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Thread: Veneer Replacement Technique

  1. #1

    Veneer Replacement Technique

    I'm refinishing an end table and it's not going well. I guess there wasn't enough burled walnut veneer left on the top so I sanded through it in places. Well, I learned, so that's something. The veneer is framed by red oak boards. I'm considering replacing the veneer, maybe using a router to make room for the new piece. My fear there is I might end up with it too deep or not deep enough, or uneven, but it's the best idea I can think of. I'd be interested if you have a different way.

    I contacted a veneer place and got this response:

    "There is no way to do what you need to do. It's not something I've had success with either. The first challenge is getting the depth right and I think that could be nearly impossible. The second challenge is getting a veneer to fit exactly inside the frame which is very unlikely... partly because veneer expands and contracts bit when the glue is applied and has dried.

    Your best bet may be to post your question on one of the many woodworking forums on the internet. I suggest the forum at Sawmill Creek (www.sawmillcreek.org). I have no affiliation with this site but this particular forum is responsive and resourceful. Give that a try because those guys and gals know a lot more than I do."

    Can anyone recommend a technique that has worked in a situation like this?
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  2. #2
    I don't think the router idea is feasible.

    A few ways I can think of:

    1. Remove the central field, veneer a new panel and install it.

    2. Make one veneer panel consisting of the central veneer surrounded by mitered strips to match the perimeter.

    3. Take the panel apart & start over. If you can't reuse the oak, it would be fairly easy to remake that.

    Of the 3, it would be a toss up between 2 and 3.

    If there were an inlay strip it would be more complicated, that's what I'm dealing right now.

  3. #3
    What you are trying to do is very difficult. What I would do is put new veneer over the whole surface.

    But if you want a veneered center panel with real wood edging I'd do what Robert suggested above - rip the existing edging off, veneer the center and carefully glue edging slightly proud of the panel. Then comes the difficult part. You have to take the edging down to the level of the veneer without sanding through the veneer. It's easy to make a mistake but it can be done.

    If you do make a mistake and damage the veneer at the junction of the edging, what I've done is to use a router and put in a decorative strip between the veneer and the edging. Of course, then you have to take that down to the level of the veneer.

    If you can start with thicker veneer than the standard commercial stuff you'll save yourself some heartache. Maybe resaw some veneer yourself. I have done this with commercial veneer but you have to go very slow and work carefully.

    In general, I avoid doing a panel with wide edging because it's so difficult. I'd just take the veneer out to the edge. If I wanted the look of a different edging, I'd lay the edging as veneer with real wood on the edge of the substrate so it looks the same and then put a profile that hid the joint between the veneer and the wood substrate.

    I hope you can understand what I mean - it's hard to describe in words.

    Mike
    Go into the world and do well. But more importantly, go into the world and do good.

  4. #4
    I considered covering the whole top with veneer. I hesitated to do that since that would expose the edge of the veneer, which would be visible and potentially fragile. I still may, but I also was hoping to keep to the original design as much as possible. Similarly, putting a panel on top would duplicate the top surface, but the side of the panel would be exposed, so I'd probably have to veneer that separately.

    I'm not sure taking it apart is possible since it's pretty well glued. But I'll look at that a little. Maybe there's a technique to do that that I haven't learned yet?
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    Last edited by Don Stauffer; 01-14-2021 at 3:52 PM.

  5. #5
    I used to work in a veneer dept of a very high end corporate furniture making business, we replaced sections of large conference tables some costing in excess of 100k with a cnc router removing the damaged section, the bigger challenge was finding a match

  6. #6
    That's interesting - a CNC router would certainly make it possible to make a precisely sized space for the veneer. I think with some luck and care it might be possible to do that well enough with a hand-held router. The main advantage of a CNC would be the bit is positioned relative to the machine rather than a local surface of the work. The only CNC device I have access to can only handle things about an inch thick, I think, though.

    How did you deal with veneer expansion and contraction? Presumably, make the veneer horizontal dimensions with a precise allowance just enough for any expected expansion, and maybe use an adhesive which wouldn't have that effect? I had thought of putting the veneer on a relatively thin MDF piece and routing deep enough for the combined depth of MDF and veneer, but that might be too much for an operation with a hand-held router. How much expansion would be expected from adhesive moisture? Presumably then it would shrink back to its original size when it dried. So it's a question of whether that gap would end up overly large. It occurred to me to do the veneer in 4 pieces to minimize the size of the gap. The original is actually in 4 pieces and does a good job of matching them for an "ink blot" effect.

  7. #7
    I looked more closely at this. The frame seems to be very thin wood glued on top - thicker than veneer, but not very thick at all. So I think that's how they dealt with not having fragile veneer all the way out to the edge. I'm thinking they mounted the veneer on a fairly thin base, then maybe planed the oak boards down until they were the same thickness as base plus veneer, then glued it all together. Actually a reasonably smart way to make a veneered end table durable.

