Veneer repair

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Project by dbray45 posted 01-10-2012 06:18 PM 4123 views 2 times favorited 19 comments Add to Favorites Watch
Veneer repair
Veneer repair No picture No picture No picture No picture No picture
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The table—- sorry its out of focus

This was an interesting project. The customer set a flashlight or something on the table and the batteries leaked, burning a hole in the veneer. He tells me that that the table was made in the 1700s to the mid 1800s he would have to look it up but it was a family heirloom. One of the problems was that he managed to find a piece of veneer and armed with Elmers glue, installed a patch. At least he did not get a can of poly and apply liberally.

A little history on this piece, shellac finish, we thought it was walnut burl and thankfully, it is. The top has eight panels and had knots in the panels. These knots were patched at the time of creation and matched – a litttle, in the pattern. As it turns out, this is a good thing for me because the damage included part of one of the patches.

The damage with the customer’s patch.

At this point, I have done a little veneering, all with veneer that I made new and nothing period or repairing. The customer has been wanting me to fix this for about a year but I have been putting him off, mosly because I was researching as much as I could. A few things that I wanted to make sure was what glue was used, and what finish, the customer was always told that it was walnut veneer. I sent the pictures above to Mr. Kleeman (a fellow LJ and a tremendous craftsman), and confirmed that it probably was walnut burl. He was also very kind and offered a number of suggestions and ideas that I found very helpful. Thank you -

One thing that I kind of knew and Bob confirmed was that I really should match adhesives and finish. This allows for tempurature and humidity changes along the same lines as the original. An alcohol test confirmed that the finish was shellac.

So first things first – and I recommend this to anyone doing this for at least the first ten times or so – make a test or two or three. I did this three times and even then had issues (I’ll explaen later). Cut a piece of veneer to a piece of pliwood or something using the same adhesive you are going to use, in this case I was using hide glue.

A quick note – it says to use good ventilation for this glue – do it. Once the smell of hide glue gets in your sinuses, it is there to stay for a few days and it kind of makes everything you smell have the smell of hide glue. But the stuff really works.

Getting back – I cut a hole in the test piece and glued a non-matching piece into the hole with elmers.
In this picture, the third time, I used hide glue.

Now, I removed the patch that didn’t match and put in a new piece – looked like this

Once I had the porceedure to a reasonable level, time to make the jump to the real repair.

I removed the patch and the glue. Since the customer did not neutralize the battery effects, it had eaten into the base wood (mahogany) a little and had to be removed and a filler piece installed. The orginal hole was enlarged to get all of the newer glue removed and cleaned up.

After much consideration, I cut a piece that would look perfect for the patch.

I cut this this to be a perfect match, lined up the grain, got the glue hot, applied the patch an then everything went wrong. The original veneer had been sanded, and then, as I was applying the patch, the glue was too thick, the glue cooled too quickly, the patch expanded, and the patch came apart in little pieces. Did I mention that this glue is VERY sticky – to everything. So, back to square one, find a new piece to cut out and make a new patch. This time I cut two more where the burl and lighter woods matched up reasonably well.

I didn’t allow for the expansion as I was pressing down with the veneer hammer so this was added to the mix.
I changed my glue applicator to an acid brush.

Time to try this again

After covering with wax paper and clamping overnight. it was time to see if this was another practice run.
There was still a very an unevenness from where the customer used 200 grit sandpaper on the veneer, thankfully not through. After sanding the patch smooth using 400 and then 1000 grit paper, the patch was going to stay. The finish build was to start.

There are a number of shellac products out there and there are serious differences to the quality of the finish – just saying. From the color and the time frame, I figured that this was amber shellac, so I had some shellac in a can and applied it to my test piece (which was all dark) and the finish looked murky or cloudy. Bought some amber, de-waxed flakes and let it get happy, serious difference here. The mixture was clear, nice color, a real step higher.

Anyway, back to the project, applied some of the new shellac in a french polish method and god a nice build, matching the original thickness and let dry.

See a problem here? The colors are not coming together at all. Everything was going through my head, was this really a cherry burl or similar wood? Should I mix garnet shellac?

Well, time to remove the finish and start over. I mixed a little garnet dewaxed shellac with the current shellac and really didn’t like the look on a test piece – cloudy and wrong color. THen is occured to me that there was a pronounced attitude for many years that if it was dark, make it red. As I was looking at the top, there are a number of areas that have a distincly red hue. Well, back to the store to find a red dye that works with oils and shellac – found one. I went back, added one drop to about 1/2 cup of mixed shellac, applied to a test piece and the match was as close to perfect as I was going to get. Carefully, I applied this mixer to the patch only and let dry. Then, I used the non color added shellac to the area to blend into the old. The result – I will let you decide

Tomorrow, after this has had time to harden a bit more, I will go ver the entire top with rottenstone and then a carrnuba wax before I take it back to the customer. The project picture is of most of the top with all of the patches including mine.

