Wood veneer challenge on tanker desk - Woodworking Talk - Woodworkers Forum
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post #1 of 18 Old 10-29-2019, 12:24 AM Thread Starter
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Wood veneer challenge on tanker desk

So I am restoring one of those old metal tanker desks. Originally the desk top was some sort of 3/32" rubber composite material surrounded by that 3/32" high piece of metal banding. (I have attached a picture I found online of a refurbished desk being sold. The owners took off the old top but left the metal banding in place. You can see it protruding up at the edge of the desk)

Well I decided I wanted to replace the rubber composite and with something that would display a piece of beautiful veneer. Because no wood comes in large sheets that's 3/32", I thought of filling the area surrounded by the banding with bondo, sanding smooth and flush, gluing laying veneer on top of that, and then trimming off the excess.

The problem I foresaw with that is how to trim the veneer. The banding is not square but has a rounded over edge. Also, the banding is supposed to be visible from a bird's eye view, which means if I laid a sheet of oversized veneer on top of the desk, it would cover the banding and I would not be able to see where I need to cut.

The other problem with this is that the veneer would stick up past the banding. The pieces of veneer I am looking at are only 1/45" thick, which isn't a problem for me if that sticks past the banding, but I was afraid that the glue would be visible from the side as well.

The second option is instead of joining smaller sheets before and then laying one large sheet on the desktop, I would join the smaller sheets on the desktop. This would allow me to see where the metal banding meets the bondo filler and then cut accordingly. The problem I envision is that glue or some other reason the result would be sheets that do not lay smoothly and evenly. However, the visible glue line is also a question for this option.

The third option I thought about, and I am leaning towards that is taking a 1/16" piece of FRP and cutting it to fit inside the banding. Then I would glue a piece of veneer to this FRP, flip it over and then trip to fit with a saw. 1/16" + 1145" plus the glue I would assume be just about 3/32".

So my question for the experts, as someone who has never done anything with wood veneer is, are my assumptions correct? Any glaring problems jump out at you with the second or third option? Recommendations? Better methods? Any help would be appreciated.

Edit: The fourth option I just thought about is to remove the metal banding, get a piece of 1/8" hardboard and veneer that. Then trip to the correct size and somehow add 1/8" aluminum banding to that. The problem is that gridning down the banding nicely is more work and then I have no idea how to add aluminum banding to 1/8" hardboard.
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Last edited by Sirhc Mal; 10-29-2019 at 12:37 AM.
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post #2 of 18 Old 10-29-2019, 02:00 AM
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I'm confused as to why you want to spend so much effort trying to recreate the edge?
Youre not restoring the table, restoring means exactly as first sold. it wont look anything like the original when its finished, so why dont you just make an ordinary wood top for it?

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post #3 of 18 Old 10-29-2019, 03:26 AM Thread Starter
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Because a solid 1" wood top for it looks ugly. I have seen it done like that before. I think retaining the metal edge will look better. There are many desks that come with a laminate wood top.
I think having a burl wood top will look better. Yes, "restore" is not the correct term in this case.
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post #4 of 18 Old 10-29-2019, 03:32 AM
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You can buy aluminium, or even plastic edge trim that looks like ali, in strips, especially to go around mdf boards. Maybe that will be easier to achieve the desired effect.

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post #5 of 18 Old 10-29-2019, 03:35 AM Thread Starter
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Yeah I have seen some but they are usually pretty wide like 1". I havent seen one thinner.
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post #6 of 18 Old 10-29-2019, 01:49 PM Thread Starter
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Ok so after some thought I have two other ideas

1. I i take two of sheets of 4/45" veneer and stack them it's just a tad under the 3/32" space. Counting for the glue it should be about right. The only negative to this is the expense, although in a normal situation with wood substrate it's recommended to use a backing veneer anyway.

2. I could glue the veneer straight to the metal top and make up the gap with clear epoxy resin. The negative to this approach is that I better make sure the table is level so the resin dries in line with the metal trim.

In both cases I read I would need to use epoxy to glue veneer to metal. One problem that I can foresee is that any squeeze out would collect on the surface of the veneer, because the metal banding wouldn't let the glue flow out like normal. It might even touch the board I have over the veneer as I it is in the vacuum press and glue that together.
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post #7 of 18 Old 10-29-2019, 02:16 PM
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i think you are under estimating the difficulty in getting veneer down without any bubbles in the veneer
vacuum bagging would work but you'd have epoxy squeeze out all over the edge and you'd need a monster bag
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post #8 of 18 Old 10-29-2019, 02:29 PM
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I do not know what a "tanker desk" is, but is reads like it was the type of desk I sat at many during my 20 something military career.


Assuming that is correct, then you are trying to put a pretty top on a buck ugly desk. If that is the reality then I would not worry if the overlay came just a hair over the top of the edging. It will not impact the overall look of the desk.


