How to Finish Oak Veneer

Updated February 21, 2017

Inexpensive furniture is often composed of particle board; it is then coated with wood veneer to improve its appearance. Veneer is thin, absorbs little stain and tends to promote runs. Oak absorbs stain unevenly because it has tight wood grains. Choose the appropriate type of stain to avoid an uneven finish.

Sand the oak veneer. Use a palm sander with 120-grit sandpaper. Sand with the veneer's grain until the finish appears dull.

Replace the 120-grit sandpaper with 220-grit. Sand the veneer until it feels smooth to the touch.

Wipe sawdust from the veneer using tack cloths.

Protect the area beneath the veneer by covering it with dust sheets.

Coat the oak veneer with a light coloured, oil-based stain. Use a paintbrush specifically engineered for use with oil-based paints. Apply a thin coat to avoid runs. Wipe the wet stain from the veneer with cloth rags. Wait a minimum of four hours for the veneer to dry. Wash your brush with white spirit.

Coat the stained, oak veneer with varnish. Use a clean paintbrush. Wait a minimum of four hours for the veneer to dry.


Sand existing varnish from the oak veneer before you stain. Don't use dark stain on oak veneer or the finish will dry uneven.

Things You'll Need

  • Palm sander
  • 120-grit sandpaper
  • 220-grit sandpaper
  • Tack cloths
  • Plastic dust sheet
  • Masking paper
  • Professional painter's tape
  • Plastic dust sheets
  • Dust sheets
  • 2- to 4-inch oil paintbrush
  • Light colour oil-based stain
  • White spirit
  • Varnish
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About the Author

Ryan Lawrence is a freelance writer based in Boulder, Colorado. He has been writing professionally since 1999. He has 10 years of experience as a professional painting contractor. Lawrence writes for High Class Blogs and Yodle. He has a bachelor's degree in journalism and public relations with a minor in history from the University of Oklahoma.