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I am going to refinish my late 1940s kitched cabinets, but first I need to repair some of the veneer. In some places the veneer is badly damaged, broken, missing. In these areas I removing sections and patching.

But in other sections, as below, the veneer is peeling off of the surface but it has not yet fallen off (the dado is for a shelf). So my question is, what is the best way to fix this? I have some tiny glue syringes which I could use to get some glue behind the veneer, but then I will have to clamp it, and there is going to be a lot of excess glue. Maybe contact cement? Is there any chance that I could use a wallpaper steamer to gently peel back the veneer and reapply with contact cement? Any other ideas?

image of side of kitchen cabinet showing peeling "pickled-oak" veneer

  • Contact adhesive won't really work for this. One of the more usual woodworking glues is the way to go here, and you already have the syringes that make applying it just where needed practical and efficient so you're ahead of the game. – Graphus Feb 10 at 19:02
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A neat trick for lifting veneer; even bubbles in the center:

Using an artists brush, swab wood glue under the lifted area, making sure you get glue on both the lift and the substrate. Wipe away the excess and let it dry (I know... but read on).

Now, go "borrow" the electric clothes iron from the laundry room and plug it in and set on medium. Obviously, if you have a banding iron you can use that.

Now, press and hold the hot iron on the lifted area for 5-6 seconds and then slowly move the iron in small circles working out from the lifted area gradually decreasing pressure. Then just lift the iron away and let the area cool. It might take one or two tries, but this method always works for me. Just make sure the glue has fully dried before applying the heat.

  • By "wood glue", are you recommending PVA glue? I assume that's probably what you mean, but there are lots of glues marketed as "wood glue" that are very different. – Charlie Kilian May 22 at 14:43
  • Yes...I am referring to yellow Pva glue....but it will also work for hide glue....the powdered type used in a heated pot (some diehards still use the stuff). – Atcfurnitureservice May 25 at 18:34
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Haven't done this, so take this with large grain of salt.

  1. Carefully put a coat of varnish or shelac on the top face only of the split veneer. (You may want to do the whole surface so that it's consistent. The varnish should make it easier to clean up the squeeze out.

  2. Apply your glue, and clamp.

  3. You may want to use a water soluble glue so that clean up is easier. How likely is this area to get wet?

  4. I can't see how thick the veneer is. Some are only 1/100" thick, which makes the refinishing tricky.

  5. Some of the splits look like it got wet before, swelled, and split.

  6. See if you can find weathered plywood with similar delaminating. Do your experiments on that.


While this is an excellent challenge for the restorer's craft, are you sure these are worth it?

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Carefully apply wood glue with a brush so that it gets under all of the lifting veneer. Then you want some plastic wrap on top, and a wide piece of plywood to clamp to the piece so that it squeezed all of the veneer flat. Clamping flat is critical.

After 24 hours pull the clamps and the plastic wrap, and sand away the excess glue.

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