How to Remove Veneer

Three Parts:Loosening the VeneerScraping the VeneerSanding the Furniture

Veneer is commonly used on wooden furniture to create an attractive, durable surface. However, peeling veneer can ruin the look of a table, desk, vanity or buffet. Removing the veneer to expose the hardwood requires a steady hand and a careful process, but it can result in a beautiful refinished piece of furniture.

Part 1
Loosening the Veneer

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    Assess the state of the veneer. If you can peel up one small portion of the veneer to see what’s underneath, you can get an idea of how much work the project will take. If the piece of veneered furniture has been stored in a damp place for a few years, chances are you can skip the loosening step and move straight on to scraping the veneer off.
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    Turn the piece of furniture so that the side with the veneer is facing up.
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    Wet an old towel in warm water. Squeeze it out so that it is damp and not dripping.
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    Set the towel across the piece of veneer. Take extra care to ensure that the towel is not sitting directly on any pieces of finished wood that you want to leave intact. The water can damage the finish.
    • Any water damage to the wood just under the veneer can be removed during the sanding process.
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    Let the damp towel sit on the top of the veneer for about two hours. Re-moisten the towel if it won’t stay damp for that long. If the veneer doesn’t have any cracks, you may need to keep the towel on the surface for three hours.[1]
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    Remove the towel. Look for curling and gaps in the surface. The glue under the veneer should start to dissolve with prolonged water exposure.

Part 2
Scraping the Veneer

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    Clamp your piece of furniture to your wood table, if it is not sturdy. Put on your safety gloves and glasses.
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    Take a chisel or a three-inch (7.5cm) metal putty knife to begin scraping. Keep the putty knife as flat as possible to avoid damaging the wood underneath. Try to scrape with the grain of the wood underneath.
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    Begin scraping in consistent, flat strokes at a point near the end of the furniture where the veneer is already gaping.
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    Scrape several times, and then try to pick up the veneer and pull it up in a large piece with your hand. Damaged veneer can come up in sheets.
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    Stop when you find a place that is stuck fast. Flip your chisel over if you are using one. Work at the glued portion from the side, approximately 45 degrees off of the wood grain.
    • Use short, flat strokes and gentle pressure to lift the glued portion.
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    Remove extremely stubborn areas with steam heat from an iron. Purchase an old iron that you can use for only home improvement projects. Wet an old towel and place it on the stubborn veneer.
    • The towel should be fairly damp, but not dripping.
    • Place the heated iron on top of the damp towel. Let it sit for one to two minutes. The steam should help loosen the glue on the veneer.
    • Be very careful that you don’t touch the iron or place your hands near the steam during this process. It is extremely hot.
    • Keep the iron and towel away from finished pieces of wood.[2]
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    Scrape up the stubborn area with your putty knife.

Part 3
Sanding the Furniture

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    Scrape up all the veneer pieces and discard them.
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    Attach pieces of 80-grit sandpaper to your orbital sander. Plug it in and put on your safety glasses and ventilation mask.
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    Go over the surface of the remaining wood. Brush off the dust.
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    Repeat process with 120-grit and 220-grit sandpaper, until the surface is smooth and ready to finish.[3]
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    Paint or stain the wood. Finish it with a polyurethane sealer.

Things You'll Need

  • Water
  • Old towel
  • Chisel/metal putty knife
  • Clamps
  • Hammer
  • Old iron
  • Orbital sander
  • 80,120 and 220-grit sandpaper discs
  • Paint/stain
  • Sealer

Article Info

Categories: Furniture and Cabinets