How to Restore Damaged Veneer

Veneer is a thin layer of hardwood that is glued over a plywood or solid wood base, called a substrate, to create an attractive finish.

As fragile as it is beautiful, veneer chips easily, especially at corners and edges. A hot object placed on a veneered surface can melt the glue and create a blister. With age, the glue bonding the veneer to the substrate may dry out, causing the veneer to lift in places. While you can repair ordinary furniture with a few simple tools, take valuable pieces to a professional refinisher.

Flattening a blister

  1. Cut a slit in the blister with a craft knife, following the wood grain.
  2. Push the glue beneath the veneer with a toothpick or glue injector.
  3. Smooth repair with your fingers. Clamp until the glue dries.

Regluing lifted veneer

  1. To make veneer pliable, place a damp towel over the veneer. Set an iron on low; apply heat in 5 to 10 sec. cycles, checking the work for scorching. Repeat until veneer is pliable.
  2. Sand off the old glue, using 80-grit paper; avoid rounding the edges of the substrate. Or if you can lift the veneer without breaking it, scrape off the old glue with a craft knife.
  3. Spread new glue on the substrate with a toothpick. Press down the veneer and smooth it with your fingers; then wipe off any excess glue with a damp rag.
  4. Secure the repair with masking tape, and weight it down. For a large repair, place wax paper between the repair and a scrap block of wood, then apply clamps.

Patching Veneer

  1. Tape thin cardboard over damaged area. Use a craft knife to cut a diamond shape through cardboard (which will serve as a template) and veneer. (Diamond should be parallel to grain.) Remove veneer in a diamond outline with chisel.
  2. To cut patch, place new veneer on scrap wood position template over veneer so that grain direction of patch will match that of old veneer. Tape down template. Using a craft knife guided by a straightedge, cut out patch.
  3. Clean out old glue from the damaged area apply a thin coat of fresh glue to it. Quickly press the patch in place. Wipe off any excess glue with a damp cloth; cover the repair with wax paper and weight it down.

Things You Will Need

  • towel
  • waxed paper
  • books (for weight)
  • liquid hide glue, veneer glue, or yellow glue
  • craft knife