Vintage Desk Makeover Using Exotic Wood Veneer & Chalk Paint

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Using exotic wood veneer and chalk paint, I turn a vintage yawner of a desk into a sleek stunner in black, blond and brown.
veneer loathing desk upgraded, chalk paint, painted furniture, woodworking projects
My wife and I found this desk made by Grand Rapids Chair Co. at an antique shop this past summer. It was more than we usually like to pay (free or a few dollars), but it had great potential. The veneer was peeling and it was pretty scratched up. My plan was to remove all the old veneer from the desktop, the drawer faces and the sides, then re-veneer the top and the faces with walnut burl and cedar bosse, then paint the sides, legs and trim.
veneer loathing desk upgraded, chalk paint, painted furniture, woodworking projects
Since I'd never worked with veneer before, I decided to start small and work larger. I stripped and sanded the drawer faces, cut the veneer slightly over-sized and glued it on.
veneer loathing desk upgraded, chalk paint, painted furniture, woodworking projects
I followed the same procedure that I did for the smaller drawers.
veneer loathing desk upgraded, chalk paint, painted furniture, woodworking projects
Due to picture limitations on Hometalk, I'll skip the pull-down desk drawer.
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Next I started work on the desktop. This was the hardest, as it combined two types of veneer arranged in a pattern. I cut the pieces in place. This part took a long time!
veneer loathing desk upgraded, chalk paint, painted furniture, woodworking projects
Eventually I got everything cut and fit and ready for gluing. It is important to clamp or weight down the veneer as much as possible. Pros and others who know what the heck they are doing use vacuum presses and other fancy ways of gluing veneer. I used clamps and heavy hunks of iron.
veneer loathing desk upgraded, chalk paint, painted furniture, woodworking projects
When all the veneer was glued and sanded, I sealed the grain. Should I have done this? Who knows! I make this stuff up as I go.

Another quick sanding, and it was time to finish the top.
veneer loathing desk upgraded, chalk paint, painted furniture, woodworking projects
When all was finished to my liking, I moved on to painting for the legs and inside the desk. I chose black, as it would contrast beautifully with the cedar and walnut. After painting, I waxed all the painted surfaces.
veneer loathing desk upgraded, chalk paint, painted furniture, woodworking projects
The final step was to reassemble the desk.
veneer loathing desk upgraded, chalk paint, painted furniture, woodworking projects
veneer loathing desk upgraded, chalk paint, painted furniture, woodworking projects
veneer loathing desk upgraded, chalk paint, painted furniture, woodworking projects
Check out our blog, link below, for many more pictures and descriptions.


--Greg

Suggested materials:

  • Paint
  • Veneer
Handan & Greg @ The Navage Patch

Want more details about this and other DIY projects? Check out my blog post!

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Have a question about this project?

3 of 8 questions
  • Tina west
    on Dec 29, 2017

    Can you just stain it once the veneer is taken off?
    • Elaine
      on Mar 24, 2019

      I’ve never heard or seen basswood used as a secondary wood, interesting! Basswood is usually considered a softwood, good for learning to carve. I’ve seen lots of poplar though.

  • Dea30299191
    on Jan 10, 2018

    Where can you buy different types of veneer?
    • Elaine
      on Mar 24, 2019

      There’s a bunch, Sauers comes to mind as this is what my local woodworking shop sells. Do a google search for your area

  • Barb C
    on Jun 28, 2018

    How difficult is it to remove veneer? I've never tried it cause I envision patches of it that I can't remove.

    Your desk is lovely.

    • Elaine
      on Mar 24, 2019

      I agree with jacx, heat gun on low and a putty knife. Try a plastic one if you think you’ll mar the wood underneath. If the veneer is in poor shape, as in already lifting or cracked, it will be much easier. You can also use turpentine, work it under the damaged veneer with a syringe and needle, Rockler should sell them. If it’s just darkened with age, and in good shape, try an antique restorer that will remove the old wax

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