an update and dealing with chippy veneer

by | Aug 9, 2011 | Decorating, Tips and Tricks | 52 comments

Thanks so much to everyone for suggesting I do something special with the WWI mail pouch I found at a yard sale last weekend.   I called the National WWI Museum to see if they would be interested and they’re going to get back to me.  My mom then sent me a link with information about an Albert Lufkin Crombie from Beverly, Mass. The dates worked with the dates on the bag and the first location he recorded was Boston, so it made sense.  We found him!  He was married to Elizabeth Crombie (who shares my birthday.)  He passed in 1976, so I’m working on finding his family.  Thanks so much to Amy and Julie for helping me in this.  If anyone has any information, please share.  I would love to give this bag to his family.

I’ve been so distracted by this, I wasn’t able to work on my post until almost 11pm.  Yikes!  When I’m on a mission, look out!  Anyway, today I was working on a doosy of a dresser.  The drawers were jacked up and the top had only about half of the veneer.  I had a babysitter for several hours, so it was time to tackle it. 

There was no saving this veneer, so it had to be removed.  I’m sure there is some super technical and brilliant way to do this, but I always remove it with a chisel and hammer. 

I use the chisel to gently pull up small pieces…
…and I’ll wedge the chisel under the larger pieces and pound the end with a hammer to pry up the veneer.  Make sure you wear safety glasses when doing this, because veneer shrapnel will fly everywhere!
Here’s the dresser with all of the veneer removed off the top.  Pretty one, isn’t she?

Now, if I was super skilled with a chisel, the top of the dresser wouldn’t look like this.  In my defense, a lot of these gouges were from the previous owner’s efforts to remove the veneer, but don’t worry, we’re going to make this work. 

I sanded down the top to make the gouges softer and less obvious. 

You might think I would use wood filler and more sanding before I paint, but nope…not today.  I just went right ahead with the paint (an equal blend of ASCP Louis Blue and Paris Gray.) 

More to come…


  1. Korrie@RedHenHome

    I have one of those multi-max tools (a Dremel knock-off) that has the cutting blade on it. It's AMAZING for removing veneer! Might be something to consider for your arsenal 😉

  2. Andrea

    So amazing that you found the owner of the bag. You are a good woman, Miss Mustard Seed. Can't wait to see your latest transformation!

  3. CoopDeVilla

    Miss Mustard Seed you are never ending amazing. I sit here at the Coop looking at project after project that needs to be done. How on earth do you do so much? Taking on veneer is not easy task either… I did that once. Seriously, do you line your projects up and do one at a time or do you have several going on at once? I know the later doesn't work for me…aka nothing ever gets finished. Final word. Beautifully amazing- okay two. Have a great night.

  4. ~Kori~

    So awesome about the bag!! What an amazing thing to attempt to find the family! I love history like that and I know that his family will appreciate having some of theirs back.
    And, girl, I've got to say your ambition makes me feel like an A+ slacker. I bought a dresser (nothing fancy, just your average dresser) at a garage sale last October and started to strip the paint. Well, I found three other (hideous) colors besides the top coat and stopped. Because of a few colors. How awfully lazy is that?? I need to get back on that…it's coming up on one year for crying out loud!!
    Can't wait to see what you make this beauty into! 🙂

  5. Cindy

    That is so nice of you to want to give the bag back to the family…sort of brought a tear to my eye! I hope you can locate them! Thank you for leaving a birthday wish to my dad! Happy birthday to your dad too!

  6. Jennifer

    Gorgeous piece! Can't wait to see the finished product! Thanks for the tip about veneer! I've been eyeing a table at the thrift store, but have been hesitant because it has veneer on top. I hope it's still there!

  7. The Jessie James Gang

    Oh man. Next time try moist heat and a putty knife. When I had to remove veneer from my secretary it was slow going until I got myself a really cheap iron (because it will ruin the yours), filled it with water, and set the steam right on top of the surface. After letting it soften the glue for a few seconds, slide your putty knife right under the edge of the veneer directly beneath the iron (carefully so you don't get a steam burn!) and move the knife smoothly in the same direction as the iron and watch it peel away in sheets! What a time saver it was for that project! Maybe not all types of veneer glue would respond that well to moist heat, but I sure was grateful to discover it.