Thanks for looking, hope there is something in here that you can use is your projects.

-- David in Damascus, MD

19 comments so far

View Rickterscale's profile


167 posts in 2596 days

#1 posted 01-10-2012 08:16 PM

Quite a journey. The final patch looks great.

View dbray45's profile


3320 posts in 3012 days

#2 posted 01-10-2012 08:20 PM

Thank you, it has been fun.

-- David in Damascus, MD

View Cozmo35's profile


2200 posts in 3272 days

#3 posted 01-10-2012 08:48 PM

You did a great job on this. Your procedure is well explained. Thanks for posting.

-- If you don't work, you don't eat!.....Garland, TX

View dbray45's profile


3320 posts in 3012 days

#4 posted 01-10-2012 09:14 PM

My pleasure

-- David in Damascus, MD

View bvdon's profile


501 posts in 3251 days

#5 posted 01-10-2012 09:35 PM

I’ve seen some guitar repairs where the wood is replaced as you’ve done here, but then there is a faux finish applied to blend the wood grain to where you can’t even see the location of the repair.

View dbray45's profile


3320 posts in 3012 days

#6 posted 01-10-2012 09:46 PM

Too much work and being a period piece, I am told that patching like this is better than apllying a faux finish. My patch went into an original patch and burl so when you look closely, boundries are blurred.

When you try to cover up, over time the coverup looks worse than a patch. If I did this right, it will look the same in 20-50 years. In my experience, faux finishes do not age well.

-- David in Damascus, MD

View Billp's profile


804 posts in 4435 days

#7 posted 01-10-2012 10:12 PM

Quite a journey, next time try making your edges uneven, I mean no straight lines of perfect circles. It makes it harder for the eye to pick up the fix.

-- Billp

View Tokolosi's profile


678 posts in 2591 days

#8 posted 01-11-2012 01:53 AM

great job! I think it is reall well done! And the explanation was super. Lots of info there.

-- “There is nothing like looking, if you want to find something. You certainly usually find something, if you look, but it is not always quite the something you were after.” ~ JRR Tolkien

View a1Jim's profile


117417 posts in 3813 days

#9 posted 01-11-2012 04:29 AM

Very involved repair ,thanks for sharing the process.

-- wood crafting & woodworking classes

View dbray45's profile


3320 posts in 3012 days

#10 posted 01-11-2012 02:27 PM

Bill – tried to do that in the test pieces, when using a veneer hammer the edges of burl flake off leaving little holes around the patch. As it was, I varied the lines as much as possible without splitting the burl veneer (went through a bunch of test pieces in the process). I examined the other patches with a loop and they were done when the piece was made, there was no other way the patterns could be matched up (there are too many errors in the rest of the piece). The holes were cut and laid over the top of the patch material and then the patches were positioned and cut. Doing this as a repair is a lot different.

Tokokosi and Jim – thank you, anytime

-- David in Damascus, MD

View Ken90712's profile


17614 posts in 3424 days

#11 posted 01-11-2012 03:41 PM

You did a great job on this repair, you should be proud. I think it looks great.

-- Ken, "Everyday above ground is a good day!"

View dbray45's profile


3320 posts in 3012 days

#12 posted 01-11-2012 03:57 PM

There is a caviat to all this. As I was cleaning up the top to wax and make nice, there was a part that did not act right with the process. It seems that someone thought it was a good thing to laquer a piece of this top. One of the reasons I don’t like to repair furniture.

I cleaned up the part that had laquer and reapplied the shellac. Unfortunately, I am not proficient with french polish so I will smoth out this portion with abrasives 600, 1200, 4f pumice and rottenstone.

-- David in Damascus, MD

View RobertKleeman's profile


20 posts in 2706 days

#13 posted 01-11-2012 04:04 PM

Well Done! It came out great. And a great walk through of you process – thanks for sharing.

View dbray45's profile


3320 posts in 3012 days

#14 posted 01-11-2012 05:00 PM

Thank you for your help

-- David in Damascus, MD

View Jacob Lucas's profile

Jacob Lucas

100 posts in 2667 days

#15 posted 01-11-2012 05:16 PM

Awesome repair job, Thanks so much for writing such a detailed post about the process!

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