Giving a 1942 Vanity Table a New Life

I found this vanity on a local barter and trade site for $50. I've been looking for a vanity for a long time and bought this one to make into something I'd love and use.
The veneer had damages, but the vanity was in tack. I knew I'd first remove the veneer.
Removing the veneer.
I tried using heat to release the veneer, but found the most productive way to get it off was picking and peeling using straight edge razor and various putty knives. Not the most fun part for sure. Some peeled in strips, some areas I had to pick tiny pieces at a time. I'm sure someone has a better method, but this worked for me.
Most veneer off.
Getting down to the bare bones.
After removing all veneer, I sanded. Getting down in all the cracks and crevasses took patience. I sanded it even more after this to get the wood as fresh looking as possible. My best advise here is sand, sand, and sand some more. When you think you sanded enough, go sand it more.
I carefully stained the piece. I used a grain defining stain. Because of the variation of types of wood it gave a variation in color I was happy with. I did all the same steps with the topper that holds the mirror.
Found this stamped on the mirrors!
The stamp says "Galax Va.", can't read the middle, and 1942. Which I'm assuming dates the piece to 1942.
I used 4 coats of premium satin finish polyurethane. And used a little Brasso to clean the handles.
I'm so delighted with the outcome! Over 100 hours of blood, sweat, and tears.
Before and after side by side.

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Have a question about this project?

3 of 25 questions
  • Brian
    on May 19, 2019

    Absolutely amazing! Well done, and kudos on not painting it. You said you used a stain that brought out the grain. What brand and color of stain DID you use?

    • Sandra R
      on Feb 25, 2020

      Yes, they stated that they removed it all. And then spent hours sanding.

  • D
    on Jan 27, 2020

    Lovely. When removing the veneer, is there always quality wood underneath that will take stain nicely? My mom had a vanity just like this with a matching stool. My earliest memories are of her sitting at it powdering her nose, smiling at me. Thank you for your post, and for letting me see mom again today. Always missed.

    • Sandra R
      on Feb 25, 2020

      On antiques, yes. On reproductions, hit or miss.

  • Sheri Johnson
    on Mar 1, 2020

    All I can say, is WOW! Getting ready to start on a complete waterfall bedroom suit I just purchased. I don't know if I want to try to repair the veneer, strip it off and replace it, or do what you have done. I just don't know if my underlying plywood will have a grain that I will be happy with. Did you use stripper on the moldings or did you just sand them?

    • Molly AuBuchon
      on Mar 2, 2020

      I just sanded. It was quite a chore, but worked well. Plus it was free therapy, lol.

Join the conversation

2 of 1293 comments
  • Kristine
    on Apr 23, 2020

    What a pleasure to see a gorgeous piece not ruined with the modern look of white wash or gray. Thank you!

  • Lumberman's daughter
    on May 13, 2020

    for sheri johnson if you can find the right veneer, try that with contact cement . usually these pieces don't have plywood underneath the veneer. poplar is a good wood for the base of many of these old pieces. My mother in law had a waterfall set but didn't mention she was going to get rid of it until after we bought my son an entire bedroom set and that she sold the rest. . my son(at 7) decided he wanted the chifferobe, hope chest and little bench that his grandfather used Kudos to being 7 and knowing he'd have his grandfather's belongings forever. to bend the veneer, you'll have to steam the pieces to get the curve without breaking the veneer. it might also help to use steam to take off old veneer. maybe an old steam iron would loosen the glue holding it in place, plus a strong putty knife sharpened . I'm glad Molly went with a stain instead of paint,also. i just saw an awful multicolored cabinet that the "artist" thought came out great. kindergartners could do better. sometimes to get the same color with stain, you need to blend a little because different wood takes color differently . equally good for that era would be a well painted black or stark white gloss, kind of art deco if your pieces aren't taking the stain the way you want . hope to see sheri's set on her some day good luck

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