Working With Veneer


A reader at the Minwax® Facebook page recently asked for advice after she sanded completely through the veneer on the top of a buffet, leaving an unsightly bare spot. While I had no easy solution for her, I thought it would help if I explained what veneer is and at least how you can best work with it. If that sounds helpful, you can read more about it here.


Veneer is real wood, but it is a very thin layer of wood. To save money, furniture manufacturers often glue a thin layer of an expensive hardwood, such as teak, walnut or cherry, on top of inexpensive plywood or even particleboard.


To spot plywood (top board), look closely at the edge where you will see several thin, straight layers of wood glued together. In contrast, solid wood (lower board) will have wavy grain lines rather than plywood’s straight glue lines.

The greatest threat to veneer is a belt sander (on left). My solution is simple:  avoid using a belt sander on any furniture. A palm sander (two examples on right) with #150-grit or finer sandpaper is far safer — and hand sanding will always be the safest!

 5. Stained

The thin veneer (left) cannot absorb as much stain as solid wood (right). Both boards were stained with Special Walnut Minwax® Wood Finish™.  See the difference? Real wood is more porous than veneer, and absorbs stain faster, deeper, and darker.

To get the same color on each type of board, I always apply my Minwax® stain to the plywood first, wiping off the excess stain when it has achieved the color I want.

I then apply my Minwax® stain to the solid wood facing trim, and wipe it off sooner since it soaks in more stain faster than veneer. It might only take solid wood one minute to absorb the same amount of stain that veneer required two minutes to absorb.

It does take some extra effort both to identify veneer and to stain it so that it matches the solid wood boards around it, but as you can see on this entertainment center, the extra effort will pay off. You don’t need to avoid veneer — just know how to work with it!

Until next time,

Thanks for stopping by!


PS – Be sure to check out the Minwax® Facebook page for even more tips on wood staining and finishing.

2 comments on “Working With Veneer

  1. Roses

    Thank you! I was not too sure if I did the right thing with my roll top secretary (it was passed on to me and came free).
    I applied Minwax walnut finish and let it dry. I first applied a light coat and wiped of the excess but it did not give the desired finish and color. For teh desired colored I went heavy with minwax and it took over 4 days to get the coat to dry. The piece has been in my living room, well blended with my cherry furniture and looks extremely handsome.

  2. Jeanette @ SnazzyLittleThings

    Veneer can definitely be tough to identify, it’s especially a bummer when it chips off on an older piece. For our new basement bar, we decided to buy some (new) and give it a try. This is a great post, thanks for sharing!

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