Refinish side table with marquetry

We were asked if we could bring the color back to a table a customer had purchased while traveling oversees.  The table had become bleached out from the sun causing the marquetry design in the table to be barely visible.  We thought we would be able to just sand the top finish off and apply a new finish to bring out the color of the wood again.  We thought that a french polish would put a pretty shine on the table however, as we started to apply the new finish, we started to see some waviness to the top.  So we sanded down the top again to remove the new coat of finish.  As we were sanding it down, we started to see some dark patches show up.  In addition, we started to see some small dark lines show up.  We determined that these were staples used by the original builder to help hold the veneer in place.  The staples appeared to be rusting.  The dark patches appeared to be thin spots in the veneer.  After talking to several different people, we decided that our only option to fix the spotting was to remove the outside ring of veneer and re-veneer the top.

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The first challenge to replacing the veneer was to find a wood with a grain to match the table. The wood coloring and the grain didn’t appear to match any standard wood found in the states.  While at a wood working show, we ran across a block of Myrtle and decided it would be a close match.  The next step was to make the veneer.

Sheets of thin veneer were cut from the block of Myrtle and each sheet was numbered to help keep the grain of the wood consistent.  We then created a sled to hold the veneer while we sent it through a sander in order to get a smooth, even sheet.  The sheets were measured with calipers to ensure consistency.

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With the veneer made, the next step was to remove the existing outside ring of veneer.  The center ring was masked off and then the top filled to create a smooth surface.

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While removing the original veneer, we started questioning the original color of the table.  We knew the color had faded but the current top appeared to be more of a golden pecan color.  We started wondering if the dark color that we were seeing show through on the top was more like the color of the original top; more of a walnut color.  We sent the customer an email asking if they had a picture of the table that would help us determine what color we should stain the new veneer.  The picture we received help confirm that the top needed to be more of a walnut color.

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It was determined that the center circle was slightly off center, and the circle not completely round.  To compensate for this, we had to determine the degrees for the angles needed to cut the new pieces of veneer to size.  We used a Silhouette Cameo to cut the veneer pieces.

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The veneer was first test fitted and then we began gluing the veneer down, a third at a time.  We used a vacuum press (by Roarockit Skateboard Company) to provide the pressure while the glue dried.

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Once all the pieces were glued down, the top was hand scrapped to remove the veneer tape and then the whole top was sanded down.  The different colors of the wood in the marquetry were finally starting to come to life again.

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The top is finally ready to start staining and applying that shine we have been looking for from the beginning!

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