How do I save this wood cabinet?

A bottle of iced tea spilt over night. Part of the top bubbled and I was able to peel it off.

What can I do to save the top?

It needs to be re-veneered and re-finished.

Not too difficult, if you are handy, and have some tools.

And if not handy and toolless?

Umm, a table cloth or runner? Or sand it well, restain it, and call it ‘rustic’.

There are furniture repair places that could probably re-veneer the top for you, but I have no idea what it would cost.

I have done a few full veneering projects and they are not too difficult but still not for the beginner woodworker.

If a quick and easy solution that will present an acceptable look will suffice until the cabinet can be resurfaced by a professional you could look into just covering the top with a nice oak or maple 1/4 Plywood cut to fit.

There are several types that can be found in your local lumber stores (Lowes/Home Depot types). Basically they are a nice veneer over a sheet of strong plywood. Find the type that matches your cabinet best and cut to fit. A little sanding and a quick stain will hopefully match the original top well enough that you won’t have to do any further work to it until you can get it done right.

You did not give dimensions on the damaged cabinet but guessing from the photos I’d think a 4’ x 8’ sheet at roughly $25 to $30 should give you all you need and much to spare. Maybe even enough to practice on one and have a second in case you goofed the first.

My suggestion is a good one if you don’t have tools. Lowes/Home Depot will cut the plywood for you in the store to your measurements. Usually 3 cuts for free. Sandpaper, stain and a stain brush should add little to your costs. From a handiness standpoint on a 1 to 5 scale (5 being the hardest) I would put this project at an easy 1.

Bring it the Word of Jesus?

At this point there is nothing you can reasonably do to save the existing veneer. The problem with putting a piece of plywood over it is that you will have unfinished edges. Without wood working skill and tools finishing it will be problematic.

At this point, your best bet might be to place a damp towel over the rest of the top and peel it all off. Then sand and stain the substrate. Worst case, you will have a flat surface with which to glue a new top to if that doesn’t work.

Only the top of the cabinet is visible, so I don’t know what the rest of it looks like. I assume there’s some reason to want to save it… but if it’s just a common piece of furniture, then you might be able to pick something else up for less than it would cost you to fix this one.

Unless it’s extremely well made, your typical cheap wood furniture is of very little monetary value. My work just gave me 5 separate 4’x6’ wooden bookselves that used to house an entire govt research paper library… because it would cost them more to inventory/move/auction them off than anyone would ever pay for them; and these are real wood (not veneered particle board) and in good shape. The whole set would probably bring in less than $100, if anything at all.

Save it? You killed it.

It probably was possible to repair the veneer, but now that you’ve ripped it off, you’re left with a mess. Looks like it was book-matched walnut, possibly burl walnut, which was popular for dresser tops roughly 60-80 years ago.

About all you can do now, if you want it done nicely is to find a woodworker who can re-veneer the top. I don’t recommend something this large as a first time project as veneer is fragile stuff and you get one chance to put it down right. Trimming the edges is also fairly tedious and easy to goober up.

Plan B is to put a “dresser scarf” on it to hide the mess.

I pretty much agree with White SIFL. It’s really hard to determine what kind of wood is under the main veneer, but if you can get all the old veneer off without damaging the base, you might be able to refinish it.

In the worst case scenario, the under wood is plywood which is made of up of multiple veneers. If you damage the topmost ply, you’re pretty much screwed.

If it is solid wood, you can easily sand out any damage with 80 or 100 grit sandpaper then sand through the range of grits (120, 220, 320) to make it nice and smooth. Then just try to find some stain that best matches the current stain and put some kind of topcoat (polyurathane, shellac, or oil) and you’re done.

Or you could just sand it all smooth then paint it. That would probably cost the least.

Check on youtube for videos on brown paper bag or kraft paper floors. Basically, you tear up brown paper into random shapes, and crumple each piece several times. Spread white glue or wallpaper paste on the wood surface, plunk the paper down while overlapping the edges, and smooth out any air bubbles. Another coat of glue on top. Finish with a stain/poly product. Looks a bit like leather. Very cheap.