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  1. #1
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    Feb 2019
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    Default Help: Amateur restoring old bureau

    Hi all, please forgive my ignorance.


    Iíve received an old writing desk (also called a bureau I believe) that has seen better days. Iíve attached photos of it that I hope paint a better picture.

    Iíve never restored a piece of furniture before but would really love to learn how. Iíve watched plenty of guides online and and have been reading but am looking for some specific advice on this piece to get started.

    My first concern with this is the chips on the top. It seems to show that the chipped piece is a thin piece of wood or veneer stuck on. Iím worried that if i was to remove the finish I might just be left with a thin poor quality piece of wood underneath. Should I instead try to cover up the various chips? If so, could you recommend me a course of action or point me towards a guide?

    Thanks for any help you can provide and I apologise again for my naivety.

    Cheers,
    Jack

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  3. #2
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    Feb 2016
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    A good project. As a kid I remember my father had one of these. He did his taxes on it.

    It took a beating

    To help us, could you take photos of the sides and back. It might be possible to scab some veneer off somewhere.... inconspicuous.

    With a little care this resto should come up nicely.

  4. #3
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    May 2007
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    Vic
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    You want to decide if your going to strip the finish or revive the original finish first . Do you want a colour change ? It’s veneered in Oak. The sides look paneled . Possibly in Oak as well though there was a period in Victoria where Oak veneered on vic ash was popular with cabinet makers here . You need to repair the loose woodwork before striping , you don’t want goop getting under the loose bits . If you like the colour as it is then it’s a lot less work to revive rather than washing off all that finish and then re polishing .
    Rob

  5. #4
    Join Date
    Oct 2015
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    Australia
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    I've been quite impressed with the restoration work of Thomas Johnson on YouTube.
    I think you may get some good tips by watching his videos.

    Veneer repair, refinishing, repairs seem to be well covered.

    Of course, I'm not even a beginner and some of the actual restorers around here may have a different perspective.

    https://www.youtube.com/user/johnsonrestoration



    Russ

  6. #5
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    Thanks all for the replies. Iíve attached some more photos for guidance.


    Re: WoodPixel: No veneer unfortunately to steal from the back, and I think the sides would be pretty conspicuous.


    Re: Rob: Iím happy with the current dark colour so content to repair the existing damage rather than change it. Structurally the desk is still sound although thereís plenty of superficial damage, especially on the top panel, the interior and exterior of the fold out and the drawer fronts. If Iím not changing colour, what would you recommend is my first step?


    Re Russ: Iíve actually been really enjoying Tom Johnsonís videos- certainly some of the better ones online. Guess Iím just looking for some guidance on how to start first since I havenít ever done this before.


    Thanks again!
    Attached Images Attached Images

  7. #6
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    Thanks all for the replies. Iíve attached some more photos for guidance.

    Re: WoodPixel: No veneer unfortunately to steal from the back. The sides would be pretty conspicuous to steal the amount I'll require, no? The last and third last photos particularly would require some serious patching.

    Re: Rob: Iím happy with the current dark colour so content to repair the existing damage rather than change it. Structurally the desk is still sound although thereís plenty of superficial damage, especially on the top panel, the interior and exterior of the fold out and the drawer fronts. If Iím not changing colour, what would you recommend be my first step?

    Re Russ: Iíve actually been really enjoying Tom Johnsonís videos- certainly some of the better ones online. Guess Iím just looking for some guidance on how to start first since I havenít ever done this before.

    If I'm not stripping it, what should I be doing?

    Thanks again!
    Attached Images Attached Images

  8. #7
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    May 2007
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    Quote Originally Posted by JackarooAus View Post


    If Iím not changing colour, what would you recommend be my first step?

    Get some Titebond and a old knife and slide some glue in under the loose bits . Have a clamp ready with a block of wood and cut up a plastic bag that suits the size of the repair , place a patch of plastic over the area and then the block of wood and clamp it there. Plastic is less mucking around than newspaper , it just peels away . When I do this I like to heat the blocks in my workshop microwave , four at a time , 40 seconds on high. I clamp them down and sometimes swap them four minutes later for cold blocks. Sometimes I wrap the blocks in a rag as well to hold the heat in and let it soak right in . Hot blocks speed things right up . You have to make sure they are not too hot and are working correctly as well. Don't over clamp them with excess pressure, you can end up with permanent compressed rectangles in the job if you over do it . Protect the under side from clamp marks.
    Then your broken off bits have to be built up so they can be either finished at the right height, or higher and then planed back to the right height . Oak veneer either sliced if its the same thickness as your original or saw some off an oak board can be glued down with the blocks. Cabinet scrape the repairs back without going to far into the surrounding finish then sand, stain and coulour match and build the finish to match.
    Build the finish of the repairs up to match and then give the whole piece a cut back with fine paper like a 400 with a mix of linseed oil and turps then give it a re polishing with some shellac and a polishing rubber. Maybe ask about finishing later . Its a whole other subject and can be complex for a beginner .