  8. Kim

    Awesome that you've found the family. I grew up in Beverly, MA but his name isn't familiar to me. It's small as far as cities go, I'm betting you'll find some relatives. Good luck!

  9. Michelle

    I use a heat gun and a super thin putty knife, peels off like buttah!! Love your work! Michelle

  10. Wendy B.

    i always dial up the mustard-wizard each night. love seeing what your life is like in serial installments. thanks again, you never disappoint. hope that your bag finds its way north… to our neck of the woods.

  11. Cath

    Oh my, i can only imagine how thrilled his family will feel. ( firm believer in what goes around, comes around).

    Really… are gonna leave us hanging on Louis blue and Paris gray??? Ya kilin me here.

  12. ShantyGirl

    I love the lines of the dresser! It will be beautiful I am sure and I cannot wait to see the finished results. That is very neat that you are close to finding the family of the person the sack belonged too, I am sentimental and family heirloom are very important to me I am sure that piece will be cherished by his family. So sweet of you and your mother to research this!

  13. lori

    Just put an old thin towell under your steam iron. It protects it from picking up yucky things.

  14. PJH Designs

    Love the dresser and taking off the veneer is quite a job! I recently had to remove a lot of veneer from a antique vanity in some places the second layer was also missing and I used an old wet towel and steam iron then took an artist trowel which is very thin and it worked great no gouges. I too would like to know how you get all of the work done? Do you sleep? LOL love your work especially your beautiful photography.

  15. Anonymous

    I have been fascinated by your find and have been researching Albert Lufkin Crombie ever since I saw the bag on your blog today.
    He was born Dec. 30, 1896, the son of John A. Crombie (a shoemaker) and Miranda Elwell Lufkin. He was named after his mother's father, Albert E. Lufkin.
    Albert had a brother John Milford Crombie who moved to Chicago. He had 3 children. Albert also had a sister Abbie Crombie (no kidding) who married George F. Boles and lived in Beverly with 2 daughters.
    Albert's wife Elizabeth passed away in 1977. I have been able to find only one son for Albert and Elizabeth, John D. Crombie born in 1927. He also lived in Beverly but passed away in 1999. John was married to Shirley M. Phelps who was born in 1929. I don't find a death record for her but she would be 82 now.
    It may be that the bag ended up at a garage sale because there were no direct descendants. I'll keep looking!
    Albert Lufkin Crombie was 5'5 1/2" tall,160 lbs. with brown eyes, brown hair, a ruddy complexion and wore glasses according to his 1942 draft registration card.

  16. martinealison

    Le bonheur passe aussi par là!
    gros bisous

  17. The Little Red Shop

    I'm looking forward to hearing what you find out tomorrow. I sent you a few more links via Twitter. : ) I have some lovely veneered pieces to restore too. I've been trying to find a fine veneer source in Seattle…without much success. Maybe I'll go the chip route!

    : )

    Julie M.

  18. Vintage Home

    awesome about the bag!..Can't wait to see your dresser reveal!

  19. Suzan

    You are such a tease! I have an antique treadle sewing machine that belonged to my great-great grandmother. It apparently spent many years in the barn and the veneer on the top is a wreck. Can't wait to see what you do next with the dresser!

  20. Kelley

    Blessing you for rescuing history!

  21. Brenda Watts

    Great news about the bag…the gals are right about the moist heat, most veneers are applied with hide glue…heat and moisture will reactivate it and it will melt enough to allow you to lift it….if the venneer is just lifting and not in bad shape sometimes that will seal it back down.

