How to Refinish an Old Worn Out Buffet

A few weeks ago I picked this STUNNING buffet up from a refinishing friend. It had been sitting in her garage for a year and she lost all motivation to tackle such a huge project! I about killed over when I saw that she was selling it and rushed over to her home as soon as I could! She pointed out dozens of problems from the veneer chipping and bubbling to places that needed some glue. She gave me the full run down, and the list was long. Worried that I wouldn't be able to tackle the job, I called my husband and asked for his expertise... let be honest, he didn't really care either way. After explaining it to him I talked myself into it buying it anyway and snatched it right up. All while doing a nervous happy dance.
After we brought it inside I couldn't stop staring at the beauty. It was so beautiful. Those legs, all of the detail, that huge drawer. Mmmmmhhh! A long time dream had finally come true. I couldn't wait for the next morning to get working on bringing new life to this old worn out buffet.
The next morning we moved it back outside where I took off the back splash and got sanding the top. I hoped that I could just sand the top down enough, cut out the bubbled veneer and patch it all up with Bondo. Well I did just that and thought it would all work out.
I dreamt about those legs with no paint or stain. Just raw legs. It was also a great time to bust out my camera and do a little tutorial on how to strip old finish off of detailed wood. You can find the tutorial link on my blog or on my hometalk profile. After stripping all of the legs, I let them dry and then cleaned the leftover gunk off. I did this to the doors and drawers as well.

There were a couple of spots I made sure to glue back together and the back splash got a new makeover. One edge of the back splash had broken off so I grabbed the jigsaw and cut both edges to match each other.
After everything was wiped down I made sure to tape off anything that I didn't want to get paint on. Especially since I use a paint sprayer for that nice smooth finish.

Finally after a week and a half I was done with the prep work -or so I thought- and I took it out to paint. I about cried when I realized that the moisture from the paint made more veneer on the top bubble up. I was crushed when I saw all of that hard work of sanding, filling with Bondo, and sanding some more was all for nothing. So I finally did what I should have done to begin with. I slowly and painfully removed all of the veneer from the top of the buffet. And then put on a very thin coat of Bondo to fill in the deep grain of the wood underneath. After more sanding and more filling, and even more sanding it was finally ready for the rest of the paint.
I taped extra around the detail areas that I wanted to be left natural wood. I didn't want any paint getting on those areas since I spent so long stripping off the old finish, but then I was left with quite a bit of tedious hand painting around the stunning wood details. A small paint brush did the trick to get right in the detailed spots without getting paint all over.

Once everything was dry I grabbed my sanding block with 220 grit sandpaper wrapped around and distressed all of the edges to give a worn look. Because of its age, this buffet has dings and scratches and I wanted to highlight all of those things. Each ding and scratch tells another story and shows how beautiful this piece really is. After wiping everything clean again I sealed the whole piece with wax.
Almost a week later I still do a little happy dance every time I walk by it. It is such a stunning old piece that had been almost forgotten about. But now it has a new finish that shows its curves and details and it is ready to proudly serve another family for many more years to come.
Want more details about this and other DIY projects? Check out my blog post!
Frequently asked questions
Have a question about this project?
3 of 5 questions
  • Beatriz Orvis Beatriz Orvis on Dec 09, 2016
    I just purchased a vintage desk (I'll attach a picture) and the top veneer is scratched and chipped. there are areas I can actually just lift and peel off with my nail, but I can see the veneer is thicker than what i'm able to lift up. Should I repair it (even though there are areas around the edge that's separating) or should I just remove it and sand the wood under it?

  • Dolores Rufenacht Dolores Rufenacht on Dec 25, 2016
    did you remove the rest of the pealing chip vener before painting it. Painting the damaged part and leaving the wood parts that were very special and still in good shape was a very good idea. Replacing the vener on an old piece like this is difficult to match the right tone of wood that would match the rest and very expensive and you need wood working skills.

  • Mar8252299 Mar8252299 on Jun 02, 2017
    LOved your piece!
    What is the best (easiest) method to remove veneer?

Join the conversation
2 of 126 comments
  • Jo Jo on Dec 01, 2016
    I loved it when you had partial veneer on the piece. I could see a man and a woman, only the legs. The womans' dress and legs and the mans pant legs. I guess it's the artist in me.

  • Avitaathome Avitaathome on May 13, 2017
    Great taste to put this together! Thank you for showing us!! :)