Today I have a very informative post for all you furniture lovers out there. It’s how to remove wood veneer from furniture. I’ve found the perfect solution to get that fixer upper dresser or table looking like new in no time.
I got this small dresser a few months ago for about $40 which is more than I usually spend but the thrift store it was from is a nonprofit that supports veteran’s programs, a good cause. Here it is in the intake department – my garage. Half the knobs were missing, the drawers need some fixing but it was the perfect shape I was looking for.
The top was quite beat up and although the piece is solid wood, most of the top thin layer was bubbled up and separated from the top of the dresser. The veneer definitely needed to come off, the rest of the dresser was fine – even that piece missing on the top left drawer was OK by me because of what I have planned for this piece.
I scraped off as much of the veneer as I could which ended up being less than half of what was on the top. The outer parts here was the veneer that was still glued on. Can you see the difference?
See the notes below, this was after I had mistakenly primed and then sanded the piece in order to remove the bad wood.
I tried to scrape it off and use a chisel, but nothing worked, it was glued on for good.
So I called on google reinforcements and found some discussion boards on what to do to get the rest off. This is what I came up with.
Yes, you can iron wood off furniture. You need an old rag or towel, preferably something that holds water well, and you need water. You also need some gloves – the good work kind, not the thin plastic ones used for painting – and a putty knife. A firm one is best, you’ll need some muscle behind this job.
First step, wet the wood. I just poured water over the top of the dresser and smoothed it into the wood. The gloves come in handy, let it soak in. Then I wet the towel, not so it is soaking, but pretty damp is good, lay the towel over the veneer you want to remove, working in small sections, and you simply lay the iron on the towel for a bit.
A bit is about 20-30 seconds. I checked under the towel pretty often to see what was going on also making sure I wasn’t about to burn my house down. I’ve never ironed wood before, it’s not the most safe of DIY projects. Hot electricity, water and a combustible material when you think about it. But the fire extinguisher was close by, I’m not kidding.
Back to ironing. Check under the towel to see what is going on. What you want to happen is for the water on the wood and towel to soak into the layer of veneer to make it softer and loosen the glue underneath so the wood will peel off. Trust me it will. If it doesn’t seem to be getting wet, add more water and check often. Sometimes the iron will actually dry up the water you put there, add more. You need to wood to be wet and for the steam to soften the wood.
Soon enough you’ll be able to get your putty knife under the veneer and it will scrape off.
This will happen a little at a time depending on your piece, do be patient. It took me about 45 minutes to get veneer off half the top of this dresser which is 22 x 38 inches. Wet the wood, iron it, wait and scrape.
It will work. Your iron on the other hand might not look so hot. Hee hee, a iron pun 🙂
No worries! That burned stuff came right off mine with some steel wool, really, the iron is as good as new, it’s not ruined forever. Tell your hubs when he complains you are using the “good iron” on furniture.
And just like that you’ll have all your veneer removed and your dresser top (or whichever parts you do) will be ready to paint.
Well almost. Mine needed a bunch of wood fill and some sanding of course.
Then you are ready for primer! So let me know if this is something you have done to a piece or have to.
If you have small piece of wood veneer that is bubbled, you can do the same technique on a smaller scale. Put some wood glue underneath the bubble, put down a damp towel and iron that for a few seconds. Remove the iron, put some weight on it, and the bubble should flatten right out. I just did this to another piece and it worked.
Some tips for removing veneer:
- Wear eye protection – you are scraping wood and don’t want any to hit you in the face or eye. I actually wore a respirator too because of the odor. Since you are loosening glue and chemicals, it is a good precaution.
- My iron was on hot – for cottons. A lower heat might work too, try it out on your piece.
- Remove any paint – Your piece needs to be bare wood in order to do this since water won’t penetrate the paint. As you can see in the pictures I had already primed this dresser including the top when I saw the veneer was beyond repair. I had to sand off the primer I already put on the top in order to remove the wood.
This is just a project that worked for me so if you have a different kind of problem with a piece, try to get some advice on what to do. There are tons of videos on fixing furniture online and even more web sites with info to help. I’ve also never done this before but if you have feel free to leave a link or advice in the comments. Good luck! I plan to do a metallic industrial look on this piece, come back to see how it’s coming along.
Here is now the dresser turned out. What do you think?
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