©1998 Franklin International circle no 23 on proouct information form AMERICAN WOODWORKER ▲ FEBRUARY 1999 25
Removing Antique Veneer
I inherited a bedroom set that was made in the late 1920s. The dressers are in beautiful condition, but the bed-frame headboard and footboard have had it. The veneer on these two pieces is book-matched burl mahogany and walnut. I'd like to remove the veneer and use it to make a matching dresser tray and jewelry box. Can you offer any rips on removing the veneer? It is glued down in strips that arc about 8 to 12 in. wide and 3 ft. long, and it's thicker than any veneer I've seen commercially available today. I'm not sure what kind of glue was used.
Matt Scilcr Tinlcy Park, IL.
©The majority of furniture in the early part of the century was made with hide glue (sometimes called hot glue). You can usually remove and reuse veneer that was glued down with hide glue, especially if it s thicker than V\c in. If it's any thinner, or if the veneer is highly figured, it's very difficult. If any other glue was used, salvaging the veneer would be almost impossible.
If it's hide glue, here's how to remove the veneer. Soak a rag in hot water and fold it into a long, 1-in.-wide strip. Placc it at the edge where you want to start removing the veneer, and leave the rag there 15 minutes. Pass a heat lamp along the length of the rag—or run a hot clothcs iron along the rag for a few minutes.
Remove the rag and insert a thin artist's spatula (the kitchen variety works too) along the edge between the veneer and substrate. As you work the veneer loose, inject a little hot water with a syringe along the glue line—a kitchen bastcr will do in a pinch. Clamping or holding the piece vertically will make this easier. Pass your heat lamp along the surface, alternately working the spatula and injecting hot water. Work slowly and carefully.
After you remove all the veneer, clean the remaining glue from the back by scrubbing with the hot rag. To dry the veneer and keep it flat while it's drying, sandwich it between sheets of kraft paper.
waxed paper, and plywood. It should be dry in one day. If not, change the kraft paper and wait another day.
In your case, since the veneer is glued in narrow sections, you might consider slicing it off with a saw—if your bandsaw has resawing capacity of 8 to 12 in. I've accomplished this many times. Rip the headboard and footboard into narrow sections first. On the tablesaw, with the fence set about Vg in. from the blade and the blade set as high as it'll go, cut into each edge. Finish resawing on the band-saw. You can leave a thin layer of the substrate bonded to the veneer, but plane it smooth with a very sharp, finely set plane.
Robert C. Whitley Antique restorer and furniture maker
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