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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3 of 28 questions
  • Sandi Sandi on Aug 16, 2020

    I have this vanity that has 4 drawers then 2 small extra smaller drawers dove with red & black stripes looks like the same as you have shown and a seat. Can you tell me if you are fa-miller

  • Sue Sue on Oct 21, 2020

    I am TOTALLY FLOORED! This disaster has become one gorgeous showpiece! I wouldn't have the patience for all the sanding I am afraid because I am one of those that wants instant gratification! Haha. So I can truly appreciate the work and devotion you had for this and someone is smiling down at you after restoring this for future generations. I am so jealous! By the way, Galax, Va. is in the SW section not too far from Roanoke. Small town so in 1942 it must have been a one-light town! So they had a furniture company or manufacturing company there then. How special is that?

  • Ashlei Clay Ashlei Clay on Jan 18, 2021

    I am currently restoring a vanity similar to yours. It was gifted to me by my mother in law. It was her mother's. Its from. The 1940's also.

    The wood is in great shape except for one crack across the top of one of the sides. The only option to repair it that I've seen is stainable wood filler. Do you have a recommendation? I think it's narrow enough to not show too bad once filled, sanded, and stained.

    I'm moving it out to the garage tomorrow to start sanding.


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13 of 1312 comments
  • Sandra Sandra on Oct 31, 2020

    I am working on trying to refinish a late 1800s vanity for my boyfriend.I can appreciate all the hard work that you put into this. Your vanity is gorgeous. Now I want to find another one and strip the veneer. He wanted the veneer left in tact

  • Ingrid Brown Ingrid Brown on Dec 26, 2020

    Love what you dine with the dresser, I have one and this gave me inspiration to redo the dresser, which I use to put all good dishes , silverware, goblets and much more. It is a large dresser, but didn’t know how to make it look good.!! Thanks for all the tips, love this how to do DIY information. Thanks so much!!!

  • Kay Kay on Jan 02, 2021

    Very very nice!! I’ve been Leary of stripping the veneer because of what I might find underneath. Looks like I don’t have to fret now. Job well done and I love what you did.

  • Susan Mercurio Susan Mercurio on Jan 08, 2021

    I had a furniture repair library book that taught how to repair veneer without removing it. If water bubbles are the problem and not missing veneer, you can slice down the middle of the bubble, press it down to see how far it overlaps, trim off the excess - carefully! - push some glue under both sides, and weigh them down.

    I just bought a 1947 vanity that has water bubbles and I'm going to try this first.

  • Susan Mercurio Susan Mercurio on Jan 08, 2021

    I was checking out your project to see what kind of feet yours has. I think mine got the damage from sitting on a damp floor. Seems like yours has bun feet on the front and plain straight ones on the back.

  • Ashlei Clay Ashlei Clay on Jan 18, 2021

    This is my current project. It was my mother in law's mother's. She recently gifted it to me. The veneer was scratched and had water damage at the bottom. I've removed all of the veneer except for what is left on the mirror. The wood is in pretty good shape underneath except for one crack on the top lefthand side. Its shown in one of the pictures. Think a stainable wood filler would work on that? Seems to be my only option and I think its narrow enough to not be very noticeable with maybe a darker stain.

    The only other issue I have wood wise is the decorative moulding at the top of the mirror. The face of it is completely missing. I'm probably going to have to have something custom made.

    It's my favorite piece of furniture and is used often. It has this beautiful tiled mirror detail that I just love. It's definitely a big job. Especially with a two year old wanting to help, but it's totally worth it.

    I was so happy when I saw your piece and the work you put into it. It made me feel a little less crazy for tackling it. It also reassured me that I wasn't running it by ripping off the veneer. I had my doubts in a couple spots when the wood was a different grain/color. I about panicked, lol. 1

    Tomorrow it's being moved to the garage so I can start sanding. I've got a palm sander, plenty of sand paper, and a Dremel tool with sanding things for the tiny crevices and for fixing someone the larger surfaces on the feet.

    I'll post pictures of the finished project.

  • Tonya Tonya on Feb 26, 2021


  • Sylvia Laura Ranyak Sylvia Laura Ranyak on Mar 02, 2021

    I love to see you when antique furniture is reborn again thank you for sharing your ideas with us can’t wait to try your technique on my next antique finding.

  • Jessica Jessica on Mar 14, 2021

    Absolutely gorgeous! You did a wonderful job! I'm about 1/3 of the way through redoing a vanity myself....found it for free on the curb, about 15 yrs ago. I've been working on it for 2 years now, so I can relate when I comes to the blood, sweat, and tears! It warms my heart to see people still have the same appreciation of timeless pieces of art as I.

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