  22. Linda (Nina's Nest)

    Hi Marian! I started to leave a comment yesterday on the bag but my computer was slow so I didn't. However, I am SO glad you are trying the museum and/or family route. What a treasure! That bag definitely fell into the right hands to preserve its history. Also, that dresser will be gorgeous when you do your magic – beautiful lines – can't wait to see it! Linda

  23. Kristi

    I am so excited to see where that bag ends up! I love history & especially family history-I wonder if his family will be excited?
    I know you don't normally link up to other blog parties but this post is the perfect post for my "Workin' On It Wednesday" link party! Can't wait to see the finished result!
    @ Creative Kristi

  24. Anonymous

    I recently removed veneer from a dresser top using my crafting heat tool and a putty knife ~ it came off really well. One tip, start in an area where the veneer can be lifted with the putty knife, hold the heat tool to it to soften the glue underneath. Love the dresser!!

    Allison B.

  25. Between Blue and Yellow

    ugh! Peeling veneer off is such a pain, my least favorite thing about refinishing furniture. I use a spatula, the kind you use to put on sheet rock mud. It's sharper and allows you to peel off larger sheets. I also wet the veneer a little and it softens up some.

  26. Rhonda @ The Yellow Brick Road

    You are a tease! Blah! I am so looking for the perfect mix of ASCP to paint a french dresser that I have and I wanted (needed) to see that color that you concocted……sheesh….guess I'll learn to wait! LOL

  27. Samantha from Colonial Curve Cottage

    How cool for that family. They have no idea what they're about to receive and that's kinda really neat! Did you name your cows yet?

  28. Jeannine

    It would be exciting for the bag to be back with family. But it would be almost better to have it in a museum so thousands can enjoy it and learn of the journey one soldier took. We should never forget those who gave all for America.

  29. Anonymous

    I love that you are finding the family. My only hope is that they will appreciate the bag, this piece of history, the way the rest of us do.

    As for the dresser, I love that you're not filling the gouges. They will give it some beautiful character…..unless you have a different plan that I'm not realizing. You always have a little element of surprise is your work. Looking forward to the finished product.


  30. Leighann

    What a great idea to find the family. Love it! And that dresser is a beaut. Can't wait to see the finished product.

  31. Melissa

    I'm with your first commenter on the Multi Max, it is awesome! My hubby has the Dewalt version, and the cutting edge she was talking about is amazing for this type of work. If you go to your local Home Depot they usually have a kit on display that you can check out. I think it is so great that you are looking for the family of the mail pouch sender, they will be so happy to get something like that. Even if you don't find them, hopefully the museum will want it. It is a great piece of history. In some ways, email has really ruined letter writing. People (myself included) don't write letters like they used to. It is so special to receive a letter from a friend.

  32. Nick

    Wetting the veneer and then covering with a damp towel and applying a hot iron will also loosen the glue – making it easy for it to come up in large chunks – without the shrapnel or the gouges

  33. Anonymous

    The steam iron/towel and the heat gun are both great solutions…you can also sometimes flip the top and use the backside, or recover the whole thing with a thin sheet of birch plywood. Less expensive in the long run than all the time spent chipping off all that stuff. The dresser is great looking, so hope the top comes out ok….have fun

  34. withywindle

    I am from Beverly, MA!! That name doesn't sound familiar though. Sadly.

  35. James, Kira, Rylee, Jett and Maddyson

    I found a very likely listing for Shirley Crombie (in response to Anonymous' comment with all the date/family info).

    I searched and came up with a listing for a Shirley Patricia Crombie, age 82 in Beverly, MA. The middle name threw me for a minute, but then I noticed she also has listed as an alias Shirley M. Crombie, and a relative John D Crombie. I won't post her personal info here, but if you want to you can search it on

    Can't wait to see what happens with the bag. It's like a treasure hunt!

  36. Jeannie-JB

    I'm on pins and needles looking forward to seeing how your latest masterpiece will come out. I'm sure your color combination of Louis Blue and Paris gray will be fabulous – I'm with Rhonda, if you change the formula in any way, you have to let us know. 🙂

  37. James, Kira, Rylee, Jett and Maddyson

    As per my previous comment, Shirley Crombie also has a facebook page and from what I can tell, at least one relative (looks like a daughter) went to Beverly High.

    Can't wait to see how the dresser turns out! Love the lines.


    So cool that you found the family….can't wit to see what you do next!!

  39. Cindy

    I'm so glad there is no magical easy way to pry off veneer, because I sure did it the hard way too.. this dresser is gonna be a good one.

