Asked on Dec 05, 2013


This antique dresser is covered on the top and front with burled veneer which has cracked and in some places, fallen out. It has a plate inside saying it was made by English craftsmen. I will not be able to match the veneer but I don't want to take it off. I thought I might paint it but really hate to cover up such lovely wood. Since it will be for sale, I don't want to spend a fortune on it and I doubt my customer base will either. Any suggestions folks?
  28 answers
  • Marilyn V Marilyn V on Dec 05, 2013
    If just the top is damaged, do a faux marble finish on top.
  • Debbie Harris Debbie Harris on Dec 05, 2013
    If the drawer fronts are in good condition... Remove the veneer on the top and paint everything except the drawer fronts.
  • Z Z on Dec 05, 2013
    What a beautiful piece. If it were mine, whether I was planning on selling it or not, I'd glue down the loose veneer and use a tinted filler close to the color of the burl and go over it with a finish to match the sheen of the rest. That wouldn't take much work yet keep the beautiful burl intact.
  • LandlightS LandlightS on Dec 05, 2013
    I agree 100% with Becky....and I could never understand why people take a beautiful piece of old/antique furniture and want to paint it or remove the original look. IMHO! Gary
    • Nancy Hatcher Nancy Hatcher on Dec 07, 2013
      @LandlightS I totally agree with you! I often see beautiful antiques that have lost all their value because someone paints or alters them is some way! Shabby chic white isn't always the answer!
  • Porta Verde Studio Porta Verde Studio on Dec 05, 2013
    There is some damage to the drawer fronts too buy its not as bad as the top. It might make sense to remove the veneer on top (really badly damaged) try to use it to patch the fronts and paint or refinish the rest of it.
    • Liliana Wells Liliana Wells on Dec 07, 2013
      @Porta Verde Studio Such a pity the piece is damaged. I like your idea of removing the top and try to use it to repair the fronts if you can. I would just paint the top a contrasting color, like black.
  • Suzette Trimmer Suzette Trimmer on Dec 06, 2013
    OH dear Lord DO NOT PAINT! That is Burled wood which almost impossible to acquire any more I believe is no longer available for it has been put on endangered list. So get some wood glue and varnish to clean up.Murphy's Oil Soap, is an old reliable product , that you can never go wrong with. Elbow grease and tender loving care it will be far more beautiful then any color under the sun.
  • Cynthia E Cynthia E on Dec 06, 2013
    I would replace the top with marble or granite and then use the veneer from top to repair anything damaged elsewhere.
    • See 2 previous
    • Shawn B Shawn B on Dec 07, 2013
      What Cynthia E said--This is exactly what I would have suggested. And/or patch the broken spots on the front with some gold leaf (as the Japanese do for broken vessels). One does not paint burled veneer, no matter what.
  • Al Al on Dec 06, 2013
    Not enough photos to tell the condition, overall, but if some of it is badly damaged, is it possible to carefully lift off those sections (perhaps the whole top & even the drawer fronts) to use on OTHER projects so that not a single inch of that beautiful! wood! is lost? Then refinish the chest of drawers, itself, w/ new veneer, paint, etc.
  • Sandra Hellewell Sandra Hellewell on Dec 06, 2013
    I would remove all the veneer from the top & paint the top & do the frottage technique on it. I would use ASCP because the dresser is old. But that's just my preference because there is no sanding or priming involved. If you could get 2 paint colors that are in the original colors of the dresser, one being the base coat & the other being the frottage color, you might be able to get a close match to your dresser! It should look great as frottage is easy to do! Good luck!
  • Sherrie Sherrie on Dec 07, 2013
    I just took veneer off a old side board with a wet towel which I let it soak over night and a iron which I can never use in clothes again. It still took work. I also use a heat gun, it reactivates the glue and makes it easier to left.
  • Kathy Conley Kathy Conley on Dec 07, 2013
    I'm in the camp of gluing down the veneer, do a little painting in the bigger section to mimic the burl, give it a good rub down with Formby's furniture restoration wax/polish and call it a day. Burl wood is so beautiful and rare If the next owner gets a good deal from you they can make the decision to restore or not. Some people don't care about minor stuff like that, "patina".
  • Mrgee Mrgee on Dec 07, 2013
    i would definitely try to salvage the damage. Fill with a wood filler. Faux paint the filler. Most likely dresser will have something placed on it when in use such as a dresser scarf or a lamp etc. What a shame it eould be to change the integrity of this piece. I have two old wardrobes that have this same burl veneer. They originally came from England. They too have some blemishes but I have left it as is.
  • Rev. Brian Moffit Rev. Brian Moffit on Dec 07, 2013
    warm heat will loosen the glue ( hide glue melts at a low temp and gives a little) Get a veneer expert like marc spagnoleo a email ( he impresses me and just finished a humidor with burl on ply on his site.
