Radio Cabinet Repair & Refinishing Made Short, Simple & With Minimal Tools – Part III

Step 6: Veneer


(NEED: veneer, steel straight-edge, hide glue, 3M blue painter’s tape, 120 grit sandpaper, canned air, cheese cloth, white vinegar, razor blades, nitrile or latex gloves, cardboard, clean rags or paper towels, wood blocks, clamps, Bondo plastic spreader tool)


(OPTIONAL: veneer saw, veneer tape, self-healing sewing or craft cutting mat, strap clamps)




  • Veneer Basics
    1. Two kinds: regular veneer and paper-backed
      1. Paper-backed
        1. Pros:
          1. May be cut with scissors or knife blade
          2. Easiest veneer to learn to work with
          3. Do not have to join pieces for wide widths
          4. Easy to store rolled up
        2. Cons:
          1. More expensive
          2. Thinner than regular veneer
          3. Easy to sand through if not careful when sanding
          4. Not available in all wood species
      2. Regular Veneer
        1. Pros:
          1. Thicker than paper-backed
          2. Less easy to sand through and damage
          3. Less expensive than paper-backed
          4. More wood species available
        2. Cons:
          1. Harder to cut, must use veneer saw usually
          2. Easier to split down the grain
          3. Must join multiple pieces for wider widths
          4. Requires more skill and practice to apply correctly
    2. Your choice of which type to use will depend on availability of what you want and your skill level
    3. Some species can be substituted for another because they look similar, especially under a dark finish
      1. Great way to save money on a radio that isn’t worth it
      2. Can be used when you can’t find the species you need
    4. Some species might be difficult to impossible to find because of commercial extinction or deforestation issues
    5. To identify the species of wood:
      1. A wood identification book
      2. Remove a piece and ask a wood working expert at Crosscut Hardwoods, Rockler, or Woodcraft
      3. Images from an online veneer retailer
      4. An original piece of marketing material for the radio
        1. Sometimes the ads or brochures tell what species they used on the cabinet
    6. A majority of radio equipment from the pre-WWI to the 50’s will most likely use, for most of the cabinet, solid wood or veneer of either:
      1. Mahogany
      2. Walnut
      3. Oak
      4. Poplar (on cheaper cabinets or under veneer)
    7. Accent veneers get a bit more tricky and exotic
      1. Birds-eye Maple and walnut burls are common accent veneer in the 30’s—both easy can be found today
      2. The range of other exotics used depends on the year and manufacturer and there are too many to list here…
      3. How high-end the radio was will also affect what was used
      4. Accent veneers is where you might need to substitute a look-alike veneer
      5. On very collectable radios, I suggest not substituting a look-alike, you will hurt the value of the radio
        1. In these cases keep searching for the correct veneer
        2. If not available, the other option is graining, or a stained/painted on wood grain to match the old



B.) Applying the veneer:


    1. Cut veneer to the size and shape for the area you will be applying it to
      1. Test fit veneer and trim or recut if not correct
      2. If a complex area, make a paper pattern in the shape of the area to be covered, then lay that on top of the veneer to trace the shape
      3. Or…cut pieces over-size that hang over the edge of side/top and trim after gluing
      4. It can be hard to cut straight along an edge once it is glued, so only do this with caution!
      5. Sometimes a piece needs to be cut crooked to fit perfectly
      6. If using regular veneer, you might need to join multiple pieces to get the width you need
      7. With regular veneer you also will need to cut it with a veneer saw when cutting with the grain
      8. Cutting on a self-healing cutting mat will help blades last longer
    2. Sand the area veneer will be applied to with 120grit sandpaper or use cheese cloth and vinegar to remove the original hide glue then sand
    3. Fill any low spots or holes with putty and sand it flush
      1. Uneven surface will show through veneer or cause issues when sanding the veneer later
      2. Surface to be veneered must be smooth, clean, flat
      3. If it is not, you will need to make it so
    4. Blow off all dust with compressed air or vacuum surface
    5. Apply hide glue with a silicone glue roller, mini foam paint roller or use a gloved finger to spread it evenly
    6. Apply veneer to surface, making sure to use a kitchen spatula or Bondo plastic spreader tool to smooth out wrinkles and bubbles, then clamp with blocks or hold with tape
    7. Make sure to remove residual or squeeze-out with a damp cloth/towel
    8. Apply flat, even weight to the veneer for at least 4 hours, ideally 24 hours
      1. Stack of Rider Manuals works well for weight
      2. Or you can try blue painters tape
      3. Pieces of wood can be used to apply pressure to awkward shapes or flat sides/tops
      4. A leather belt or strap clamp can be used to apply pressure around a cabinet
      5. Careful to not glue your clamp or blocks to the veneer!
      6. Aluminum foil wrapped around your blocks can keep them from sticking
    9. Do not try to glue more than you can successfully do before the glue sets up!
    10. Always try your glue-up without glue as a dry run to see how everything fits and how long it takes to do
    11. Curved surfaces are the most difficult to glue, but the most important to get right
      1. My favorite tool is a strap clamp and wood blocks
      2. Blue painter’s tape can also be used if it will hold tightly enough
      3. Do not use duct tape— it will leave residue and might pull up the veneer when removed


© Jason Rogers 2015 May not be sold or reproduced without permission


Sources of Supply: 


The Home Depot

  • 3M ScotchBlue Advanced Multi-Surface Painter’s Tape
  • 3M Pro Grade Precision 9 X 11in. 120 grit sandpaper
  • Razor blades (utility knife-type)
  • Painter’s rags (assorted types and sizes)
  • Clamps (assorted types and sizes)
  • Steel Straightedge (assorted types and brands)
  • Wood blocks or plywood scrap (lumber dept. cull wood cart or rack)
  • 3M Bondo Brand Plastic Spreaders, 3-piece
  • Bessey 23 ft. Variable Angle Strap Clamp


Rockler Woodworking (Tukwila and Northgate Stores)

  • Titebond Liquid Hide Wood Glue
  • Clamps (assorted types and sizes)
  • Rockler Glue Applicator Set
  • Wood veneer (assorted species and sizes)
  • Steel Straightedge (assorted types and brands)
  • Bessey 23 ft. Variable Angle Strap Clamp
  • Veneer Saw (item #: 43901)
  • Veneer Tape (item #: 49858)


Woodcraft Supply (Corson Ave. S. in Seattle)

  • Titebond Liquid Hide Wood Glue
  • Clamps (assorted types and sizes)
  • Wood veneer (assorted species and sizes)
  • Steel Straightedge (assorted types and brands)
  • Bessey 23 ft. Variable Angle Strap Clamp
  • Lynx WCLVS Veneer Hand Saw
  • 4200 Veneer Hand Saw
  • ¾” Veneer Tape 2-hole 650’ Roll


Lynnwood Business Costco

  • Cheese Cloth
  • Falcon Brand Dust-Off canned air
  • Nitrile or latex gloves (asstd. brands, types and sizes available)


A Grocery Store Nearest You…

  • White vinegar


Sewing or Michael’s Stores

  • Self-healing sewing or craft cutting mat (asstd. brands and sizes)


Assorted Online Stores

  • Wood veneers (assorted sizes, types and species)


© Jason Rogers 2015 May not be sold or reproduced without permission