    The mail bag story is so fascinating. Isn't it cool to have something like that from someone's one and only life about real people who've come and gone… It just gives you this strange feeling…


  40. Sweet Celebrations by Debbi

    I'm so glad that the chisel was the method you used to get off chippy veneer. I just did my first major furniture refinish (actually still working on it). I've been very inspired by your website & was going to try to repair the veneer top but it wasn't repairable. Fortunately most of mine just pulled right up & I only used the chisel to get the few spots that were stubborn. So glad I chose correctly. LOL thanks MMS!!!

  41. Megan

    I got goose bumps reading about the finding the bags owner! Im sure hoping you find his family- and that they will be as excited and thrilled about it as you!

  42. melodyejoy

    I saw that someone recommended using an old iron with a steam setting. I used an old iron with an old wet washcloth… I moved inch by inch. I thought about a heat gun but was afraid I would catch the old glue on fire! It turned out beautifully! I painted the top with a Baurenmauleri decorative painting technique.

  43. Cindi @ Rustique Art

    I'm with Megan on this one…definite goosebumps! Can't wait to hear more! Where else can you find this kind of history, there's probably this awesomely romantic love story just waiting to be uncovered.

    Hope the story unfolds easier than taking that veneer off.

  44. Beth

    How wonderful that you've been able to find information about the owner of the bag and his family! Hopefully someone will want it, but if not, then at least you're doing the next best thing by sending it to the WWI museum. It's an amazing piece of history.

    And, you left us hanging right where you want us with your dresser, you stinker. ;^) On the edge of our seats! At least you got some great tips on removing veneer when you need to the next time. Do you ever wonder how you're going to top your last project? Of course, you could probably paint something with mud and it would look amazing. LOL!

  45. catherine

    oh no, dont leave us hangin'

  46. Terry

    I use a heat gun and a putty knife to remove old veneer. It really works well, just don't hold the heat gun in one place too long, it will burn the wood.

  47. Erin

    I found out by accident that moisture works on removing veneer. My record cabinet sat out in the rain for two days by someone's dumpster before I could pick it up & take it home. The veneer peeled right off. 🙂

  48. Anonymous

    I saw some earlier posts about using your iron to remove veneer. I've had to do that before and it worked like a charm. If you're not saving the veneer, and you have an old iron that you might as well dedicate to removing veneer, no need for a towel. Get that heat on it, let the glue melt, and peel it off. This trick also works if you're putting veneer BACK ON something. Use the glue, let it get tacky, use a towel, now, of course, because you don't want to ruin the new veneer, and it gets a much better stick job without bubbles. LOVE YOUR BLOG!

  49. Charlene Austin

    I hope the family embraces the bag and wants to hold on to the history and that it wasn't them who put it in a yard sale to begin with. Eek.

  50. Dear Lillie

    I can't wait to see the finished product on this one!

  51. Sue at Serendipity

    Don't think this hint was mentioned but I always use a large piece of foil between the iron and the wet towel because it keeps the steam heading down into the veneer and glue. A wide flat putty knife works wonders!

    The iron I have used for years is a large heavy vintage one I found at Goodwill one day-I don ;t worry about my good iron getting ruined.

  52. dwellinsafety8

    I have to tell you that I totally feel for you on this one. I have an antique chest that I had purchased and was going to sand and refinish. Well when I went to sand it I ended up discovering that it had veneer on the top of it. I had never had to deal with that before so I got a flat head screwdriver and a hammer and started working only to discover that there was yet another layer of veneer under the first. Needless to say the piece is still a work in progress and there are numerous gouges on the top. I was as determined as you, especially when my husband said it couldn't be done. I proved him wrong and it is now sanded gouges and all. I am planning to finish it in ASCP in Paris Grey. Wish me luck!


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Marian Parsons - Miss Mustard Seed

I’m Marian, aka Miss Mustard Seed, a wife, mother, paint enthusiast, lover of all things home and an entrepreneur, author, artist, designer, freelance writer & photographer.  READ MORE to learn more about me, my blog and my business…


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