  8. #8
    I would do it on my cnc router if I had to retain the existing edgebands. You would have to work fast getting the new veneer in place and under pressure using a waterbased glue. You might be able to find walnut burl with a paper backing that would make the job easier. You don't want flexible glue or expansion room, an exact fit is what veneer excels at. Its expansion potential is held in check by its thinness and the glueline.

    Easier would be to remove the banding, veneer the center panel and re-apply the bands. Easier still if the client agrees is to run the veneer over the edgeband, but it is a bit more fragile and liable to telegraph the joint below due to the banding width.

    Go easy on the sanding next time. I heard about another guy that burned through once . If you see any color change while sanding stop at once and you might be able to save it.

  9. #9
    Join Date
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    I would make a new top. Veneer on mdf then edgeband with oak. To flush the solid I use a hand held belt sander but I’ve been doing that for a lot of years.
    Steve Jenkins, McKinney, TX. 469 742-9694
    Always use the word "impossible" with extreme caution

  10. #10
    Right now I'm thinking something similar to this: Veneer the frame as well. It seems on closer inspection the frame was hardly more than veneer anyway.

  11. #11
    "Veneer on mdf then edgeband with oak. To flush the solid I use a hand held belt sander but Iíve been doing that for a lot of years."

    You're a braver man than I.

  12. #12
    The Veneer room I worked in was tightly controlled as far as temperature and humidity, we had a system that would spray automized water in the room (would scare the crap out of me on occasion), didnít have much of an issue that i can remember, if doing a complicated layup like a starburst then you would want to cut, tape and glue all in one day. I canít remember the adhesive we used but would imagine we used a hard glue line, all of our tops were made with 1Ē MDF with the same species and thickness for the backs although a lower grade was allowed, they were glued in a joos hot press. Solid edges were sanded flush using a stroke sander.


    Quote Originally Posted by Don Stauffer View Post
    That's interesting - a CNC router would certainly make it possible to make a precisely sized space for the veneer. I think with some luck and care it might be possible to do that well enough with a hand-held router. The main advantage of a CNC would be the bit is positioned relative to the machine rather than a local surface of the work. The only CNC device I have access to can only handle things about an inch thick, I think, though.

    How did you deal with veneer expansion and contraction? Presumably, make the veneer horizontal dimensions with a precise allowance just enough for any expected expansion, and maybe use an adhesive which wouldn't have that effect? I had thought of putting the veneer on a relatively thin MDF piece and routing deep enough for the combined depth of MDF and veneer, but that might be too much for an operation with a hand-held router. How much expansion would be expected from adhesive moisture? Presumably then it would shrink back to its original size when it dried. So it's a question of whether that gap would end up overly large. It occurred to me to do the veneer in 4 pieces to minimize the size of the gap. The original is actually in 4 pieces and does a good job of matching them for an "ink blot" effect.

  13. #13
    Fortunately, the client is me. But yeah, I learned that lesson. I think what I'm settling on is pretty much your second paragraph second sentence there. I'll get some red oak veneer and some burled oak veneer and just glue it on the top. The edges are a little rounded from sanding, so I may have to put some wood putty in there. I don't know. I'll see what happens, I guess.

  14. #14
    This is fascinating. Since I'm considering veneer, I've been studying wood grains online for a couple days now, and I've reached a couple conclusion which surprise me.

    The first thing is that despite the pink hue, I believe the frame is white oak, because of the length of the rays in the grain. That fits because the other way to tell white from red is whether the grain is plugged on the end, and the legs, which also have a pinkish color, do seem to have the typical tyloses blocking the pores that white oak has. So I don't believe there's red oak anywhere on this.

    This is a Lane Furniture 920-02 End Table.

    https://highendusedfurniture.com/pro...-table-920-02/

    Everyone who identifies it by type of wood calls it "walnut", so that's what I've been assuming, but pretty much all the burled walnut veneer I can find is anywhere from a little to a lot darker. For example:

    https://www.veneersupplies.com/produ...s-Per-Lot.html

    Then on impulse I looked at some burled white oak. The tone seemed the same, so I started looking at various grains, and ... I found this, which is far closer to the original than anything else I've found:

    https://www.veneersupplies.com/produ...s-Per-Lot.html

    I'm no expert, but I don't think it's walnut at all. I think it's burled white oak! That would make the entire piece white oak.

    What do you think?
    Last edited by Don Stauffer; 01-15-2021 at 9:09 PM.

  15. #15
    " The edges are a little rounded from sanding, so I may have to put some wood putty in there."

    Not a great idea. Flatten the panel before veneering if you want to get a reliable glueline. Do you have access to a thickness sander?.

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