which can be softened and reactivated with heat.
  • Set a clothes iron to medium heat. Place a damp cloth on the bubble, and then press the hot iron onto the cloth, removing it after a few seconds.
  • Press again until the veneer sticks flat. Then remove the cloth, and press the iron directly onto the wood for two seconds. Any longer may damage the finish.

When to glue

  • If the bubble doesn't start to stick down after three or four brief applications of heat, you'll need to glue it.
  • Use a sharp knife to split the bubble along the grain; then use a frozen popsicle stick to slide yellow carpenter's glue under the veneer.
  • Press down on the repair with a veneer roller or wallpaper seam roller; then remove glue squeeze-out with a wet sponge.
  • Place waxed paper over the bubble, and clamp the repair down using wood scraps between the clamp and the surfaces.
  • If you can't reach the repair with clamps, use a heavy weight, such as a book or brick, instead.
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