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post #9 of 18 Old 10-29-2019, 02:45 PM
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way back when I was in the Navy stationed down in Key West, FL
I salvaged one of those old steel tankers from the dump and screwed
a piece of 1/2" plywood to the top. this was used to work on boat motor
parts in the carport. it caught the runaway grease and oil quite well.
that is about the only use I have for one of those things - even today.
now -if you had one of the old tanker Solid Wood GSA desks, it would be
much more interesting. (and many of them still exist).
looking forward to following your journey and seeing the finished project.
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post #10 of 18 Old 10-29-2019, 05:26 PM Thread Starter
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Quote:
Originally Posted by _Ogre View Post
i think you are under estimating the difficulty in getting veneer down without any bubbles in the veneer
vacuum bagging would work but you'd have epoxy squeeze out all over the edge and you'd need a monster bag
Thanks for being the only one with anything constructive to say. In my post I did express the same fear about squeeze out. As for the bag, making one that size is probably the least of my worries!
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post #11 of 18 Old 10-29-2019, 05:50 PM
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Sirhc - have you considered removing the metal top entirely
and replacing it with a solid wood product ?
Like George, I too have had my feet under one of those desks
for 20+ years in the military and never once thought about
enhancing one with a wood top.
replacing the metal top with solid wood (MDO or plywood) and then
applying the veneer of your choice in small sections, taking your time.
I feel confident that you could pull it off with that method. do maybe
25% of the top at a time and let it dry before moving on to the next step
would be less frustrating than trying to do the whole top at once.
this would be a good project to make yourself a nice veneer hammer & roller.
wishing you all the best.

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,

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Last edited by John Smith_inFL; 10-29-2019 at 05:57 PM.
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post #12 of 18 Old 10-29-2019, 06:05 PM Thread Starter
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Hi John. Yes the first reply to this post suggested that too. I have seen that done before with these desks. It looks OK but not my favorite.

Some of these desks had some cheap wood laminate on top of the metal top and banded with aluminum. I think that's the best but would like to improve upon it.

See the attached photos below.
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post #13 of 18 Old 10-29-2019, 06:28 PM
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okay - it seems like your main concern is retaintaining the metal
band look that is original to the table ??
I would suggest you google the various terms for Metal Edge Band,
Aluminum Edge Banding, Countertop Banding, etc to find one that
you can work with as the first step. even if you find a band that looks good
for the lip but is too wide, it can easily be run through the table or band saw.
then, figure out how you will tackle the top itself.
[I haven't had my elbows on a Tanker since 1987 so I really can't
remember how the edge band fit].
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post #14 of 18 Old 10-29-2019, 09:43 PM Thread Starter
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Hi John

So I've searched for that before. Unfortunately everything is quite large like 1" or 1.5", but I want to keep the wood top thin.
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post #15 of 18 Old 10-30-2019, 03:57 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Sirhc Mal View Post
... but I want to keep the wood top thin.
Nothing much to contribute to the subject other than:

I personally really like the solid wood topped desks you posted a few posts up. Kind of inspires me if I ever see another tanker desk available to grab.

I also appreciate that you have a specific idea in mind, and are sticking to it. Good luck with your project! I look forward to seeing the outcome.
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post #16 of 18 Old 10-30-2019, 04:48 PM Thread Starter
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Quote:
Originally Posted by AwesomeOpossum74 View Post
Nothing much to contribute to the subject other than:

I personally really like the solid wood topped desks you posted a few posts up. Kind of inspires me if I ever see another tanker desk available to grab.

I also appreciate that you have a specific idea in mind, and are sticking to it. Good luck with your project! I look forward to seeing the outcome.
Hey thanks for the encouragement. Out of those pictures I posted the only one I like is the brushed steel finish with wood top, which is what I want to do in terms of finish. However, I think it would be cooler if the wood was encased in the metal which I think would accentuate the beauty of raw metal and raw wood together more than a butcher block top. But that's just my opinion of course.

To me the wood top on the painted frame looks bleh--but again that's just my opinion.

I have two desks actually that I bought for $20 a piece. One has no dents and that is the one which will have a steel finish. The other one I will fill with bondo, repaint, etc. to restore it as close as possible to the original. I even found replacement keys on eBay.

This is all done in my spare time so I don't want to make something just "good enough".
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post #17 of 18 Old 10-30-2019, 06:55 PM
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I am sitting at a very old tanker desk made of painted green steel, with a nondescript green formica top and a 1/4 inch rubber bumper all around the edge. It has the rounded steel handles and a secretary return for a typewriter that holds my scanner. It is a vintage older than the one that @Sirhc Mal describes. I bought two of those (with the steel rim) for family members a long time ago.

My desk may be ugly, but it a true working desk in every sense of the word.

I like some of the wood tops (without the metal frame) in the photos, too.
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post #18 of 18 Old 10-31-2019, 11:44 AM Thread Starter
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Tool Agnostic View Post
I am sitting at a very old tanker desk made of painted green steel, with a nondescript green formica top and a 1/4 inch rubber bumper all around the edge. It has the rounded steel handles and a secretary return for a typewriter that holds my scanner. It is a vintage older than the one that @Sirhc Mal describes. I bought two of those (with the steel rim) for family members a long time ago.

My desk may be ugly, but it a true working desk in every sense of the word.

I like some of the wood tops (without the metal frame) in the photos, too.
Yeah the rubber bumper border desks are pretty darn ugly
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