How to Refinish Oak Veneers

By Warren Rachele

The finish on our furniture wears out long before the underlying wood. Rather than replacing your expensive pieces, a little work in refinishing the wood can make the furniture look brand new. Veneered furniture requires special care during this process. Veneer is a very thin layer of hardwood applied to a substrate such as particleboard or plywood. Heavy sanding or scraping on a veneer can damage it or expose the substrate.

List of Items Needed

  • Chemical finish remover
  • Scraping and sanding equipment
  • Lacquer thinner
  • Polyurethane
  1. Apply a chemical stripping agent to remove any existing finish. Allow it to sit on the finish for the manufacturer's specified amount of time.

  2. Scrape the finish remover carefully from the surface. Clean the surface with lacquer thinner when all of the softened finish has been removed. Allow it to dry completely before proceeding.

  3. Sand the surface using an extremely light touch. Veneer is very thin -- sometimes only 1/32-inch thick -- and oversanding can quickly work through the veneer to the substrate. Work with the grain, sanding only to prepare the surface for finish.

  4. Apply stain according to the the manufacturer's instructions. Allow it to soak into the surface. Wipe off the excess with a clean rag. Allow it dry thoroughly before proceeding.

  5. Apply polyurethane or other desired finish to the veneer. Apply the finish with the grain of the wood, keeping a wet edge as you overlap each stroke. Lightly sand the polyurethane between coats to remove imperfections as you build up the finish.

Tips and Warnings

  • Use rubber gloves, a respirator and eye protection when using the stripping agent.

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