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Cleaning antique wood veneer

Cleaning antique wood veneer

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Question:

I have a veneered hope chest by Lane Furniture that is 60-70 yrs old. It was my mother-in-law’s and it was her mother’s before that. The veneer itself seems to be fine (meaning it isn’t buckling or damaged). However, the clear finish on the veneer seems to be coming off. It’s almost flaking. I don’t know how to stop it or how to clean it. I haven’t done anything, because I don’t want to ruin the veneer. Any assistance is greatly appreciated.

Answer:

If the finish is flaking off, it will have to be removed. When it reaches this point, there is no way to salvage it.

Considering the age of this piece I would first try some denatured alcohol on a rag and try rubbing the finish off. If the chest is finished with shellac the denatured alcohol is the easiest and most gentle way to strip it.

If this doesn’t work, you will have to strip it with a more aggressive chemical strip. Once you’ve stripped the finish, clean any residue thoroughly with denatured alcohol. After some light sanding to smooth the grain you can apply a varnish, polyurethane or other type of finish to preserve your heirloom furniture. Good luck!

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