Repairing Cracked, Broken, Chipped, or Missing Veneer
Cracked, broken, or chipped veneer requires some additional effort, such as finding a patch to match the surrounding surface. Follow the steps below to handle these complicated damages on wooden furniture.
Cracked or Broken Veneer
If the veneer is lifted and cracked, but not broken completely through, it can be reglued. Large areas may be easier to repair if you break the veneer off along the cracks. Broken veneer can be reglued, but you must be very careful not to damage the edges of the break. Do not trim ragged edges; an irregular mend line will not be as visible as a perfectly straight line.
Before applying glue to the veneer, clean the bonding surfaces carefully, as above. Fit the broken edges carefully together to make sure they match perfectly. Then apply contact cement to both surfaces, or spread carpenters' glue on the base wood. Set the broken veneer carefully into place, matching the edges exactly, and press firmly to knit the broken edges together. Clamp the mended area. Refinishing may be necessary when the mend is complete; if so, use a non-wash-away paint and varnish remover, and treat the veneered surface very gently.
Chipped or Missing Veneer
Replacing veneer is easy, but finding a new piece to replace it may not be. If the piece of furniture is not valuable, you may be able to take the patch from a part of it that won't show. The patch area must be along an edge, so that you can lift the veneer with a craft knife or a stiff-bladed putty knife.
In most cases, patch veneer should not be taken from the same piece of furniture; you'll have to buy matching veneer to make the repair. If only a small piece is missing, you may be able to fill in the hole with veneer edging tape, sold at many home centers and lumberyards. Or, if you have access to junk furniture, you may be able to salvage a similar veneer from another piece of furniture. For larger patches, or if you can't find a scrap piece of matching veneer, buy a sheet of matching veneer from a specialized wood supplier. National veneer suppliers can be found by searching the Internet.
To fit a chip or very small patch, set a sheet of bond paper over the damaged veneer. Rub a very soft, dull lead pencil gently over the paper; the edges of the damaged area will be exactly marked on the paper. Use this pattern as a template to cut the veneer patch. Tape the pattern to the patching wood, matching the grain of the new veneer to the grain of the damaged area. Cut the path firmly and carefully with a sharp craft knife; it's better to make it too big than too small.
© Before gluing the patch in, test it for fit; it should fit exactly, flush with the surrounding surface, with no gaps.
To make a larger patch, tape the patching veneer firmly over the damaged area with masking tape, with the grain and pattern of the patch matching the grain and pattern of the damaged veneer. Make sure the patch is flat against the surface, and securely held in place.
Cut the patch in an irregular shape, as illustrated, or in a boat or shield shape; these shapes will be less visible than a square or rectangular Patch Would be. Cut the patch carefully with a craft knife, scoring through the patching veneer and through the damaged veneer layer below it.
Untape the patching sheet and pop out the patch. With the
tip of the craft knife, remove the cut-out patch of damaged veneer; if necessary, score it and remove it in pieces.
Be very careful not to damage the edges of the patch. Be very careful not to damage the edges of the patch area. Remove only the top veneer laver; do not cut into the base wood. Remove any old glue and clean the base wood as above.
Test the fit of the patch in the hole. It should fit exactly, flush with the surrounding surface, with no gaps or overlaps. If the patch is too big or too thick, do not force it in. Carefully sand the edges or the back with fine-girt sandpaper to fit it to the hole.
Glue the fitted patch into place with contact cement or carpenters' glue, as above, and clamp or weight it solidly. Let the repair dry for one to two days; then very lightly sand the patch and the surrounding veneer. Re-finish the damaged area or, if necessary, the entire surface or piece of furniture.
The basic repair techniques mentioned in this article will help you keep the veneer on your wooden furniture looking like new.
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