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Cabinets, Furniture, Woodworks/Refinishing stained veneer


QUESTION: Hi Eileen,
I have a 1960's bookshelf with 3 veneered doors which I am re-furbishing as my first "project". I have just read your response to a similar question, which pretty much answered my questions (thanks!) but I have an additional to ask.
The item appears to have been stained and treated with a poly varnish at some point. What i was intending to do was follow the steps you laid out and see what colour it comes up. If the veneer has been stained, what are my options? I am guessing sanding the colour off is not one.
The current colour is that dark orange brown you get with furniture from the sixties.  I prefer the red browns of teak and rose wood.
The veneer is in excellent condition, no warping, lifting etc. I do not want to remove it.
The timber on the rest of the piece looks like laurel oak. As it too has been stained, it will be sanded.
I was hoping to bring out the natural characteristics of the wood and go with that. But I am now I think I may have to alter my approach and re-stain. The main goal is to soften/remove the current colour and bring some warmth back.
Any suggestions are greatly appreciated.

ANSWER: Hi Nicole
Nice to hear from you.
Its nice to know others actually read our answers. Thankyou.
You asked for my suggestion and its this..Follow my stripping instructions as layed out.
I will enclose them here again.
Only after the entire piece is stripped can we determine the next step ie. to stain or not, dark or light stain etc.
So get that done first.
The poly varnish you mention is called the finish. The stain is applied under the finish.
You will likely be pleasently surprised after you see the stripped piece.
While not all the stain will come off as it penetrates the wood, a lot of it does.
After the stripping is there a chance you will send me a picture so I can advise on staining?

The first thing you must do is assemble the material to do the job.
The stripper is the most important item.  
I am hoping you can get "CIRCA 1850" brand paint and varnish remover in your area.
Here is a link

MATERIAL LIST For the stripping stage.
1 gallon stripper
3 boxes of Bull Dog steel wool in medium grade.
One 3 inch oil based paint brush.
Rubber gloves (like you do dishes with), and a pair of cotton gloves inside the rubber ones.
People react differently to stripper. A lot of people feel heat through the rubber gloves, but I feel cold. Have no idea why.
An empty large coffee can. (for the stripper)
A couple of old tooth brushes.
Lots of old rags (I like t-shirts or cotton but for this first stage whatever you have)
Lots of newspaper to protect the garage floor
That's all you need to get started.
Work in sections.
Brush on the stripper with the brush. Stripper will quit working if it dries, so keep it wet till the finish softens.
Then take a rag and wipe this mess off.
Then another coat of stripper, rag off again, then while the wood is still wet, take the steel wool and rub with the grain till the wood is nice and clean.
Depending on the material you are removing, another coat of stripper is often needed but you will know this as you progress into the job.
Use the toothbrush in crevices.
Thats all there is to it ...move to another section and continue.
No other prep is necessary...and DO NOT SAND
When the stripping is complete, stain with Minwax stain applied with a rag, then 3 or 4 coats of low lustre tung oil also applied with a rag.
Please let me know if anything is not 100% clear.
Good Luck Nicole
Get back if need be

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The Project
The Project  

The Project
The Project  
QUESTION: Hi Eileen.
Thank you- it is coming along well. I think the varnish has stained the wood, not an actual stain. So my hope is with a little light sanding it will be close to the original wood. I haven't tackled the doors/veneer yet.

However my idiot but well meaning neighbour- think Homer Simpson- moved it and split a lateral shelf.
I have attached images.

The first is the previously mentioned water damage and split. This is located at the base on the end, the split following the grain of the wood for about 3 inches.

The second shows the join on the inside of the fore mentioned split. There are two. First on the end panel, the same panel as the water damage, but not connected. It follows the join, not the grain. Where it meets the shelf the shelf has split, again along the join. It follows the length of the shelf.

My thought was to glue and clamp the join splits. Would you do this and do you have any suggestions of glue? We stock most US brands in Australia.

The water damage I was considering the same, but would welcome any suggestions.

Also, any suggestions for sanding with the grain into corner joins?

Thanks again for you advice and time.

Warm regards,


Hi again Nicole
Looks like you are coming along great.
You are correct that these areas need gluing and then clamping.
With veneer you have to get glue under the entire raised area.
This can be done by squeezing glue under the veneer, then using a very thin blade of some kind to spread the glue well. A thin bladed knife will work. Then clamping. Always use clamping blocks.
If you plan on sanding (which I don't recommend), do it very carefully by hand.
For the inside corners, use fine steel wool instead of sandpaper. You can work against the grain carefully. Steel wool the inside corners first, then the sandpaper on the rest with the grain.
A good wood glue is Elmers if you can get it there.
Keep me posted

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Eileen Cronk


Hi..I can answer most questions about the repairing,stripping and refinishing of all your old furniture and wood items(the things we call antiques)I can give advice about what to buy/avoid at auctions/flea markets. I do not give appraisals on antiques.


I have been refinishing antiques for the past 30yrs. While I have taken several courses over the years,I have found that "hands on" learning is the best teacher. Perhaps I can help you avoid some of the mistakes I made while learning.

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