We’ve mentioned repairing damaged veneer on a couple of our recent furniture projects, but we’ve never explained exactly how we do that. Since then, we’ve received tons of questions asking for details. Some of you even said you’ve passed up gorgeous furniture pieces because you didn’t know that repairing veneer was an option. Well no more of that! Today you’re going to learn how to fix veneer.
So first things first. When I say “repairing” damaged veneer, we’re not actually replacing the damaged pieces with new veneer. What we’re doing is simply removing the damaged pieces and filling the missing sections in with Bondo. This will only work if you’re planning to paint the piece, as you cannot stain over Bondo.
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Putty knife: I like this inexpensive set of 3*
Bondo: This is the exact Bondo product* we use. We purchased ours at a local auto shop.
The first thing you’ll need to do is remove any loose or bubbling veneer. I use my putty knife to get under the loose sections and pry it off. You can also use a utility knife to cut out bubbled sections if needed.
Once you’ve pulled off all the loose pieces, lightly sand that area with a sanding block. This just knocks off any little splinters that might still be hanging on. When you’re done sanding, wipe it down to get rid of any dust.
Now let’s talk about Bondo for a sec. This stuff stinks! I only work with it outside because it really does have a super strong odor.
The Bondo comes in 2 parts: inside the can is a gray-colored putty. There’s also a small tube of red colored cream (you’ll find it inside the lid). This is the hardening agent.
Using a disposable plastic knife, I scoop some of the gray putty onto a paper plate. Squirt a little of the red hardening agent onto the putty and thoroughly mix the two together with your knife.
I don’t do exact measurements when I mix up my Bondo, but according to the company this is the ratio for mixing the putty with the hardener:
“For a 3-inch diameter circle of filler (approx. 1/2-inch thick), squeeze out a 3-inch ribbon or strip of cream hardener. Or, use a golf ball size amount of filler, squeeze out a 1 1/4-inch ribbon or strip of cream hardener. Filler should be a pinkish/salmon color when properly mixed, using red cream hardener.”
Important: Do not mix your Bondo together until you’re absolutely ready to use it. It starts to dry and harden very quickly and you have to work fast. If you mix it up before you’re ready, it’ll be hard as a rock within a few minutes.
Use your putty knife to smooth the Bondo into the missing section. You want it to be higher than the existing veneer so you have room to sand, but try not to overfill it too much. It does dry to a very hard finish and it can be a pain to have to sand a ton of it off if you just glob it on there really thick. You won’t have more than a couple minutes to play with it and smooth it out before it starts to harden. Clean your putty knife off immediately when you’re finished.
I’m going to switch dressers in this next picture so I can show you some mistakes I made on my first try.
See the little divot by the blue arrow? I didn’t put enough Bondo there and I had to do a second application to fill that in. And see how I just kind of smeared it on and didn’t try to smooth it out very well? It’s so much easier to sand to a smooth finish if you try to smooth it out with your putty knife when you first apply it.
Once it’s completely dry, just sand it and you’re ready to paint. And if it isn’t as smooth as you would like after the first application, just fill and sand it again (like I had to do my first couple tries).
Here’s a before and after pic of the same dresser drawer and the above photo.
I’ve used this technique multiple times to fill sections approximately the size of my hand or a little bigger. I’m not sure it would work if half the veneer was missing. At that point, you might be better off just removing all the veneer down to the solid wood underneath.
Another thought: although I’ve yet to try it, I’ve read that if you have a small bubbling section of veneer, you can sometimes reactivate the glue with a hot iron. It’s something I need to look into more and try myself before recommending it, but if you’ve used that method I’d love for you to share your results with us.
I hope you found this information helpful and you won’t be afraid to take on a gorgeous piece of furniture just because it has a little veneer damage.
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