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How to Remove Veneer

I think everyone who upcycles furniture has had at least one nemesis. Well, a two-drawer chest with beautiful Queen Anne legs has been mine.

After I prepped this piece, there were no major issues that needed attention and so I started the first coat of a blend. And then the veneer started bubbling. EVERYWHERE.

If it had been just a couple of bubbles, I would have fixed them. However, this was on EVERY SURFACE. So time to remove the veneer.

Here are the steps I followed:

Step 1
If you can pull some of the veneer off easily with your hands then do so (gloves people)!  When you get resistance or if there is no veneer you can peel off, move onto Step 2.

Step 2
At this point grab a putty knife or metal scraper and see if you can remove some of the veneer by inserting your chosen tool under the loose veneer. It is very important to keep the putty knife/scraper horizontal to the surface so you don’t take big lumps out of the wood underneath (see photo).

TIP: I used the largest tool I had so it was quicker.

If it is not coming off easily, then tap the end of your putty knife/scraper with a hammer (again ensuring your tool is flat to the surface).


If this still isn’t working then grab a hairdryer and blast the veneer with heat as you move along with your scraper. This will help soften the glue thereby making it easier to remove.

An alternative at this point would be to use a hot iron on the veneer. Some people use a towel between the iron and veneer but I don’t as I’m not worried about damaging the veneer as it is coming off anyway and my iron is a pretty crappy one so I’m not worried about that either! Again, the heat from the iron will loosen the glue so work in sections.

If this STILL doesn’t remove the remaining veneer then move onto the next step.

Step 3
My veneer was not playing ball so I got several old towels and folded them over a few times and laid them on the surface. I then boiled a kettle and let it cool for a couple of minutes before pouring the very hot water over the towels.

Once they were cool enough to touch (I think I left mine for 30 minutes), peel back the towels from a small section and remove the veneer with your scraper/putty knife as described above. You should find that the veneer will come away easily. Keep peeling back the towels/removing veneer until you are done.

There will be a lot of residual glue left at this point and if you can remove that with a scraper at this point do that too. I, however, had to repeat the kettle/towel step once more to remove all traces of it with my scraper. Yuck.

Step 4
Let your piece of furniture dry out thoroughly. I left it for 48 hours and then lightly sanded to ensure I had a smooth surface to paint on although you could obviously stain instead of paint if you prefer.

If you’ve got any tips of your own I’d love to hear them.

Julia x

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