    Rob

  9. #8
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    Thanks so much for this Rob. Thereís plenty of great advice here. Iím going to get stuck in over the next few days and report back. Cheers

  10. #9
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    Mar 2013
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    Tasmania
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    Hi Jackaroo. I have a budget version of yours....all ply not veneer finish and instead of drawers have 2 doors & shelf under drop-down lid. However mine shares the same hinge mechanism which allows for slide-out support each side to protrude when opened. I`m sure yours will come up a treat when done.

  11. #10
    Join Date
    May 2003
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    Central Coast, NSW
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    2,844

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    Quote Originally Posted by auscab View Post
    Get some Titebond and a old knife and slide some glue in under the loose bits . Have a clamp ready with a block of wood and cut up a plastic bag that suits the size of the repair , place a patch of plastic over the area and then the block of wood and clamp it there. Plastic is less mucking around than newspaper , it just peels away . When I do this I like to heat the blocks in my workshop microwave , four at a time , 40 seconds on high. I clamp them down and sometimes swap them four minutes later for cold blocks. Sometimes I wrap the blocks in a rag as well to hold the heat in and let it soak right in . Hot blocks speed things right up . You have to make sure they are not too hot and are working correctly as well. Don't over clamp them with excess pressure, you can end up with permanent compressed rectangles in the job if you over do it . Protect the under side from clamp marks.
    Then your broken off bits have to be built up so they can be either finished at the right height, or higher and then planed back to the right height . Oak veneer either sliced if its the same thickness as your original or saw some off an oak board can be glued down with the blocks. Cabinet scrape the repairs back without going to far into the surrounding finish then sand, stain and coulour match and build the finish to match.
    Build the finish of the repairs up to match and then give the whole piece a cut back with fine paper like a 400 with a mix of linseed oil and turps then give it a re polishing with some shellac and a polishing rubber. Maybe ask about finishing later . Its a whole other subject and can be complex for a beginner .

    Rob
    For the inside of the dropdown lid, wouldnít it be better just to strip off the damaged veneer (roughly the area between the hinges), and then just replace as one strip?

    Ditto the top. Just remove that one rectangular piece of veneer and replace?

    Also, what is the purpose of the hot blocks ?

    Cheers
    Arron
    Apologies for unnoticed autocomplete errors.

  12. #11
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    Quote Originally Posted by Arron View Post
    For the inside of the dropdown lid, wouldnít it be better just to strip off the damaged veneer (roughly the area between the hinges), and then just replace as one strip?
    Yeah , on the flap Id do that not , replace the cross banded parts that are damaged and match them in to the good stuff. Not try and patch or match to the jagged rough stuff.

    Quote Originally Posted by Arron View Post
    Ditto the top. Just remove that one rectangular piece of veneer and replace?
    Id match in a patched slither on its corner, with the grain for that It should be easy and dissapear once coloured.

    Quote Originally Posted by Arron View Post
    Also, what is the purpose of the hot blocks ?
    Using blocks to press down veneer repairs is good practice . Its the way it would have been made . Pressed down with hot cauls. If there is a lot of repairs to do then heating the blocks if you can means you get a lot repaired fast. You can move around laying and replacing rather than waiting for glue to dry. It cooks it on . With some veneers and a bit of moisture added you can re fix down loose veneer without adding glue sometimes . Re activating the hide glue. I do this sort of thing with hide glue and flat Oak blocks cut to sizes that suit. It works with Pva and Titebond well .

    I used to do it with a hot plate and steel blocks. with a pot of hide glue on the hot plate and a few old solid irons. It worked good .
    I was working on a victorian desk veneered in walnut years ago and had loose veneers in the hundreds to be repaired. I needed way more cauls or hot steel blocks than I had. So I cut up some machined flat 19mm Oak and tried the micro wave. I grab the blocks from the micro wave with a rag , they are to hot to hold. And the glue is placed under the loose part with paper or plastic put on to as the microwave counts down from 40 or 50 seconds. Slap on five at a time then go for the next run .

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