Empire Dresser Veneer Repair

I’ve been working the past couple of weekends on an old empire dresser my wife bought at an auction a couple of months ago. After we got the dresser home, we noticed that the dresser had some old repairs on it. It also had a poor stain job that looked like it was sprayed on with a paint sprayer since it was covered in orange peel. So I stripped off all of the stain with Soy Gel paint stripper and wanted to fix some the repairs.

At the top of the dresser was this veneer repair. What the original guy who repaired the dresser was trying to accomplish I’m not sure, but I believe that what was underneath this veneer at one time was a lock mechanism to lock the top drawer. The lock was long gone and we had no intentions of adding the lock back in, so I decided to fix this area of the dresser with a new piece of veneer.

The original veneer on the dresser was made from a piece of crotch mahogany. I didn’t have any mahogany veneer on me so I decided to fill it with a small piece of sapele. Sapele is often considered a poor man’s mahogany being about half the cost. Plus I really didn’t feel like buying an expensive piece of mahogany to fix this little area. The good thing about this repair is that it was dead center of the case so any new repair would still be symmetrical on both sides even if it didn’t match perfectly with the rest of the dresser.

I used a card scraper and ran a utility knife down the scraper scoring the veneer. I then pared away the rest with a paring chisel. After all the wood was removed, I flattened out the rest of the area as best I could so the new piece of veneer would sit flat.

After measuring the area, I cut a new piece of sapele from a scrap board and dried fitted in place. I gently planed across the face to level it with the rest of the veneer making sure I didn’t cut into the old veneer. After everything fit, I glued and clamped it to the dresser.

The piece fit but I wanted to match the color of the original mahogany veneer. I took another scrap piece of sapele and experimented with a few colors of water soluble dyes to see how well I could match it up to the original veneer. After a few attempts, I decided to use a couple of coats of Early Brown American dye with a very light coat of Mahogany stain.

The color turned out well. Not a perfect match but well enough. Once I get the drawers done, my wife will apply a few coats of hemp oil to bring out the natural beauty of the wood. I’ll post a picture when the dresser is done.

4 thoughts on “Empire Dresser Veneer Repair

  1. Hi Mike, thx for stopping by http://www.thewritesteph.com ! I’ve got a question. Is veneer good furniture to have if it’s quality veneer? We bought a nice bedroom set from a reputable store in TN. It’s cherry veneer. Very heavy. Dove-tail joints and well-fitted dresser drawers. I just have heard that veneer is bad. Maybe I’m just thinking laminate particle board.


  2. Veneer in itself is not bad. It’s a very old technique used to beautify a piece of furniture without breaking the bank. It’s much more economical to glue thin veneer of expensive wood on top of cheaper secondary wood than to build the entire piece out of the expensive wood alone.

    Sometimes when people talk about cheap furniture being veneered, they are often talking about thin veneer glued on top of particle board or press board. That type of veneered furniture is often very week as the particle board has no structural support and can easily break in half. Also, the veneer is so thin that if you get a scratch or dent in the wood, you can’t sand it out as you will sand right through the veneer exposing the particle board underneath.

    Laminated particle board is similar to cheap veneered furniture however laminate is plastic and not wood.

    Your cherry bedroom set is more likely cherry veneer on top of soft maple or poplar secondary wood but without examining the piece it would be hard to say.



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