Cards table * restoration * and new veneer for top

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Project by Sodabowski posted 10-10-2012 07:02 PM 1961 views 0 times favorited 10 comments Add to Favorites Watch

So my parents have had this small cards table for at least 30 years (though I don’t remember when they actually bought it), and it has had several restorations and refinishings done over its entire lifespan, the last of which having been performed by my father when he bought it. But something was missing, really. The top was an old, plain, black leatherette, and the sides and legs could use some stain.

Daddy teared it of all its finish, and carefully removed the top leather, which was glued to a cardboard substrate within a recess in the top. We had a ton of old glue and broken plywood to remove in order to give it the top it deserved. The bottom part of the lid had been fitted with an ugly piece of carpet, which we also removed.

While my father made a new lining for the inside part of the box (this is a box on legs, actually), I made the top marquetry using a cardboard field. We hesitated for a while on that top. We first considered walnut burl (a veneer sheet can be seen in the first making-of pictures below), but ended up choosing a 4-split continuous grain redwood veneer, each quadrant being seperated from the others using the fine purpleheart banding strip I had leftover (just enough for the central “cross” of sorts).

Mind you, the following pictures were taken late at night with my iPhone, under crappy light. I was too lazy to bring down the DSLR and strobes. Oh, well, you’ll get the idea, and as Daddy sent me that sun-lit picture of the finished top, what the f4k.

(10:30 PM)

The center inlay strips are purpleheart framed in holly and stained peer, and the black strip is, well, stained peer. Mind you, it’s not an easy task to angle-cut hardwood strips with a paper cutter and establish crisp angles and a smooth, square edge. Some filing was needed!
Here is fitting and glueing up the veneers:

As you can see, I used contact cement, because it’s the only way I’ve found so far to glue veneers without the glue putting any moisture in them and making them move like crazy and crack… I will buy hide glue for future projects though.

(00:30 AM)

Yes, it took me around two hours to make it. I took my time, overcut a little and finessed with metal files.

Story untold: in fact, I took advantage of this square top to include some maths reference in this refinishing: the veneer is a representation of the 2 dimensional complex space C with the purpleheart inlay strips representing the coordinate axles ;) The black pear frame is only there to, well, frame the veneers.

Finishing courtesy of Daddy, who used store-bought satin varnish (dunno how many coats exactly, but a lot), finished with beeswax and buffing. The pictures were quick-made, I will reshoot this in all its glory next holidays when I’ll go see the parents. What use is it having a DSLR and external strobes and remotes if you don’t use them, really?

Hope you enjoy this little veneer making-off. I love working with veneer and inlay strips :)

Any suggestions or critique are of course very welcome!

-- Thomas - there are no problems, there are only solutions.

10 comments so far

View Porchfish's profile


862 posts in 3612 days

#1 posted 10-10-2012 07:13 PM

Wow ! Now that is a nice restoration job my friend ! I have used contact cement on many a veneer restoration and small new construction project over the past 40 years and have been very happy with the results. I had a nice sized veneer press made from a couple of old recycled apple cider presses but traded it several years ago for a pile of m2 high speed steel blanks and rods and some quilted maple… I don’t do as much veneering these days though. I am being a hell of a lot more selective about the tasks I commit to these days…I’ll repeat, that is a gorgeous restoration job ! your north florida friend, don s. porchfish @ porchfish studio

-- The pig caught under the fence is always the one doing all the squealing !

View Sodabowski's profile


2400 posts in 3913 days

#2 posted 10-10-2012 07:17 PM

Thanks Don. The thing I love about contact cement for veneers is that they won’t get moisture and move or crack. The thing I hate is knowing that there is no room for error. Once it’s glued, it’s glued: no fixing possible.

-- Thomas - there are no problems, there are only solutions.

View SASmith               's profile


1850 posts in 4067 days

#3 posted 10-10-2012 09:53 PM

That is quite the restoration.
Love the veneer work.

-- Scott Smith, Southern Illinois

View Gshepherd's profile


1727 posts in 3281 days

#4 posted 10-10-2012 11:22 PM

That is some darn preeeeeeety wood there…..... Nice job on the restore…..

-- What we do in life will Echo through Eternity........

View chrisstef's profile


18132 posts in 4086 days

#5 posted 10-10-2012 11:41 PM

Soda it came out stunning my frien. Your patience paid off in spades.

-- Its not a crack, its a casting imperfection.

View Jamie Speirs's profile

Jamie Speirs

4168 posts in 3936 days

#6 posted 10-11-2012 04:27 AM

Very nice and a great save


-- Who is the happiest of men? He who values the merits of others, and in their pleasure takes joy, even as though 'twere his own. --Johann Wolfgang von Goethe

View Schwieb's profile


1916 posts in 4541 days

#7 posted 10-11-2012 09:16 AM

Hi Thomas, Nice veneer work and restoration work on the table. Working on it with your Dad makes it extra special. I’m building a veneer press now to flatten veneers and hold them down to the substrate when gluing up. That late night work will sometimes get you to cut corners (as in photography)

-- Dr. Ken, Florida - Durch harte arbeit werden Träume wahr.

View KOVA's profile


1362 posts in 3458 days

#8 posted 10-12-2012 04:26 AM



View Irinaboom's profile


9 posts in 3175 days

#9 posted 10-14-2012 06:52 PM

mais quel boulot !!!!

-- live and let live ....

View Sodabowski's profile


2400 posts in 3913 days

#10 posted 10-23-2012 08:01 AM

Thanks guys. I’ll be back there next week, hopefully I’ll be able to get better pictures.

-- Thomas - there are no problems, there are only solutions.

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