Removing veneer. Ugh! Everyone in the refinishing and painting world dreads it, but listen, sometimes it just has to be done! In the video above I have shown you how I like to remove veneer. Trust me, I have tried all of the methods out there, more than once, but in the end this is the method I personally like best. Honestly, any method you try isn’t going to magically take off the veneer, unless for some reason the veneer has been doused in water for many, many years….but then you’re going to have a moisture problem in the wood. Just keep that in mind.
When trying to remove veneer each piece of furniture tends to react differently, but the wet towel method that I explained in the video (and below) is the most consistent method for me. After you go through the wet towel process, use a metal paint scraper and hammer to chip away the stubborn glue and left over veneer pieces that are still stuck to the piece. Make sure you always wear protective gloves and safety glasses! It can be a lot of work, but it will eventually all come off in the end. Just be careful not to dent the wood when you’re hammering the paint scraper. Sometimes the veneer comes off in a few large pieces and other times it comes off in 57,239,208 pieces.. Your ultimate goal is to make the process easier. Below I have listed the most common ways to remove veneer from a piece of furniture.
Paint scraper and hammer: To only use a paint scraper and hammer is rare, but once in a blue moon, you can get away with just scrapping and pulling off the old veneer.
Wet towel: This is the method I prefer. Grab a thick towel (not a thin shop towel) and soak it in hot water. Ring out some of the water so that the towel is not dripping wet. Place towel on the veneer for at least 8 hours. I recommend letting sit overnight and/or up to 24 hours if you can. By placing the wet towel on the veneer, you are basically causing the veneer to go through the same process that caused the veneer to start coming off in the first place, which is moisture.
Wet towel and hot iron: This is the same as the wet towel method I mentioned above, but instead of just removing the towel at the end of its elapsed time, you place a hot iron on the towel for about 30 to 45 seconds to help loosen the glue. HOWEVER, from my personal experience, you’re actually melting the glue! I have always had a hard time trying to remove the glue once it has been re-melted onto the wood that is underneath the veneer. I prefer the glue be hard so I can sand it off with my orbital sander.
Heat gun: Okay, so this just flat out scares me. I’m not going to lie. I have tried this method a few times and maybe it gets better, but from my experience it’s always a “hot” mess…literally.
Hair dryer: I recommend using a hair dryer on the edges to help the veneer get “started” if it isn’t already popping up. If the wet towel method did not cause the edges to rise on their own, hold a hairdryer above the edge of the veneer for 15 to 20 seconds or long enough to get your paint-scraper up underneath the veneer. You can continue to use the hair dryer from here, but again, it tends to melt the glue instead of helping it become loose, which can cause more frustration in the end.
Once you are doing removing all of the veneer, use an orbital sander to remove any leftover glue and/or small chipped pieces of veneer. If you did not use a heat gun, steam iron or hairdryer on a majority of the piece, the leftover glue should sand off easily because it is dry. I recommend starting with 40-60 grit sandpaper and then moving up to 120-150 to smooth out the wood. Be careful not to get swirls in the wood when you do this. When it comes time to paint, make sure you use a Zibra Paint brush for a smooth application!!
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