Re-attaching curled veneer and refinishing table

linnea56January 29, 2013

I have a small side table that belonged to my grandmother. It has a book-matched center (walnut or cherry?), with edges in a contrasting burled light wood. The finish on the top and edge is basically gone. The rest of the table is perfect: needs nothing. I remember a relative "helping out" Grandma by covering the table with contact paper back in the 60's, but that must have been because the finish was shot. Regardless...the table came down to me. I removed the contact paper carefully. Though the finish is gone, the veneer is flat, except for two places on opposite sides of the table, where there are joins. The veneer and the thin wood substrate it is attached to have curled up.

I want to refinish the table. What is the best way to re-attach those edges curling up before I tackle the finish? Due to their position on the edge, clamping will be easy. I have dry hide glue somewhere: is that better than using wood glue? Could someone explain the procedure to me?

Regarding the refinishing: I have never refinished anything made of veneer before. Should I use stripper or just carefully sand the remaining finish off?

Thanks for your help.

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Hide glue is a type of wood glue. It's probably what was originally used. The advantage to using it for this repair is that it will "reamalgamate" with itself and become one glue. You can also get liquid hide glue in a bottle that has a gel suppressant in it, usually urea, to make it liquid at room temperature. You might lightly dampen the raised veneer and give it a few minutes to soak in to make it more flexible. Take some wood blocks. I coat them with packing tape or Vaseline to keep the glue squeezeout from adhering to it. Add the glue to the crack and work in with a slim knife, palette knife, razor blade, etc. Clamp the veneer down with your wood caul on the top and let set up overnight. Hide glue squeeze out will wash off with warm water.

You will have to do something with the missing piece. There are lots of options there from splicing in new veneer, to burn-in repair, to wax filler sticks, to epoxy putty to wood putty, depending upon your skill level and aesthetic requirements.

Under no circumstances should you "sand off the old finish." Once your repair is done, use a chemical stripper. Then lightly sand only enough to smooth the surface. 220 grit would be the coarsest I would go on a veneer like this.

    Bookmark   January 29, 2013 at 1:02PM
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The missing area is large enough to replace with a piece of mathcing veneer.

Try Constatines for small pieces for repair.

You may have a thickness problem with any patch since veneer has gotten thinner and thinner.

A small scrap of burl for turning pens might be worth cutting down to fit.

    Bookmark   January 29, 2013 at 4:52PM
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Thanks for your reply, bobsmyuncle. Very helpful! For a little clarification: when you say "lightly dampen the raised veneer" to make it flexible, do you mean with water, or underneath with the fresh hide glue?

The missing piece is quite small. I was going to just cut a small price of wood to fit, and glue it in. I am an artist and am good at details.

I did not know that the chemical stripper would be preferable to sanding. I thought maybe because it is veneer I needed to be more careful, that the stripper might get into the veneer joints. But like I said above, I have only stripped solid wood before. I was going to carefully use something like 400 (by hand, of course). Learn something every day. Certainly the edge would be a pain to remove the finish entirely by sanding. I will have to wait for warmer weather to use the stripper outside, but I have a couple of projects needing it, so that is fine.

    Bookmark   January 29, 2013 at 5:01PM
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Sorry, brickeyee, I was typing when your reply came in! Thanks for your help as well.

    Bookmark   January 29, 2013 at 5:03PM
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I've never had stripper affect glue.

Sanding is problematic for three reasons:

- You'll go through a lot of sandpaper because it will clog up. And spend a lot of time.

- It won't completely remove the old finish. This can be a serious problem if you are going to stain but can also create splotchy finish.

- You really risk sanding through a veneer before you realize it. It happens... then you have a big problem.

You may also need to bleach out some of those stains in the top. Strip first and see what it looks like.

Here is a link that might be useful: bleaching wood

    Bookmark   January 29, 2013 at 5:36PM
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"I've never had stripper affect glue. "

Methylene Chloride will not bother hide glue, but I would never trust any of the new water based strippers.

Moisture and veneer just do not work all that well together after the fact.

The finish dulled most likely because there was not enough of it to form up a new smooth layer, and ANY dirt on the surface became incorporated.

I have had enough mixed results using shellac to seal off silicone (especially on large surfaces) that I just check (often with paint thinner) and at even a slight hint relegate the project to fish eye eliminator and the equipment reserved for that purpose.

    Bookmark   January 30, 2013 at 11:42AM
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Not sure what a "water based stripper" is.

I've used methylene chloride, ATM (acetone/toluene/methanol), and NMP (N-Methylpyrrolidone) strippers without ever a problem. In fact Monday, I had two veneered pieces sitting in NMP, under plastic, for five hours while I was out on jobs and not a problem.

Since water is not a hazardous substance, it's not listed on my stripper's MSDS, but there is not much room for it based on other ingredients.

    Bookmark   January 30, 2013 at 3:59PM
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"Not sure what a "water based stripper" is. "

Any of the new 'safer' strippers that promise to clean up with water.

Hide glue veneer and moisture are just a bad combination.

Moisture is one of the fastest ways to soften hide glue and weaken the bond.

Denatured alcohol is another.

You can force denatured alcohol into mortise and tenon joints held by hide glue and the glue turns to powder and loses all strength.

Water just turns it back into a gummy mess.

    Bookmark   January 31, 2013 at 10:40AM
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