  • Frankie Laney Frankie Laney on Dec 07, 2013
    I like the idea @Cynthia E. brought up. I would include the "extra" veneer and the top in the purchase price. If not that, I would clean, do the best at gluing all existing veneer. You can give all our great ideas to the buyer in case they may want to do a restoration. I've seen some beautiful marble scraps that are in the same color scheme as the veneer on this chest. That would be the wow factor.
    • See 1 previous
    • Cynthia E Cynthia E on Dec 09, 2013
      @Frankie Laney I agree some beautiful marbles or granites out there and can get 1 in same shade as this
  • Porta Verde Studio Porta Verde Studio on Dec 07, 2013
    I went online to check out burled veneer and it's not as expensive as I thought. It's expensive enough though that I don't want to purchase it to do a restoration on this piece. I already have to build a leg to match the rest since one is destroyed in the back. I really wish someone would just buy this piece "as is" and take it away so I could cut my losses and recoup what I paid for it. I have no enthusiasm for working on it. Sigh.....
  • Kim Dagenais Kim Dagenais on Dec 07, 2013
    I have refinished some pieces of furniture that had badly damaged veneer before. What I did was removed the veneer completely. Sometimes what is underneath is surprisingly beautiful. You can just sand smooth the solid wood under the veneer and stain or not. Or prime and paint the piece. Even if you use wood filler an sand smooth, the damage on some level will still show. Hope you post pics of the finish piece.
  • Anna Kitchens Anna Kitchens on Dec 07, 2013
    I would patch the top with wood filler then paint the top and sides with a complimentary color leaving the burled wood. I found an old dining table that is burled wood and can not bring myself to paint it. Burled wood is so beautiful.
  • Sharon Guzman Sharon Guzman on Dec 07, 2013
    Repair it with something called quickwood. The family handyman has a spot on youtube about it.
  • Frankie Laney Frankie Laney on Dec 08, 2013
    @1 result is available, use up and down arrow keys to navigate.Porta Verde StudioSounds like a good plan to me, I did not realize that the sides were not the same veneer, your idea should work great! I have a burl wood bombe chest that came with a beautiful carved edge, marble top and I love it. However, it's all burl. We all get a little carried away with our "creative thoughts!" :-) Enjoy your weekend and stay warm.
  • Jeanette S Jeanette S on Dec 08, 2013
    If only the top is in bad shape, I would just replace it if you think you can just pop it off. If taking it off is going to present a problem, I would cut out the surface and add some decorative surface...tile, granite...and with some molding around the edges.
  • Sherrie Sherrie on Dec 09, 2013
    the wood underneath looks perfect on this piece! The side board I took the veneer off was pure walnut. When we carried it out my hand smelled sweet, so we knew we had hit pay dirt, or is it just me that gets supper excited over wood?
  • Kim Dagenais Kim Dagenais on Jan 07, 2014
    Did you get around to finishing this dresser yet? Wanted to know what you decided to do with it. Did you replace the veneer, take it off, or paint it?
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    • Porta Verde Studio Porta Verde Studio on Jan 22, 2014
      @Kim Dagenais I haven't done anything with it. I'm thinking about selling it for $125 as is just to get it out of my workshop!
  • Theresa Bradshaw Theresa Bradshaw on Aug 30, 2015
    My 2 cents I would sell as is. You never know someone might come along and go ahead and have it professionally repaired. The boards underneath may look ok but they are wood that was deemed underpayment quality by the maker. The top layer is maple and a burl to boot. Can't find quality like that much these days.
  • Norma Bryson Norma Bryson on Sep 03, 2015
    If you took the veneer off of the top it might match the sides, which would look fine. I hope you will let us know what you decide to do.
  • M2Texas M2Texas on Sep 11, 2015
    I agree that carefully removing the veneer from the top and refinishing it might be very striking. The wood they decided to cover up is probably high quality compared to what we see in furniture today. Many times a piece was veneered because it was the current style. I bet replacing the hardware with something more like the originals would have been would also add to the piece. I'm wondering if the original veneer, or parts of it could be stained a bit darker with a gel stain. A darker color might make the piece more appealing for tastes today.
  • Debbie Hansen Debbie Hansen on Apr 03, 2016
    have 2 pieces of veneer furniture y husband will not get rid of,so I am reveneering it myself
  • Connie Connie on Jun 23, 2016
    You can buy sheets of burl veneer online if you are so inclined. It's pretty.
  • Susan Axsom Curtis Susan Axsom Curtis on May 18, 2017

    I would lightly clean the whole thing. Leaving the patina and sell it "As-Is".

    From the pic showing the missing bits it looks like the veneer is quite thick. Most veneer cut with machine is very thin. It would take some time to do a filler patch.